How I learned spoken English after coming to the USA and started teaching

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Using Spoken English the 1st time in the USA

97年夏天我第一次来美国,我的飞机航班是东航上海虹桥(SHA) 到洛杉矶 (LAX, China Eastern MU 583), 当时好像用的是麦道11(Btw, 93年好像有一次事故),再从洛杉矶坐TWA航班飞圣路易斯(STL)。我在洛杉矶机场犯了一个不大不小的错误。我当时很想上厕所,急着从机场(入境处和海关)出来,结果一出来就拿错了行李。等我发现我拿错了,我已经出了海关,我赶紧用我的英语跟美国机场的工作人员解释,还好他听懂了,让我进去跟东航的地勤人员说上话,交换了行李(取到了我自己的行李)。这个箱子是当时上海第一百货的牌子,估计我们都是在一百买的,这个箱子实用也较便宜。这一次是我的口语第一次在美国派到用场。

PS: 大概在2005/6年在圣村的机场,又碰到一件类似的事情,这一次是Diplomat的灰色硬壳箱。对方把我的箱子拿到家以后,没有多想,直接撬锁。后来她通过航空公司陪了我大概是五十还是一百块钱(USD):她没有拿我的东西,就是赔我的坏掉的箱锁。那个箱子今年回国才退休。Also: I have other stories with the diplomat luggage (1 and 2) back in 2007 when I tried to replace a broken wheel. So this one really last for a long time: at least from 2007 to 2023. I think I bought it before 2007 too.

Learning English in Missouri S&T at Rolla

Note the adults tend to stay or social with her/his own ethic group or friends, and use the 1st language he/she is familiar with. When I was a graduate student in Rolla more than 20 years ago, I used to have an American professor, and he made a comment which I agree: American grad students stay with the Americans, Chinese students stay with the Chinese, and Indian students stay with Indians.

I have Indian born advisor, and I talked to Indian born graduate students. One nice thing is one fellow graduate student sometimes corrected my English, and that really helped. Not many people would correct or point out. Btw, that particular grad student is now a technology VP at a credit rating agency.

At one time, I was able to translate for the professors during a meeting. I think the fellow graduate student is from Africa and he has some accent, but it’s not too hard to guess or figure out.

Host family
When I was new to Rolla, I got to learn the Stoltz family through the international office’s host family program. And they helped my English (via conversations), and get familiar with the America culture in many aspects. I still remember, the dinners, the trips to the Governor’s Manson, to Branson and the Xmas gifts.


At one time because I live with American undergrad everyday, and listen to their talking daily, I felt English is almost like “my native language”. Also once my “big brother” told me: you lived in a quite unique fraternity. And I agree: in the beginning of my stay there, I rode bike from school to the fraternity house every day. When the weather was bad I would call the house for help, and my brothers never failed to pick me up. That includes the rides in the snow days too.

I retook the English test again a few years later: got a “fair” grade from another Indian born professor.

TV and Movies are also a very important source of education for my Oral English. Back in those days it was mostly the Blockbuster videos, and just movies on the TV. Now it’s mostly streaming mostly from Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. American middle schools and high school tv 📺 or movies 🎥
High School: Gilmore girls (Netflix)
High School: Breakfast club (I watched via Amazon Prime, free)
College: back to school 🏫 (Amazon, for a fee)

Holiday themed movies

Love Actually (a classic, watch it on Netflix before 12/31/2023)

Holiday in Vineyard (Netflix)

Christmas with a View (Netflix, going away on 1/1/24)


Romantic series: the Virgin River (Netflix, the series 5 just debuted and the last episode has holiday theme/Christmas celebration)

Other comedies:



No Hard Feelings (Jennifer Lawrence, new on Netflix)


Most listened programs: morning edition, all things considered, market place, planet money and ted radio hour.

Listened in the past, enjoyed but no longer available or no longer listen much due change of taste or programming: Diane Rhem show, Fresh Air (Terry Gros), Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Weekend Edition.

Including BBC World Service (in the night)


I taught in China. Many years ago in SH. Failed. Will talk more about that exp. later, hopefully 🙁

When I was new to Rolla, I failed in the Teaching Assistant (TA) English test – later I tried to practice oral English with a English teacher during lunch (once a week). I didn’t teach when at Rolla (again because I flunked the spoken English test), and had to look for RA (research assistant) job in the school. Later on I taught in Abacus Rolla, to a few fellow grad students, and I did okay. It was friendly environment too.

This fall I started teaching graduate course at Webster U. 韦伯斯特大学客座教授(其实就是兼职 adjunct professor 🙂 Couple funny things:

  1. I was nervous before doing this, but my wife and 13 year old daughter were quite nervous too;
  2. I think it’s giving me some energy interacting with younger folks (all graduate students are younger than me). I do interact with my kids quite a bit too: to be precise more than interacting with them, or Uber-ing them around. But most kids will eventually grow up and live on their own. That’s where interacting with young folks becoming more important: I believe that’s one reason Warren Buffett likes to teach at school sometimes, or hosting the MBA students at his company’s HQ or at the annual shareholder meeting. Also the BRK meeting, plus Charlie’s Daily Journal Co and past Wesco shareholder meetings allow both of them to interact with many people, including many young people too. That’s one secret sauce of their longetibity.
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