Teaching English in China

If you’re looking for a way to make some serious money, have an incredible cultural experience and learn about a communist country, teaching English in China could be a great option for you.

This country is becoming more and more popular as a place for foreigners to move, learn the language, meet the people, and earn some money. Compared to places like South Korea, where foreigners must have a degree in order to teach, China is a good option for travellers who are great at English but don’t necessarily have a degree.

There are a number of different programs available that can sponsor you for a visa so you can arrive in China. This will often be a business visa, and once you’re on the ground the company will usually help you switch your visa to the best type for your situation.

Teacher Pointing at Map of World

It has become very popular for Chinese parents to put their kids into English speaking kindergartens, primary schools, elementary schools and after-school programs, as they want them to be able to communicate and do business with Westerners in the future.

You’ll find that you can teach any age group- from 2 and 3 year olds (typically just talking to them in English, having “circle time”, and teaching them English songs), right up to 20-24 year olds. You may find that you end up teaching for the IELTS test, which is when Chinese students want to study overseas and need to first have a certain level of English in order to pass the IELTS test.

It’s very interesting teaching the older kids, as they will typically have a greater grasp of the English language and can give you a great insight into the Chinese culture as you talk to them about life in China. You’ll find that you’ll need a good grasp of English grammar for these students, and you may end up looking up different grammar rules to ensure that you understand them yourself- i.e. state verbs can be hard for the Chinese to understand.

Living in China can be challenging, and it’s a good idea to try to learn at least a little Chinese before you get there. Knowing your numbers is key for bargaining, so download an app like Mindsnacks, and you’ll be able to play games while you learn key words such as greetings, numbers, and directions.

Chinese is a very hard language, and has 9 different tones which can be frustrating. Luckily, you can have private Chinese classes, and these are an inexpensive way to learn Chinese, get some insight into the culture, and even be able to ask someone your questions about your new city.

If you’re working in a school, you’ll find that many of the Chinese teachers and students will be happy to help you practice your Chinese, and will teach you helpful words to ensure you can easily get around.

China is a massive country, with some very large cities. Many people go to Beijing to teach English, which has more than 22 million people- something that can be overwhelming if you’re from a small country or city. Luckily, the public transport system is excellent and you’ll find that although it can be extremely claustrophobic with so many people, it’s easy to get around and navigate the city.

The same can be said for Shanghai, which is a little more modern and cleaner than Beijing. You may even find that you prefer to be in a small village or smaller city for your time in China, which will mean that you’ll be speaking Chinese a lot more, and are guaranteed to pick up the language a lot faster.

You can expect to have some culture shock when you move to China, and while you’ll be a bit out of your depth when you first arrive, true culture shock usually hits between 3 and 6 months after arrival. There is a huge group of expats in China however, and since it can be a tricky place to live, everyone looks out for each other, passing on advice, translating for those who are new, and making sure that you know to look out for any scams.

Some of the things you may experience include seeing children without any diapers, and just a big split down their pants (something that looks a little cold in winter), people spitting on the subway or inside buildings, squat toilets (bring your own toilet paper), and, of course, the pollution.

It’s important to travel to China with an open mind, expecting that you’ll see some things that are so different from your life at home that you may be very taken aback. But once you get past some of these things, you’ll find that China can be an incredible place to live and work, and you may even end up extending your contract and staying for two or more years.

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