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Teaching English in China – Debunking the Myths
Do a Google search on “teaching English in China” and what you will find is over 54 million results listing websites mainly from job recruiters in China, TEFL certification schools (Teaching English English as a foreign language), EFL forums, and “cultural exchange programs,” that is, glorified recruitment agencies, all of which make a lot of money by convincing Westerners that moving to China to teach oral English is an opportunity and an adventure of a lifetime. Although it is generally true that an EFL teaching position can be a good way to subsidize your travel expenses to exotic locations around the world, it is completely disingenuous of anyone to suggest that doing so makes sense as a new permanent career. move
This article will debunk some of the most common myths you will read about teaching English in China and will argue that doing so should only be considered by a very limited number of people who meet the criteria described below. It is written by an American psychoanalyst who has worked in China since 2003 as a mental health consultant and psychology professor.
Myth #1: All Chinese desperately want to learn English and use it in their daily lives
China’s education system was completely overhauled in 1979 to realize the goals of the reform movement of the Chinese Communist Party in 1978, adopted at the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee, in what is commonly called the Four Modernizations . These Four Modernizations were in the fields of 1) agriculture, 2) industry, 3) technology, and 4) defense and were specifically aimed at making China a great economic power and self-sufficient at the beginning of the 21st century (Wertz, 1998). ).
Nowhere between these four broad fields will you find English as a foreign language or any of humanity for that matter. The truth is that English as a foreign language has been very low as an academic discipline in China. It is essentially awarded as a compulsory course of study to freshmen who scored too poorly in the national university entrance exam (Gao Kao) to receive their required major in a more lucrative field.
Unless students have definite plans – and considerable funding – to study abroad one day, hope to work for an international company, or intend to marry a foreigner, they will never use a single word of English for the rest of his time. live after graduating from college. In fact, in a land of 1.3 billion people, Chinese, not English, is the most widely spoken language in the world today. Many of us who have lived and worked in China for years have come to the realization that what the Chinese really want is for the rest of the world to learn Chinese – and that wish might come true one day as the Middle Kingdom continues. his Unbridled rise as a world economic power.
Foreign English teachers are hired competitively to meet a widely resented and bitterly contested national requirement promulgated by the Ministry of Education that mandates exposure to a native speaker for all language learners. foreigners Apart from public schools and universities, the proliferation of private language schools – where the greatest abuse and exploitation of foreigners takes place – has created an insatiable demand for white faces in the classroom to attract new students and command fees of higher education far above what can. be paid for classes with their Chinese English teachers only.
What you should keep in mind is that because the teaching and learning of English in China is devalued by Chinese academic leaders and administrators, the role of the foreign English teacher is deprofessionalized: it is limited to facilitate speaking and listening to students. skills, with very few exceptions. Whether a foreign teacher has a PhD in linguistics with a specialty in second language acquisition methodology or is a recent university graduate with little or no relevant work experience, in the vast majority of cases, each will be assigned to teach precisely the same classes with a salary differential of no more than 700 yuan ($102.00) per month.
Myth #2: A foreign teacher can live very comfortably on the salary provided and can still save money
The average salary of a foreign English teacher in China—outside of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou—is in the range of 4,000 to 6,000 yuan per month ($584 to $876, respectively) for 14 to 20 face-to-face hours. weekly face-to-face teaching (Mavrides, 2009). Although it is true that this salary represents up to 70 percent more than the current national per capita income of 1,800 yuan (Economy Watch, 2009), this does not mean much unless you are willing to live as and if you were Chinese.
While it is possible to save up to a third of your typical salary of 5,000 yuan a month, you will have to live quite frugally to do so, which means completely giving up all Western foods and amenities, and severely restricting the use of utilities, especially air conditioning. For example, a single can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup sells for $3.21 (22 yuan) in a Western grocery store in Guangzhou and the comparative price ratio of 2 to 1 is fairly constant across all imported goods in China, if you are too. lucky to find them at all (and you will not be outside the three international cities of China). In addition, Western branded appliances and personal electronics generally cost as much in China as they do at home, sometimes a little more, and you often buy very sophisticated clones, that is, counterfeit products that do not last not nearly as much as the genuine articles do.
The reality is that any Westerner who has lived a middle-class existence at home will barely subsist on the typical salary offered to most foreign teachers of oral English in China. Even if you save enough to save some money, those savings will disappear quickly if you decide to travel or become seriously ill (real health insurance is not provided, only accidental injury insurance). Most of the foreign teachers of English in China moonlight and do not do so because they cannot get enough.
In addition to salary issues, you should also be aware that the “free” housing provided to foreign English teachers varies considerably in size and quality, and is more commonly typical today of what the Chinese working poor live in, ie , small (580 to 900 square feet), old, run-down units in eight-story buildings with no elevators, and with hot water only available for showers. You should get used to washing your hands, and even the dishes, in cold water, unless you decide to buy water heating units for the bathroom and kitchen sinks at your own expense, and you can plan to do a lot exercise in particular. if your apartment is on the eighth floor.
Myth #3: Teaching English in China is fun, easy, and personally rewarding
The reality is that teaching English in China is an extremely tiring and challenging job, and for the most part, it is a thankless job. While students who believe they will use English one day have already acquired reasonable speaking and listening skills, most of your students will not be able to understand unless you speak very slowly and use a simple vocabulary. Unfortunately, this is not only true of your students, but it will also be the case when you try to communicate with your colleagues, administrators, and almost everyone else you will have contact with in China, unless, of course, the other person is even a stranger. .
It is highly unlikely that anyone other than a career EFL/ESL teacher will find the job to be personally or professionally rewarding, nor will anyone but an educator with a master’s degree and state teaching certification be able to actually earn a living. – and only after teaching in an international school, a joint-venture program, or a Western university with a branch in China.
Myth #4: Any native speaker can and should teach English in China
There are four groups of Westerners for whom teaching English in China may make sense: 1) recent college graduates who want to study Chinese or gain some travel experience before returning home to resume the his real career; 2) active seniors in very good health looking for a short-term adventure (from four to six months); 3) retirees who seek to extend their Western pensions in an Asian country and, as mentioned before; 4) career EFL teachers who either work as school and program directors, or in positions only available to fully credentialed and licensed educators.
For anyone else, especially middle-aged and mid-career individuals without considerable means, moving to China to teach English will most likely make you an economic prisoner of the Asian EFL system: you’ll be stuck spending the rest of your life teaching English as a foreign language unsparingly, moving from position to position, perhaps from country to country, in the hope of finding greener pastures and forever cursing the day you decided to teach English in China.
Economy Watch (2009). China Revenue, China National Revenue. EconomyWatch.com. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from http://www.economywatch.com/world_economy/china/income.html.
Mavrides, Gregory (2009). Foreign Teachers’ Guide to Living and Teaching in China. The life of the Middle Kingdom. ISBN 978-0-578-02423-3
Wertz, Richard R. (2009). Chinese history. China and the Four Modernizations, 1979-82. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from http://www.ibiblio.org/chinesehistory/contents/01his/c05s03.html.
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