What if I can’t speak Chinese?

Can I still get hired to teach English?

You won’t be required to know the local language.


Most English teachers don’t know the local language when they first arrive.  Typically, native speaker English teachers are not given students who are true beginners.  Your students will already have some English basics.  Often not much, but enough for you to take them to higher levels and for you to be able to do basic instruction in English.

How can I do that?

Your students will usually know enough English, often about that of a two- or three-year-old native speaker.  Really quite a lot, though they don’t usually feel very confident about their skills.

 Your Native Speaker Language Skills . . .

. . . are why you are hired: your accent, your native ability to know what grammar is wrong or right, your ability to know what sounds right or wrong in common usage.

Time and experience (or a good TEFL certification course) will give you the ability to explain these things.  But in the beginning, even if you can’t explain it, you will still usually know what is wrong and what is right.

 Should I use the Chinese when I teach English?

No!  Your native ability with English is why you are hired.  If you start teaching in the local language, you will not be much different from the Chinese teachers of English, who are often paid MUCH less than you will be.  It is your native talent with English that makes you valuable.

 Okay, no teaching in Chinese, but how will I find my way around and/or buy the things I need?

No problem.  Most schools will assign another teacher or an assistant to you, to help you do the things you need to do until you learn the basics.  After you live and work in China a while, you will find yourself quite skilled at finding what you need, using either very basic language or even just gestures.  After all, you will most likely NOT be your school’s first foreign teacher and they will probably be familiar with most of your wants and needs, from finding food you are familiar with, to cold remedies, Internet cafes, or even good restaurants.