Shanghai day 1

The last time I saw my dear friend and consequent cameraman assistant was in November last year after our 10 day stay in Bucharest. We had just finished filming Lessons From Romania when we parted company and it was good to see him again, so eager to continue filming for the EnglishClub project. After a good deal of catch-up (it turns out Joel had been dropped off at Heathrow at midnight as there was no later bus available to bring him to the airport from Birmingham), a flight from London to Zurich and a series of lattes, we boarded our flight to China where we sat and waited patiently for 12 hours until the plane touched down in Shanghai.

The Learning English Video Project started 1 year ago when Joel and I started filming in Cambridge, England. Our objective was to find out how and why people are learning ESL across the globe and to document their tips and advice for learners keen on developing their skills using In 2008 we took the film project to New York, Madrid, Granada, Casablanca and Bucharest where we made unique discoveries as to how learning methodologies alter from country to country; it was an experience that I will never forget and that I wish to share with ESL students all over the world with the help of I have since crafted 3 of the 7 films for the project; Stories from Morocco, Lessons from Romania and Tales from America are all available to watch for free and come with subtitles and lesson plans. The reason for flying to Asia was to try and find out how learning methodologies and teaching styles differ in China, particularly in Shanghai, the most rapidly developing metropolis in the continent.

I was immediately gripped by the humidity after stepping out of Pudong airport. The journey was a tiring one and all we wanted to do was sleep. However, it was only 6 o’clock in the morning and the day had only just begun. Stepping off of an airplane in and straight into a foreign environment can often be a daunting experience, but I immediately felt welcome in Shanghai and quashed any sense of doubt that was dwelling in my body after the long journey. Our taxi driver spoke no English, but I was able to communicate with him by listening to some Mandarin greetings and questions on my iPod and quickly relaying them to him. During the 90 minute drive to our hostel, our driver gave Joel a packet of ‘Happiness’ cigarettes and a flick knife to play with while I took in the commercial hub that surrounded our speeding vehicle.

Shanghai is a huge city and I have a feeling it will take us a few days before we feel comfortable navigating our way around it. But once the taxi driver dropped us off we checked into our hostel, drank a chilled beer each and made our way out into the city. Tai Chi in the park, street vendors chopping fresh meat and workers constructing bamboo scaffolding – all a stones throw away from our hostel and a rich introduction into our new environment. It took me a while to adjust to the sweltering humidity and I kept on having to return to the hostel in order to shower, which somewhat hindered our progress with filming but gave us the opportunity to think about what we might be able to film and how…

Words cannot describe how I felt when walking around Shanghai for the first time, particularly due to the fact that I have a full day of filming in front of me today. Joel and I visited a string of cafes and restaurants yesterday evening, taking in our new surroundings and speaking with as many of the locals as possible. We walked until we were on the verge of collapse and retired to bed at about 1 a.m. I got up early this morning feeling refreshed and inspired, ready for the first day of filming and the opportunity to find out how China differs from the rest of the world when it comes to ESL.

I am going to try and update this blog every day with pictures and news. I also want to know what YOU think about The Learning English Video Project so far and what you would like to see done differently in China. Leave your comments here!!

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All the best,


2 Responses to “Shanghai day 1”

  1. Tara Benwell says:

    Hi Daniel:

    Thanks for taking the time to update! It’s so exciting that you are including all of us in your busy schedule. Can’t wait to see what you will have for us.

    It’s very humid in Toronto right now too and I am used to Vancouver weather, so I felt the heat as I read your post. Have fun!


  2. rosie kolp says:

    Hi Daniel
    Will be nice if you can interview the students in English Schools on china. I hope you can.
    Have a nice trip.