MA Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages for Young Learners student, Yi-Chun Pan.

Yi-Chun Pan

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Taiwan and I work as an English teacher in a primary school in southern Taiwan. Before coming to Leeds, I had been teaching for five years; one year as a Mandarin language assistant in a secondary school in Wiveliscombe, Somerset, and four years as an English teacher in primary schools in Taiwan. 

I obtained a BA degree in English in Taiwan and during these studies, I took extra courses that qualified me to teach English in primary schools. My interest in teaching languages also led me to obtain a qualification to teach Mandarin as a foreign language. After my year of study in Leeds, I returned to my previous teaching position in Taiwan working with young learners.

What motivated you to apply for your course at Leeds?

The University of Leeds provides a TESOL degree specifically focused on young learners’ teaching. I found that the courses not only covered the theoretical aspects of teaching languages but also offered a practical viewpoint towards the subject. For example, the core modules aimed at building up our foundational knowledge in language learning. While some optional modules helped with teaching strategies and good practices. The variety of optional modules provided a wide range of language learning/teaching topics. I chose Leeds because I believed that the programme would suit my needs. Luckily, it turned out to be a great decision. 

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Being a professional English teacher has always been my passion. I am a learner of English as a foreign language student myself, so I hope my experience of learning could improve the experience of young students in Taiwan. I also believe that a teacher is one of the essential factors in the success of learning a language. I aspire to be the kind of teacher who shows students the inspiration and enjoyment of language learning. Besides, language is interesting in itself but working with young learners makes it much more fun. 

What do you think of your course so far?

All of my courses were very enlightening and challenging. I truly enjoyed the time I had in each course. I chose Teaching Languages to Young Learners and Global Learning in UK Primary Schools as my optional modules. I found these courses interesting because they were both closely related to my previous working experience in primary school.

I believe that knowing the differences between the UK primary schools and Taiwanese primary schools could inspire me with some new teaching ideas. Indeed, these two courses offer me great opportunity to experience the real UK classroom culture. 

The material for Teaching Languages to Young Learners was quite diverse. In theoretical learning, we revisit the children’s first language acquisition and study each stage of the language development. We were also informed about the state of and latest trends in language education in the UK primary schools from two guest speakers. 

The highlight of the course was our visit to a local UK primary school. Although my classmates and I were all quite nervous about introducing our culture before young UK pupils; nevertheless, at the end of the day, we all went home with happy memories.

What do you think of the facilities?

The learning facilities in the School of Education and the university are very comprehensive. The TESOL resource room in the School of Education contains books related to learning and teaching languages. This resource often helped me to find inspiration and ideas when preparing for assignments. My personal tutor and module tutors from the School of Education were always very friendly and helpful. They read our drafts for assignments and provided valuable advice. I sincerely appreciate their support and, especially, their belief in us. 

The facilities of the University are great and considerate. The 24-hour clusters and extended library times allowed us to work at our own pace and time. Moreover, the libraries provided several workshops that aimed at assisting international students to fit into the UK academic environment. I benefitted a lot from these dissertation writing workshops. 

Have you been involved in any extra-curricular activities?

The School of Education is a big warm family. From the very start, there were many activities and trips for us to get together.  I remember the wonderful time we had when we spent a weekend in the Lake District (Keswick). It was a nice opportunity for new MA students to get to know more about each other outside of the classroom.

The School of Education frequently organised other exciting activities, such as day trips to the Education Show in Birmingham, to Chatsworth house and to Marsden Cuckoo festival. During our academic year, the school of Education also encouraged us to make the most of our stay in England and informed us about many traditional festivals. We had a Christmas party with our classmates and staff from the School of Education, and we also celebrated together Burns supper, Pancake Day and St. Patrick’s Day.  

What do you think about Leeds as a city?

I think Leeds is a young, energetic city. Various lively theme events during the winter time such as Leeds Light Night and the Christmas market, make the nightlife in Leeds more joyful. I also think that Leeds is a student-friendly city. It only takes 15 minutes to walk from the University to the city centre. With several supermarkets and a large shopping centre, I never worry about where to shop. For travelling, Leeds train and bus stations and Leeds Bradford airport are very easy to reach. The trains and buses are great ways to visit towns or cities nearby Leeds. Moreover, for the long holiday, Leeds Bradford airport is a nice gateway to Europe.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

I would say, “Come! You will discover more of your hidden potential.” 

The study or the life here might not be the same as it is in your home country. However, the differences are all part of the learning experience. Your learning will not just be limited to your academic knowledge; you may learn much more from your tutor, classmates, and even people you met around the campus. 

Difficult moments might happen from time to time; however, in the end, you will realise that the greatest achievement of your study in Leeds is not about whether you can get a distinction or not in the end, but that you have made it all the way and you are still doing fine. 

What are your plans for the future?

I returned to my previous position teaching primary students. After my studies in Leeds, I learned to look at children’s learning from different perspectives and this motivates me to continue working with young learners for now. However, I would not mind pursuing further studies in the future. 

I am grateful to everyone I met in Leeds. You made my time in Leeds more meaningful and fun.