June 16, 2009

What's Your Ideal International Job?

Is there a particular place you'd like to live? Is there some specific attribute that you'd like to experience - or share....

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May 10, 2009

Preparing Language Teachers for the 21st Century

"Designed for practitioners and researchers involved in the preparation and ongoing professional development of language teachers, LTE 2009 will address the education of teachers of all languages, at all instructional and institutional levels, and in many national and international contexts in which this takes place including: English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) instruction; foreign/modern/world language teaching; bilingual education; immersion education; indigenous and minority language education; and...

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March 29, 2009

Who Is The Real Foreigner?

So who's the real foreigner?

Have you ever noticed that in just about any ESL context, someone is the foreigner?

Whether the teacher or the student, someone....

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June 03, 2008

Workplace Issues - Salary negotiations

Hello Readers,

Negotiating your salary can be a daunting task. In addition to not knowing how much you are worth, you may also risk asking for a salary that is far above or below what your employer is willing to pay. Aim too high, and you may not be given the job. Aim too low, and you may come to regret it later ...

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April 26, 2008

Workplace Issues - Gossip

Hello Readers,

Few people can say that they've never participated in office gossip before. At the same time, I'd find it hard to believe that many people would say that they enjoy being gossiped about. So what is gossip? Why do we do it? Is there a place for gossip in the workplace? What can we do to stop it?

First, it's important to understand what the difference between gossip ...

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March 04, 2008

Workplace Issues- Dealing with bullies at work

Hello Readers,

A few weeks ago, the characteristics of a bully in the workplace was discussed. They included such things as:

Shouting and Swearing
Instantaneous rages over trivial matters
Punishments dispensed out of the blue
Ignoring other people's ...

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January 15, 2008

Workplace Issues- Attitudes about work

Hello Readers,

If you have any experience working in an office, you've more than likely had to deal with your fair share of 'no-people' and 'yes- people'. While everyone has their own preferences, what can you do when you have to work with someone who doesn't share the same attitude about work as you do?

First of all,

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November 25, 2007

Workplace Issues- Lower standards?

Hello readers,

For those of you teaching EAP university courses, you may already know that some of your students are well below the required level of English. How does this happen? There are two main causes of this problem:

1. Some students cheat on their IELTS/TOEFL tests by having other students take the test for them, using a fake ID to get in.


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October 20, 2007

Workplace Issues- Friday Morning Tea

Hello Readers,

While many ESL teachers tend to have the gift of the gab, it is often the case that teachers are so busy preparing or teaching their classes that there is not always enough time to get to know the rest of the staff at the school.

In order to encourage...

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September 12, 2007

Workplace Issues-Gross and Net Salaries

Hello Readers,

Schools around the world differ in their tax laws considerably. Despite this headache, it is up to you to learn about these laws and to figure out what you'll be taking home after the tax man takes his chunk. In addition to the tax laws, you'll also need to figure out whether your potential employers are negotiating with you about the gross salary or net salary...

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August 11, 2007

Workplace Issues- Virtual Interviews

Dear Readers,

If you haven't already taken part in a computer-to-computer or phone-to-phone job interview already, chances are that you will in the future. Although the internet and programs like skype have made interviewing for companies and schools in other countries easily accessible to those of us in the ELT field, virtual interviews do not come without their share of problems. So how can you best prepare yourself for an interview taking place over the phone or the internet? Here are a few suggestions for...

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July 06, 2007

Workplace Issues-Reflective Evaluation

Hello Readers,

Do you dread the days when your head teacher or academic manager knocks on your classroom door to distribute evaluation forms to your students? While evaluation time can be frightening, especially to new teachers at a school, it is an important part of each school. Giving students a chance to voice their opinions about a course is something every professional school and teacher should do to ensure quality. So how can you...

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May 29, 2007

Workplace Issues- Keeping Track of Pay

Hello Readers!

As you might already know, private English language schools can be extremely busy places. Teachers come and go, and students often enroll on a daily basis. It's no wonder then that managers sometimes make...

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April 30, 2007

Workplace Issues- Sticking to the Book?

Hello Readers,

For some of you, your classes will be based on a certain textbook which you are expected to go through with the students from cover to cover; for others, your class will be based around a topic, a level, or a skill for which you are expected to find suitable materials. For those of you who have a course-book class, do you ever use...

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March 30, 2007

Workplace Issues- Attending Meetings

Hello Readers,

How do you feel about attending meetings and training sessions at your school? Do you wish you had more or fewer such opportunities to communicate with your coworkers? Do you get anything out of the meetings...

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February 26, 2007

Workplace Issues- Observations

Hello Readers,

How do you feel when you're told that someone is going to observe your class? Though observations are ideally meant as a way to improve teaching and learning, your boss may see it more as part of the hiring/firing process than as part of your professional development training. Because of this, it is quite normal for teachers to feel nervous. To get through your boss' required observations,...

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January 26, 2007

Workplace Issues - Putting Your Foot Down

Hello Readers,

Have you ever noticed that when you go abroad, you find yourself doing things you wouldn't normally do? For some reason, leaving your home country can bring out a sense of adventure that is often forgetten about when stuck in the routines of our daily lives. But do we sometimes go too far...

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December 27, 2006

Workplace Issues- Salary Expectations

Hello Readers!

As we approach the New Year, it might be a good time to think about what we can do to better ourselves. For some of us, that means losing a few pounds, exercising more, or eating more fruits and veg. For others, it might mean spending more time with family or watching TV less. And yet for others, it might mean making changes to yourself as a person- being less bossy or being more assertive.

How does this relate to ESL? Imagine this scenario. You go for a job interview at an ESL school...

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November 21, 2006

Workplace Issues- Speaking Your Students' Mother Tongue

Hello Readers,

Most schools that I've worked for have strictly prohibited the use of the students' mother tongue (by the teachers and the students) in the classroom. The reasons are simple: the students will start to depend on you speaking their language and will not be motivated to use English, the students will not receive enough input in English, the students will get lazy, etc. However, some people say that...

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October 21, 2006

Workplace Issues- Being Professional

Hello Readers,

At most of the ESL schools that I've worked at, there's been a clause in the contract prohibiting teachers from dating students. While I personally think that every teacher should abide by that rule, many teachers don't. Furthermore, few schools enforce it.

While many expats would agree that dating someone from another country will give you an insight into both the culture and the language...

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September 11, 2006

Workplace Issue- Getting a Letter of Recommendation

Hello Readers,

At some point in time, you may want to change jobs. When you do, you'll probably need a letter of recommendation for your next employer. If you had to do this now, would you know who to ask? Would you know what to write? Have you kept track of what you've accomplished? These are just some of the questions...

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August 08, 2006

Workplace Issues- Get It Down in Writing!

Hello Readers,

As September nears, it's time for teachers to sign new contracts- and for others to end theirs. It's got me thinking, how closely do you actually need to examine a contract before signing? Well, if I've learned one thing in China, it's that...

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June 25, 2006

Workplace Issues - Student Assessment

Hello everybody!

Now that summer has arrived, so has summer camp. And with that, student assessment. Have you ever been asked to assess a student without any training or notice? I know that I have. And I know that the first couple of times I was asked to do so, I didn't have a clue about where to begin. So what should you do? First of all, you might want to...

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May 05, 2006

Workplace Issues - Are You Unorganized?

Hi readers,

Alright, I know this is going to sound boring, but here goes. There is a very simple and easy way in which you can become a more effective, organized and dynamic teacher. It does not involve going on expensive courses, shelling out on new gadgets or even staying up all night on a Sunday in a cold sweat. All it involves is giving up a maximum of five minutes every day.

Want to know what the secret is?

It's simple - having . . .

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February 01, 2006

Workplace Issues - Discrimination & the ESL Market: Who Are Actually Getting The Jobs?

"We are each burdened with prejudice; against the poor or the rich, the smart or the slow, the gaunt or the obese. It is natural to develop prejudices. It is noble to rise above them." ~ Author Unknown


Have you, or someone you've known, faced discrimination in the ESL marketplace? Lately there's been plenty of buzz on the internet about various types of unfair hiring practices in the ESL industry. For Instance . . .

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December 09, 2005

Workplace Issues - The Problem with Private ESL Classes

"They're called lessons because they lessen from day to day." ~Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland

How are your private lessons going this semester? I hope that they’re not anything like mine! Speaking of which, the topic of this entry is private ESL classes. I have talked to many ESL teachers about this topic, and it’s surprising to see how quickly the conversation can become heated. It seems that everyone has a strong opinion about whether or not a teacher can make a decent living giving them.

In the places I've taught ESL, salaries aren’t necessarily known to be top rate. After trying to live on the school’s salary, I eventually decided . . .

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December 01, 2005

Workplace Issues - What Do You Do About Missed ESL Classes?

"The joys of meeting pay the pags of absence / Else who could bear it?" ~ Nicholas Rowe

Dear Readers,

Private lesson no-shows

Has this ever happened to you? You spent an hour preparing for a private class, then rush to get to it on time. You set up your props or whatever you will be using, then sit back and wait for your students to arrive. Ten minutes later, you're still waiting, but you have faith. After all, they've been late before. Twenty minutes later, you begin to get that "feeling," but decide to stick it out. Forty minutes later, which is exactly twenty minutes before the class is scheduled to end, you begin to pack up to go home.

If you work in a school, you may be silently cheering your luck. (Extra time to goof off!) But if this happens in a private class, you have . . .

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November 29, 2005

Workplace Issues - A Dystopian Future for ESL?

"He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." ~ George Orwell

Hello readers,

Any science-fiction fans out there? Ok, forget Orwell's thought-police and NewSpeak for the time being.

In Ridley Scott's bleak film Blade Runner, the futuristic world society of planet Earth has evolved into one with a distinctly Asian cultural flavor. In the short-lived television series Firefly, the future is one where the English language has become synthesized, to certain degree, with the Chinese language (especially for profanity). In the also discontinued series prequel to Star Trek, Enterprise, a multicultural crew of near-future Earth denizens (who routinely speak English) frequently employ the services of their star linguist in an attempt to communicate with the "other" (who are not interested in the English language in the least). So, even in fiction, it seems, Western civilization critiques its own history with linguistic imperialism.

It comes as no real surprise then that . . .

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November 23, 2005

Workplace Issues - ESL Jailbirds and Stool-Pigeons

"I don't like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there" ~Charles Bukowski

Dear Readers,

ESL Inmates? Sounds like the title for a new blog on the horizons.

Your ever-present ESL advocate here, Lee Hobbs. As usual, I am on the case scouring the net for relevant ESL articles that might spark your interest. Patricia Dean's highly informative blog, ESL School, takes the perspective of the ESL employer, advising them with employer-related woes. I try, where possible, to offer you at least a counter perspective, that is the perspective of the ESL teacher/employee so that the discourse can continue on various levels of engagement. Check it out; it might give you some insight too on how the management world is presently thinking about us, their most important asset! Don't forget to leave her some comments.

In PD's most recent post, found here, she writes, and I quote:

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November 16, 2005

Workplace Issues - When ESL Students Evaluate their ESL Instructor

"There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it." ~ Dale Carnegie

Dear Readers,

It's that time of the semester again: the end! Student evaluations of the teacher! You know, have a fellow teacher come into the room for 15 minutes, hand out #2 pencils and multiple choice grade sheets while you go do the same for another “strange” class. It seems so mundane yet so much might be hanging in the balance with the pencil scratches of those students.

Are you like me, wondering what your students are going to say about you now that you are out of the room? Do you expect the ones who expect to get "As" to give you high marks while the ones who know their grade is in danger to score you, in retaliation, with a negative evaluation score?

And, don't get me started on newly popular websites like "rate-my-teacher" or . . .

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November 08, 2005

Workplace Issues - Plagiarism in ESL Part II

"To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism, to steal ideas from many is research." ~ Anonymous (of course)

Dear Readers,

Even this quote must have been attributed to someone. Here are just a few additional comments on "Plagiarism in the ESL Classroom," a topic begun a few days ago on this blog.

Thanks to everyone for all your comments on my previous rant. Since copyright infringement and the issue of legality floats over the implications of plagiarism, I found it interesting that one concerned reader of this blog (I won't say who!) sent me this discussion today online here with thanks to Kenneth Burgess.

Burgess summarizes . . .

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November 07, 2005

Workplace Issues - Evaluating Student Work in ESL

"True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information." ~ Sir Winston Churchill

Dear Readers,

Perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of teaching, particularly a class with writing as its focus, is how to fairly evaluate a student’s classwork assignments. Of course, I’m speaking for myself, perhaps some of you out there actually like this part of the job (sickos!)

I’ll be honest, I really can’t stand the process of grading papers (although I do love reading them and providing helpful advice). Evaluation, it seems, is a necessary evil and has got to be done (so says the institution) but why does it have to be so stressful?

Distinguishing between the various . . .

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Posted by lhobbs at 03:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

November 06, 2005

Workplace Issues - ESL & PowerPoint Presentations

"Professors known as outstanding lecturers do two things; they use a simple plan and many examples." ~ W. McKeachie

Dear Readers,

If my memory doesn't fail me, it seems that the business types latched on to this technology first, the publishing field being no exception. The administrative branch of the school system used it to “preach” their new policies to the faculty branches.

When their use first became prevalent in teaching, I thought that they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. I still use them a lot, not only for course lectures but also for conference presentations, etc. If you suffer from stage-fright, it certainly gives your “audience” something to look at besides yourself! Even more importantly, as the quote suggests, they keep any “lecture” you feel compelled to impose upon your class "simple" by sticking to a planned outline and even entertaining with the ability to use graphics, examples and even “quotations” as writing prompts. I shouldn't even have to make a comparison to the expense or making (and trouble of making) overhead transparencies, the older method.

Apparently, students are now being prepped to . . .

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Posted by lhobbs at 02:39 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (2)

November 05, 2005

Workplace Issues - Plagiarism and ESL

"The more laws & order are made prominent, the more thieves & robbers there will be." - Lao Tzu

Dear Readers,

What a day.

Today I had my first “plagiarizer” of the semester. With the accessibility of the internet, plagiarism in papers has become easier and easier for students to do and, at the same time, simpler for instructors to detect. Even though I always demonstrate this simple procedure to my own students, there always seems to be someone determined to try and slip through the system.

My colleagues tell me that . . .

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Posted by lhobbs at 01:38 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack (3)

August 22, 2005

Workplace Issues - Students At What Cost?

Hello everyone!

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You have a young student in your class who just isn't keeping up. You've worked with him overtime to help him, but quite simply, he just needs a slower paced class. You approach the administrator to let them know that the student needs to be moved to another class, but your request is ignored. You wait weeks, and when no action is taken you ask why. The answer? The school doesn't want to risk insulting, and then losing, the student.


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June 28, 2005

Workplace Issues - Do You Have A Favorite?

Hello again,

I can remember in middle school hating the teacher's pet. Do you know what I'm talking about? There was this one kid in class who always got to be the teacher's helper, got to run notes to the principle's office, and never seemed to get into trouble. He was the teacher's pet, and I thought it was the most unfair, unjust thing on earth.

I have a confession.

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June 09, 2005

Workplace Issues - Do You Have A Plan?

Hello all,

Something happened to me last night that has become a frequent, yet unwelcome part of my life. It was about 3 a.m. and suddenly I shot up in bed, scared and sweating. In my dream, I had been older, still teaching for a living, but about to retire. I had already given notice at my job, and was looking forward to my golden years lazing on the beach. Then, as I opened my checkbook to look at my balance, I realized that I couldn't possibly retire. I simply hadn't saved enough over the years to quit working.


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April 08, 2005

Workplace Issues - Debating in the ESL Classroom: Let Me Explain . . .

Hello readers,

A few of you weighed in recently on the issue of debates in the ESL classroom, and boy do your opinions differ! It all stemmed from my observation last week that I was having a difficult time hearing some of the cruel things that my students were saying about the U.S. Some of you responded by calling me prejudice (what?), and others told me to keep silent on hot issues and not to allow my students to debate.

But I don't agree. (Especially with you, Kenneth! I AM a teacher and I'm definitely NOT a tease!)

And my students love it, too. I am a . . .

Here's my take on the situation. Debates are a huge part of my teaching, and I routinely encourage them in my classes. In fact, I like to pit the men against the women in classical debates about roles in various countries, or bring up a touchy subject and watch the sparks fly.

Continue reading "Workplace Issues - Debating in the ESL Classroom: Let Me Explain . . ."

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April 02, 2005

Workplace Issues - Are You Struggling With This, Too?

Hello everyone,

Boy, do I feel like a heel! Your comments about the student who comes to visit me were nothing like I expected! It seems that everyone is light-years of me on this subject. It never even occurred to me that this guy wanted more than just to practice his English and develop a friendship--but some of you saw other motives.

Did I mention that I'm blonde?

Thanks for all of your comments. You will be happy to know that . . .

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March 25, 2005

Workplace Issues - Can A Student Be Your Friend?


Tell me if you’ve ever had a day like this. You’ve got a million things to do, clean your house, take your car in for servicing, buy dog food…you get the picture. Anyway, as soon as you’re showered and ready to head out the door, you hear a timid knock. Before you even answer it, your heart sinks because you know who it is.

The Student Who Wants To Be Your Friend.

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t absolutely love my students—I do, but at times I would like to make the line much clearer between my teaching time and my personal time. Any ESL teacher knows that time is precious because we generally end up working a ton of hours. Because of this I’ve come to absolutely guard my free time. That is, until this one particular student came into my life.

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March 21, 2005

Workplace Issues - Can You Say The "N" Word?


Do you automatically tune out when you hear the word "networking?"

Despite today’s negative attitude toward the term, this method is generally how most teachers land those great jobs! Networking is nothing more than being prepared when you do meet that person who could be influential in helping you land that dream job. So, what are the steps to being prepared?

Start by knowing and being able to talk about your personal work strengths. Are you good with difficult students? Do you thrive in an atmosphere where there is little or no direction from management? Next, back up these claims by having a few short examples of your greatest accomplishments. This shouldn’t sound rehearsed, but you should practice telling about them in a concise, engaging manner.

You’ll also want to . . .

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March 18, 2005

Do You Love What You Do?

Last time, I talked about whether or not it was wise to speak the mother tongue in a classroom setting, and that got me thinking about something else: if I go to all of the trouble to make my students work hard to learn English, rather than just doing it the easy way and telling them how to do the exercises in Spanish, I must actually love what I’m doing!

I guess I’ve never really thought about whether I love teaching ESL or just simply do it, because I’ve been working in this profession for so long. But this week, I finally came to realize that I truly do enjoy my job. (Why else would I work for so little pay, right?)

But then I started to wonder just how much that would change if I didn’t get to experience the many things that I do because I live in another country.

What about you? Are you in this career because of the satisfaction that comes from teaching and watching your students learn English, or do you do it for the cultural experiences and adventures that oftentimes go with the territory? While I do enjoy the profession, I wonder how much I would enjoy it if I was teaching in the United States. In other words, if I didn’t get the chance to experience another culture, country and the wacky experiences that go with it, would I still be an ESL teacher? Honestly, I don’t think that I would.

Does that make me any less of a teacher? I don’t think so. Instead, I think that it takes a special blend of character traits to be a good teacher, and in order to be a good teacher in another country, it takes those, plus an entirely different set of them. (patience, a willingness to try new things, and a laid-back attitude, for starters.)

Now, I’m not saying that teaching English as a second language isn’t an experience in itself—it only takes one visit to an ESL classroom to discover that! But there is something about stopping at the local market on your way home from class and seeing, tasting and smelling those foreign “things”, or spending your free time in a whole new cultural setting that adds another dimension to this work.

Am I the only one who feels like this?

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March 11, 2005

Workplace Issues - Can You Say Hola?

Or perhaps the better question is: Should you?

Hello again,

Recently, I was in one of my beginner classes—where I make it habit never to speak anything but English—and one of my students was having a difficult time understanding a particular point. Every single fiber of my being wanted to shout out the sentence in Spanish to make it easier for him. But I didn’t. You know why?

I have a theory. If my students knew that I spoke Spanish, I believe that their expectations of me would change immediately. No one wants to struggle to get a point—people naturally want do things the easy way—but that’s not necessarily best when it comes to learning a new language. And so if they knew that I spoke Spanish, they would expect me to use it in the classroom.

And so I fake it. I pretend that . . .

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