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Teaching English in China

“Some expats do not qualify to teach English” is the headline of the Shanghai Daily today. Is that really news? Almost every foreigner that wants to live in China and cannot find another job eventually ends up teaching, so surely there are (many) unqualified teachers among them. The problem is, as the article also mentions, that many schools assume that if someone has blond hair and blue eyes he/she will automatically be a good English teacher.

Many people abuse this, because the schools have no clue anyway what their English skills are. They simply have nobody who speaks English well enough to judge the knowledge level of applicant teachers. While living in Beijing I befriended some African guys in a bar. I had difficulties communicating with them, and I wondered what they were doing in China. The answer: “We teach English!”

On the other hand, Chinese schools often do not treat their foreign teachers correctly either (problems with not offering the right working visa or not paying the full salary are common), so it probably works both ways.

And what’s the alternative? Native Chinese English teachers are certainly not much better. They may have a large vocabulary, but their speaking ability (especially pronounciation) is often terrible. But at least they know how to teach, and they are probably aware of their lack of oral skills.

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