Teaching English In China – Interviewing Monica

chineseclassroom(a) Renato Ganoza

Many foreigners come to China to teach English, some because of passion for the job, some because it’s a nice opportunity to spend a year or two in China. But what is teaching English really like in China? This week we have Monica to share her experiences and to answer your questions.

The views and opinions expressed in the answers of this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Living a Dream in China.

 

Introducing Monica:

 

I’m Monica. I’ll be 24 this December and am from Phoenix, Arizona, USA. I’ve been living in China two years as an English teacher and now a director for a business recently started by my boyfriend. [Monica works for New Life ESL and they help foreigners to find teaching jobs in China.]

Why and how did you end up in China? Why to teach English?

I was a member of AmeriCorps, an organization that places young people at non-profit organizations for a 10-month term to give back to their communities. I received a nice, big scholarship upon completion, but decided moving abroad  suited my interest more, as I had never really had time to travel since I was constantly working and going to school in America. Teaching English is a jump-start to move abroad. It wasn’t my “dream job”, but after being a teacher for two years, I have truly fallen in love with all of my students and have been able to watch them grow as young learners.

 What has been the best about teaching English in China?

There are loads of perks when teaching abroad. I really enjoy the relationship I’ve built with my students. I’ve been able to have lots of free time and go to places I couldn’t have dreamt of while living in America. I’ve been to Thailand, Hong Kong, beautiful cities throughout China and have been able to save money and even start an agency for people who want to have a higher quality of life by living and teaching abroad, something that is becoming more unachievable due to poor western economy. That’s honestly a very small fraction on how my life has changed in a positive way since moving to China.

And the worst?

The worst part about living in China is probably the fact that I just don’t have control over some situations. I can sometimes be a control-freak, so this has been an exercise of the brain that has actually benefitted me. Even the worst part of living here has managed to help me grow as a person.

What are your plans for the future?

My future right now just looks like a map. My boyfriend and I constantly talk about where we will go next. As our agency grows rapidly, we have the ability to work from anywhere in the world and always call China our home.

 

Readers’ questions:

 

How is teaching in China similar to and different from teaching in the U.S./your home country?

I’ve never been a teacher in America, but it’s clear that the classroom environment is 100% different. These kids go to school seven days a week. They’re in school all day long. The students are not taught creativity or critical thinking. They are taught to remember the answers. We’re basically starting from scratch. Our job isn’t only to teach English, we need to teach them skills on how to use their English casually and confidently, not like robots. Teaching at a training center and teaching at a public school are completely different within themselves. A public school can have as many as 60 students per class with no TA. The students may have never learned English. That’s a challenge. At a training center you may have 10 students in a class who have been studying English for a few years in addition to a TA who you split classroom responsibilities with.

What certificates do you need?

A degree is preferred but not required. A TEFL, TESL, TESOL, or CELTA is also beneficial. I’ve recently written an article  about the meanings of these acronyms and which might be best for you.

 Can you be a teacher in China if you don’t know any Chinese?

Learning Mandarin is in no way a requirement to teach English in China.

 Should English teachers learn Chinese? How?

This is a heated debate. My Mandarin is very, very poor. However, I use it in every lesson. By understanding the grammar of Mandarin, it helps me relay the differences between the two languages to my students. A lot of schools strive for an “English-only” classroom setting. A lot of teachers are all about the English-only rule, but since I’ve seen results with my kids, I’ll continue to use what works for me.

As far as language learning, I’ve never studied Mandarin which makes me a very bad expat, but I’ve picked up enough to hold a 10 to 15 minute conversation. The best way to learn is to spend time with the locals and avoid putting yourself in a “western atmosphere”.

What is it like to teach in a Chinese school?

As mentioned above, you’re not only teaching English. You need to be prepared to come with original and fun ideas. I recently told my friend that these kids just don’t have a good week. Their parents give them so much pressure to study, they don’t have time to play with their friends and by the time they hit middle school, they’re true products of their environment. Be the cool teacher. You may be their only outlet for fun and creative learning.

 Is living in China safe for an English teacher?

There are hundreds of thousand of expats here. Obviously something is keeping them here. If you’re hearing horror stories about how some foreigner got robbed or beat up, then they probably deserved it by disrespecting the culture. Chinese people have been so warm to me. I have been able to join some local families for Chinese New Year and I have even been close to drunken tears at how loved I felt by them. If you only spend time with expats you will never learn how to respect this beautiful country.

What cultural things should one be prepared for?

I don’t think being prepared is nearly as important as accepting the culture. Things are done differently no matter where you’re moving to, you just need to come with an open mind.

How easy is it to find a teaching job in China?

It’s so easy! People think the move abroad is difficult and scary, but honestly, it can be done in just a few steps. Apply, get an interview, sign the contract, get your visa and book your ticket. That’s really it.

Do you have to be a native speaker in order to teach English?

This is a preference but by no means a requirement.

How much is the average pay?

I wouldn’t say there’s an average pay. It’s all based on the cost of living and experience. Some first year teachers can make 6-8,000RMB per month while some seasoned teachers make as much as 30,000RMB per month.

Something else you would like to add, for example advice and tips for people coming to China to teach?

Take everything with a grain of salt. This experience should be fun and new. I am a living testimonial on how exciting it is to live in China. I had a great life back home. Lots of friends and a supportive family. I just wanted a change of pace and a chance to explore the world I live in.

  • Linda D.

    great insights! thank you so much for sharing! i will probably going back to China becoming an English teacher :D and like Monica said, it’s not my dream job.. but maybe it will be in the future..? we will see.. :)

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Thanks for reading Linda! Let us know how we can be of assistance!

    [Reply]

  • Tevinn Richards

    Hi Monica. I spent half a year studying Chinese in a university in Shandong last year, and I loved every minute of it. While I was there, I was offered by quite a few people to teach English in their institutions. Since I didn’t have a work Visa, I only accepted to work as a volunteer, but the experience was still very strange.

    I’ve taught English to Chinese students before here in Canada as a part of a multicultural program, but I’ve never really taught in a professional setting, so when I was put into a classroom with a TA and told to teach “whatever I wanted, as long as you’re speaking English” to a group of 20 completely inexperienced students, I was quite nervous. My first few classes were rough, and it didn’t really get any better afterwards. The TA’s were mad with the fact that I spoke Chinese to the students to explain things, because of the encouraged completely English environment, even though the students didn’t understand me at all otherwise, and I found myself often stuck for material, especially since the students all came from different learning backgrounds.

    I was relieved to find out that my boss was more than welcoming, but I was rather disheartened when he told me that most classes would go the same way. I understood that it was just a volunteer position, but I felt very bad knowing that the students weren’t learning very much, even though I can just about guarantee that their parents were paying for it. I was wondering what your thoughts are on learning to teach. I plan on returning to China in September, if everything goes right (fingers crossed), and I’d like to work a little while I’m there, but I’m apprehensive as a result of my first teaching experience abroad. I know that there is no time at all for me to engage in some kind of teaching class (although I am still teaching for the multicultural association) before I leave, but I’d like to be able to handle the class when there isn’t a required curriculum. I’d also like to know how you dealt with being so young in this kind of teaching environment… I’m only twenty, so it’s hard some times for people to take me seriously, especially when I have no formal training.

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Hi Tevinn!
    Thanks for reading!
    One of my biggest fears before moving was lacking the confidence of being a good teacher. I didn’t understand the education system here, I didn’t know the level of my future students, and I didn’t know what kind of books I would be using.
    Like I mentioned, a lot of schools want an English-only environment which just isn’t easy to immediately achieve.
    I recently taught at a public primary school and had about 30 kids in my class with no TA to translate. I was their first foreign Engljsh teacher, so they basically went wild. I had no lesson provided and had to just wing it. I taught something I could illustrate without flash cards like, “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, and “Goodnight”. I went around high-fiving the kids, playing some simple games that demonstrate word repetition, and just having fun. I used a ton of Mandarin during the class and it’s safe to say the kids walked away learning nothing from me.
    I felt bad because they loved me so much. I didn’t want to continue a pattern of all play and no work. I went to the head foreign teacher and apologized for my over usage of Mandarin and he wasn’t upset at all. He told me he had watched my whole class and said something that I now tell every person interested in teaching, “Your first class isn’t about learning, your first class is about trust.”
    I realized at that point that those kids did trust me. We had fun for the entire class. The second time I taught them I had a book and flashcards but still no TA. The book had a bit of Mandarin translation in it, but they were hanging on every word I said and tried really hard to understand me. I decided to try teaching, “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, and “Goodnight” again as my own experiment with the whole trust thing. To my suprise, the third time I walked in to the class, I was welcomed with an overwhelming, “Good morning, teacher!” from all those kids at once.
    As far as being young and teaching, it was quite strange at first. My students aged under 10 took to me really well. Teenagers were definitely a challenge getting respect and trust from. Students training for IELTS and TOEFL exams really enjoyed working with me because I could demonstrate what life of a younger person abroad would be like. Any school who is concerned about your happiness with your job should arrange for you to be in a classroom environment where you and your students are both comfortable. If your students don’t trust or respect you, there is nothing that can be achieved.
    I’d be happy to email you some of my students favorite games and some ways to create positive energy flow in your first classes that will carry on until the semester is up.
    Email or add me on Skype if you have further questions. Skype: newlifeesl email: monica@newlifeesl.com

    [Reply]

    Ryen Walton Reply:

    Hi Monica, my name is Ryan. I am a military veteran (US Marines) and wanted to express my gratitude for your hard work and for your mentorship. I have expressed interest in working in China with Derrick, so I look forward to hearing back about that! I’ve experienced life in multiple countries (France, Japan, Australia, etc) and can attest to the fact that it can be difficult to adjust, but I believe it is also within us to open our hearts and minds to various cultures. It’s a beautiful thing! Again, look forward to this adventure! Hope to hear from you!

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Ryen! Thanks so much for the response! Understanding no matter where you move you’ll face some challenges is the most important thing a person can do before leaving their home country. It really is a beautiful thing. We look forward to working with you!

    [Reply]

  • Chris_Waugh

    Point of order:

    A bachelor’s degree and a minimum 2 years work experience are minimum legal requirements for obtaining a Z visa and working legally as an English teacher. I also take issue with the “you don’t need to be a native speaker” comment – the whole point of inviting foreign teachers to China is to get Chinese students exposure to English as it is spoken in the real world (as opposed to the text book English they otherwise learn) by native speakers so that they can develop actual communicative ability. Sorry, Monica, I would advise anybody thinking of coming to China to teach to stay away from any school or agency that says you don’t need a degree. I can not in good conscience do otherwise.

    Yes, it is true that many people who do not meet the legal requirements (degree, work experience, native speaker) do get jobs teaching English in China, and many do live and work here on the “wrong” (tourist, business, whatever) visa, but they are breaking the law and their position here is becoming ever more precarious as China tightens the system up. These people are certainly going to be finding it ever harder to find work in the big cities, at the very least. I have already seen people forced to leave Beijing and find work in smaller cities that have trouble attracting teachers and so are more relaxed about the rules.

    Also, I would advise people to not waste their time and money with TEFL/TESL/CELTA certificates. At best they teach you a few classroom tricks, but they certainly do not give you any understanding of the nature of language learning or language teaching. Your best preparation is to learn a foreign language if you haven’t already, and if you’re serious about making this a long-term career, get an actual degree in applied linguistics or ESOL in a programme that requires you to have language learning experience – if you can’t do, you can’t teach.

    And Monica, I find your “they probably deserved it” comment to be highly disrespectful. Bad things happen to good people, and many people who get robbed or beaten up or whatever just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have met one person who probably did deserve to get beaten up because I know he was a loud-mouthed racist and extremely disrespectful, but I’ve met plenty more who were just plain unlucky.

    Sorry, Sara, I don’t mean to go picking fights on your blog, and I love the friendly, safe tone you maintain in comment threads, but those particular comments of Monica’s really, really frustrate me. Some of her advice is simply illegal and I have no patience for victim blaming.

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for your feedback and constructive insight.
    Let’s start with legal concerns you mentioned – each province has their own restrictions and laws when it comes to issuing visas. The schools we’ve partnered with that issue visas to those working without a degree or experience are reputable and reliable schools and have positive feedback from teachers we’ve placed with them. Our business contacts former and current teachers of any school we wish to form a partnership with. These teachers have expressed how they feel about the school and if they would reccomend it to someone pursuing this option. If we hear negative feedback, we abandon the partnership. It seems you lived or currently live in China. That being said, it should be clear to you that guānxì overpowers any law within China and that a high percentage of schools in China have established some type of government relationship to be able to even have a foreigner (whether or not they have a degree and experience) at their school. As an agency with people’s lives and futures in our hands, we don’t take a gamble on the safety of a school.
    Moving on to the legitimacy of TEFL and other courses – had you read my blog, which is linked, you’d see that I too am opposed to anyone paying for these courses.
    Lastly, saying someone “deserved” something bad to happen to them was a poor blanket statement. However, I’ve witnessed multipled discrepancies between locals and foreigners which all stemmed from the ignorance of a foreigner. Bad things happen to good people and sometimes bad things happen to bad people.
    Thanks again for reading!

    [Reply]

    Chris_Waugh Reply:

    Monica,

    “each province has their own restrictions and laws when it comes to issuing visas.”

    No. The laws and regulations are set by the state – i.e. central government, the national government. Different provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions apply the rules with differing degrees of flexibility, but the law remains the law. In saying that a degree, work experience, or being a native speaker of English is not necessary, you are advising people to break the law, which is, at best, highly irresponsible. If nothing else, a teacher who is working here less than legally who then gets into a dispute with their school has no legal recourse. As soon as they go to the authorities they reveal themselves to be here illegally and are likely to be deported with no compensation for whatever wrong was done to them and placed on a visa blacklist for five years. Nor can they seek help from their country’s nearest diplomatic mission because they are in breach of the law.

    “guānxì overpowers any law within China”

    This is not actually true. Guānxì can help, but only so long as your guānxì stays out of trouble. And guānxì is not going to help any foreigner caught on the wrong side of the law. Quite simply, if any dispute arises between any of your teachers and the school you place them at, the teacher is screwed. And your talk of doing due diligence on the schools is irrelevant – all kinds of things lead to these problems, and it may well be that both school and teacher mean well, but due to some personality clash or difference of opinion they don’t get on. I know, it’s happened to me before, both between me and my employer and me and my student. But meaning well means nothing when the teacher is caught in an employment dispute far from home and with no way to appeal to the authorities because, having acted on your advice, their presence or work status in China is illegal.

    “I too am opposed to anyone paying for these courses.”

    So why advise people to waste their money on them?

    Sorry Monica, I appreciate your response, and especially that you responded in good faith, because that is how I intended my comment, but I still find myself strongly disagreeing with these statements. I look forward to your reply.

    [Reply]

    npxalias Reply:

    I absolutely agree with you Chris!!!!

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks again for responding.

    Pardon me for coming off rude, but you do realize we’re talking about China, right? China is NOT a country of laws. I am in no way saying that two wrongs make a right.

    Upon traveling anywhere you take risks. You could be a genuine tourist on a tourist visa, that doesn’t necessarily mean the country is going to defend you should something go wrong.

    Our website clearly states that there are some terrible, terrible, schools in China. I know this, I have worked for one of them. Some schools will wash their hands of you whether or not you have experience, a degree, are a native speaker, and are here legally on a z-visa. These are schools we stay away from as an agency. Our reputations are on the line if we put someone in a dangerous situation.

    Living and working abroad is a risk for anyone no matter which country you’re in. I can not stress how frequently China DOESN’T “follow the rules”. This is what the country itself was founded on. If you don’t understand that the country is founded on knowing someone who knows someone then you’re living in a world of lies.

    Red envelopes, higher test scores, KTV’s, “black” income. These are all examples of China not being kosher in many ways. I can’t make it more clear than that.

    As an agency, we do not seek to employ people illegally. If we can get the occasional non-native English speaker a job, we do so. Our site is directed towards those from English-speaking countries and those with degrees, we simply state that we have an opportunity for everyone. We have zero guarantees because we have all had first hand experience about how things can go. I have had an overall amazing experience abroad that has encouraged me to spread the wealth. I have had my mishaps in China, no doubt. But understanding that THIS IS NOT A COUNTRY OF LAWS has gotten me through it.

    Again, for English teaching certificates, I have clearly stated that if you must get one since some schools require them for employment then get one that is free. It’s that simple. Please stop making it seem as though I am begging people to get one. I don’t care if you have one, schools care. Not me.

    I sincerely appreciate your response and concern for the well-being of those interested in working abroad, but this is not the west. I in no way encourage people to do things illegally, I am just calling it like I see it.

    I won’t be discussing this issue any further. Take care.

    [Reply]

    Christoph Reply:

    China might not be “a country of laws”, but there are laws in China. They might not enforced, until they are (for example: http://www.lostlaowai.com/news/illegal-foreign-teachers-arrested-in-shenzhen/). I’m sorry, but I consider your original post to be a thinly veiled advertisement for your company. It offers no insight into the live of a teacher in China. Along the way, you managed to accuse foreign victims of crime in China to be responsible for what happened to them since they “disrespected the culture”.

    I don’t want to sound patronizing, but you consider the possibility that you might not know everything about China. Your patronizing tone in reminding us about guanxi and corruption is uncalled for. Being able to hold a conversation for just 10 minutes is no trivial task, no matter which language is involved. At least when one is able to distinguish between “having a conversation” and “answering the canonical questions a foreigner is facing” (Where are you from? Do you teach English? How old are you? Are you married?).

    My advice for anybody considering a teaching position in China: stay away from this agency.

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Hi Christoph,

    Thanks for reading through and providing feedback.

    Some points I need to touch on:

    No, I have never considered the fact that I don’t know everything about China. I am well aware that I do not know everything. Considering it has never been necessary.

    As far as advertising goes, Sara kindly asked us to be apart of this. We accepted. My original interview cited one link to my site which provided information about English teaching certificates. Any other links cited were provided in the kind-heartedness of Sara. For that, I thank her. I should not be blamed for having a wonderful life in China. I will continue to live here as long as I can. I will continue to provide people with jobs who wish to have more free time and want to save money.

    To say something like “stay away from this agency” is quite funny. We are the only agency with faces and real life experience in Asia. We spend all day having Skype interviews and giving people a play by play of what their life will be like from the moment they step off of the plane. We maintain relationships with people who have found employment through us, something 99.9% of agencies will not do. We are a small, personal group of people.

    Lastly, I am unsure of what your point is about me having a conversation in my previously stated poor level of Mandarin. You’re making it seem as if I pride myself in this. I don’t.

    As previously stated, I will not carry on with this topic. I feel I’ve expressed myself quite clearly.

    Best.

    [Reply]

    R Zhao Reply:

    Monica, you may very well have all the best intentions, but China and all it’s intricacies are complicated. You may know a lot having been here two years and starting a business, but the longer you are here the more you will probably realize you don’t know (and perhaps don’t even want to know).

    This may not be a country of laws, but as Chris says, there are laws. When someone has enough power they will use whichever they see fit at the time–their guanxi or the law (or both). Furthermore, visa regulations and the intensity of which they are enforced change at the drop of a hat. I saw how strictly things tightened up before the Beijing Olympics. . . and the Shanghai World Expo. . . and the census. It was no joke.

    Before I came to China, I was an avid rule-follower. Now, not so much. I think the problem with this post, at least as I see it, is that people first coming to China think they are legit because their school or agency tells them it’s no problem to have a business visa or lack credentials. Personally, I think this is fine if the person knows and understands the risk he is taking. It’s not cool, however, if this point is glossed over.

    I looked at your agency website and it looks like what you guys are trying to do is coming from a positive place. But I would just like to caution anyone thinking of teaching in China to consider an agency and a school very carefully because it’s very easy to get taken advantage of or be left out in the cold when a misunderstanding occurs. Do your research, talk to former teachers, and realize the risks you may be taking if you don’t have your paperwork in order.

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Thanks for your level-headidness. I do sincerely appreciate all of your comments and insight. Also, it’s greatly appreciated that you looked over our website and made an effort to see who we are and what we want to achieve. Cheers.

    [Reply]

    Chris_Waugh Reply:

    “I won’t be discussing this issue any further. Take care.”

    Well, that’s unfortunate, because whether you meant to or not, I think you’ve
    raised some important issues for those thinking about coming to China to
    consider.

    As for English teaching certificates, in the interview
    you recommended them, then you agreed with my statement that they’re a
    waste of time and money. So why recommend them? You’re right, some
    schools require them, as do some territories, countries and regions.
    That’s a perfectly reasonable reply and all that was necessary. Why the
    defensiveness.

    As for “THIS IS NOT A COUNTRY OF LAWS”:
    1: There’s no need to shout.
    2: I disagree. The philosophical school Qin Shihuang based his rule of the
    then newly united Huaxia on was called Legalism. It’s one of the few
    pre-Qin schools to have survived. Legalism’s basic premise is that
    people are by nature bad and therefore need strict rules to keep them in
    line, and severe punishments for those who stray out of line.
    Confucianism came back in favour with the Han – and remember that
    Confucianism is fundamentally a system of ethics, i.e., it too has rules
    and laws on how to behave in civilised society – but the Han still
    found it necessary to fall back on Legalist principles. Many say that
    since then Chinese society has had a Confucian veneer covering a
    Legalist system right up to this day. It is true that the rule of law
    took a beating in China’s modern history. The May 4th/New Culture
    Movement, for example, was keen to dump Chinese tradition and replace it
    with Western science, rationality and modernism (and we can still see
    the lingering influence of that movement today). Then of course, there
    was Mao’s rule, and we all know how that went. Yes, the rule of law is
    weak in China, but law is not absent from China. Yes, there are many
    people bending, breaking, even shattering China’s laws, but they are
    living precarious lives, especially as the government cracks down on
    corruption and strengthens the rule of law (Bo Xilai, for example. And I
    saw a headline in yesterday’s newspaper saying the mayor of Nanjing had
    been placed under 双规). So no, sorry, China is a country of laws, there
    are laws and regulations that must be obeyed, and if you disobey them
    you face the consequences. The consequences could be having to pay an
    official to look the other way or keeping your head down as you go about
    your not-strictly legal business doing your best not to draw undue
    attention, or they could be jail or deportation or worse.

    And what’s so special about corruption in China? Lot’s of countries have
    rampant official and commercial corruption. India, Italy, France, the
    UK, the USA and Australia all spring to mind. Would you argue those
    countries are not “countries of laws”? I wouldn’t.

    Lastly, I would be quite happy to continue the discussion, but please check your
    tone. I come here in good faith to argue ideas and interpretations.
    Nothing I write should be taken as a personal attack on you or anybody
    else. The angry, defensive, patronising tone of your reply does not help
    discussions and leaves me wondering if the good faith is reciprocated.

    [Reply]

    R Zhao Reply:

    I see your comment wasn’t a very popular one but I also agree with a lot of what you said. I have been in China a long time and the whole visa situation is very precarious. I have seen first hand what it’s like for friends to struggle and even leave China because of visa issues, despite their school’s guanxi. I have even had troubles and am married to a local!

    While I do think some foreigners do go looking for trouble and end up in fights or at the police station, I have seen drunken Chinese try to pick fights with my foreign friends. Some people are smart enough to walk away, others aren’t. I do think China is generally a very safe place though, just be careful when crossing the street. I feel like the traffic is the biggest danger here!

    [Reply]

  • Robert Budzul

    ‘As far as language learning, I’ve never studied Mandarin which makes me a very bad expat’… I would have thought that that would make you a very good expat… What makes someone an expat anyhow? If a Chinese person comes and lives in Australia and speaks really good English… is that person an expat? What on earth is an expat?

    ‘but I’ve picked up enough to hold a 10 to 15 minute conversation…’ I would have thought if you could have a conversation for 15 minutes you could have a conversation for 5 hours…

    ‘The best way to learn is to spend time with the locals and avoid putting yourself in a “western atmosphere”’ – I suspect if you immerse yourself with the locals – locals that aren’t speaking English – and you don’t make any effort to learn Chinese from some course/book etc… you still won’t suddenly learn Chinese just because you’ve been hanging out with locals – you won’t learn a thing…

    If the author of the article can now hold a 15 minute conversation then that person has either had lots of words explained through English speaking Chinese friends or that person has learnt words from a book.

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Hi Robert,
    Thanks for reading!
    An expat is an expatriate. A term used when someone voluntarily leaves their own country. I jokingly say, “bad expat” to express that if I am going to be in another country, I should make a stronger effort to seriously learn the language.
    In no way do I have the credentials to give someone advice on language learning, but when asked the question, I try to answer to the best of my ability. So I will break this down for you as simply as possible:
    I came to China. I didn’t study Mandarin. I made friends who are both native an non-native English speakers. I picked up bits and pieces of the language by asking, “What does that mean?” The answer was explained to me. I memorized phrases and grammar usage. I can now hold a short and beginner-level conversation with a local person.
    Thanks again!

    [Reply]

    Robert Budzul Reply:

    Thanks for the reply. It’s strange that expat seems to be reserved nowadays for English-speaking foreigners living overseas. They’re never immigrants, just expats. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that they never emmigrate… there’s the feeling they’re only overseas temporarily.

    Well, looks like your method of learning by hanging out with locals only works if those locals understand English. Perhaps a better method would be to actually learn from a course then hang out with locals that can’t speak English.

    ‘You in no way have the credentials to give some advice on language learning?’ Aren’t you teaching English? I would have thought there’d be a bit of a connection…

    Sorry to be picky…

    [Reply]

    Monica Reply:

    Haha, I’m realizing how silly what I’ve said sounds. I specifically mean Mandarin learning because I’ve never studied or taught it. Learning English and learning Mandarin are incomparable. English is my mother tongue and something I’ve studied. English holds a completely different grammar sequence than Mandarin.

    To be clear, I have no “method” to learning Mandarin. Spending time with English-speaking locals to improve your Mandarin is merely a suggestion that has proven useful to me.

    [Reply]

    Robert Budzul Reply:

    Funny that a quick google search fails to bring up your definition of expatriate. It’s certainly not such an easy word to define. Under your definition everyone except those in exile would be expats… why don’t we call immigrants in the US and Australia etc. expats? I think there’s more to the word than you realise.

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    Bruce Reply:

    What search terms are you using?

    “An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person’s upbringing.”

    Why don’t we use it in the west? Good question, but that’s a geo-political quandary that has nothing to do with the way expat is used in this post. Monica used it correctly. You can continue your ‘immigrant vs expat’ crusade, but you’re attacking the wrong person. Ask why people in the West don’t call others expats.

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    Robert Budzul Reply:

    Same search terms as you. I didn’t say I couldn’t find find a definition; I just said I couldn’t find one that matched the definition of the original poster.

    Sorry to have got so far off-topic. I wasn’t having a go at the original poster in terms of the word expat as it’s used by everyone to refer to foreigners working in China. Probably because, as a recent comment has pointed out, they are not immigrants. I gather that’s very difficult anyway as China only hands out a handful of permanent resident visas each year.

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    Monica Reply:

    Robert, your argument is so ridiculous and I typically wouldn’t respond to it. Please take this conversation elsewhere, it’s wasting your time and my time. Chris is bringing up something worth debating and discussing. What your saying is nonsense. I’m asking you kindly to refrain, and if you have other remarks, email me. Add my skype. I don’t care, just stop talking about it. It’s clear you’re looking for an argument and something to be “right” about.

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  • npxalias

    READ READ READ!!!! THINGS ARE NOT THAT IDEAL!!!!

    you dont say anything about the visa procedure that is a real pain, plus the immigration checks to the schools and the deportation of teachers because the 70% of them they dont have proper visa for working and their agencies dont have license for this so they are illegal… yes its good to work as an english teacher in China but i suggest you to write also all the bad things around that.

    E.g school pays the agent 13000 to 15000 rmb per month the agent pays the teacher 6000 to 8000 rmb per month, nice… because as they said “is a new teacher” but old or new they charge the same money to the school… so you got what i mean ;)

    Careful lads things about english teaching in china are not that ideal!!!! be sure to ask first people that they did this work here cause the law in china now became extremely strict with the english teachers plus that in the big chinese cities there is a permanent head hunting for illegal working teachers!!!

    And for the end university degree is a must if you want to take a legal working visa!!!!!

    FOR QUESTIONS AND INFORMATION ABOUT THIS SUBJECT CONTACT ME IF YOU WANT AT nikolaos@163.com , i am not agent and i dont work for any school, i m just an ex english teacher…

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    Monica Reply:

    People who have a difficult visa process have had a criminal history or poor health. I am currently a teacher and have been for two years. Not once have I ever had a single issue with my visa.

    And are you joking? We do NOT take a monthly fee. We take a one time fee and that’s only under the condition both the school and and teacher are satisfied with up to THREE months AFTER the teacher has been employed. You clearly read nothing about our business model and who we are. But this was a great way for you to get your name out there, right?

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    Christoph Reply:

    I don’t think you should complain about anybody trying to get their name out.

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  • Robert Budzul

    You don’t think her definition is that far off? If I’d never heard the word before her definition would be pretty misleading. I agree with your definition.

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  • Peter Hu China

    what a nice view from a 老外,I have gained a lot of information from this blog,which is really amazing!Teaching English in China is decent job,because Chinese government has given special treatment to 老外,and teaching English is a big business in China,which has more than 10 million English leaners,I think this markert is so huge and awesome

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  • Peter Hu China

    Teaching English in China is a decent job

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  • Peter Hu China

    I wouldn’t say there’s an average pay. It’s all based on the cost of living and experience. Some first year teachers can make 6-8,000RMB per month while some seasoned teachers make as much as 30,000RMB per month.

    what does seasoned teachers mean?a professional teacher?

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  • Peter Hu China

    6000 to 8000 yuan is a large money for every month’s salary,it is true that 老外 are happy in China

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  • Its illegal to teach in China without a degree and no reputable agency or recruiter should be informing teachers otherwise. If schools say they can get the visa without then they fake a copy of the degree without your knowledge. I’ve heard stories about it on many occasions and it can casue issues when finding a new placement. Whilst a TEFL is no preferred by most schools and required in many cities, it is still possible to find a reputable school without a TEFL certificate, but a degree is a must.
    The 2 years experience mentioned is now enforced in almost all cities in East & North China, however the visa can still be applied for in the poorer ‘central and western areas’ and in most circumstances is still approved. But if you wish to teach in places like Shanghai, Guangdong, Beijing etc….you must have graduated at least 2 years prior.

    I work for Recruit 4 China whichis an expat managed recruitment service, similar to that discussed in this article. If a teacher doesn’t have a degree them i am afraid we can’t help that teacher. Least we are following the law.

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  • Vineeth Gary Illius

    Hi Monica.I am Vineeth from India with a good English accent.I finished my Bachelors in Aeronautics.I like to get into teaching field in China.Will I be qualified.?

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