Learning Chinese while Teaching English

Okay this question seems so simple that it must have been asked a million times but after doing several searches on the forum I haven’t found it. I apologize in advanced in the likely event that I’m just being incompetent.

So I want to move to Taiwan and my primary motivation was just to teach and live in Taiwan. Now however I have started to look forward and consider a career in the US Foreign Service. It would be much easier to get this job if I were first to learn Mandarin well (which I didn’t really plan on doing) and if I am in Taiwan teaching anyway it would make sense to try and gain a reasonable level of fluency. Now I am looking at all of the website for universities offering Chinese classes and I see that they all say you need a student visa and many mention that you can’t work on a student visa. Some also say you can get a work permit for up to 16 hours of work per week but only after a year of study. Does this mean that it is not possible to study if you are already in Taiwan working on an ARC? Is there some way around this were you can maintain full time employment as an English teacher and study Chinese for 15hrs/week at the university?

You can study as much as you like on an ARC, working with a legal work permit. The only trick might be scheduling. You may want to do 1-on-1 classes to accommodate your work schedule if it varies or doesn’t fit.

Exactly. get a job, which gets you a work visa and ARC -resident permit- and you can study on the side. You would have to live on a limited budget, though, as you will have to work minimum hours to devote time to studies as well. If you already have a work visa, you do not need a student visa, but as a student you cannot work legally from the start, and you’ll be cutting into your budget/time. It is a lot easier, as Ironlady said, to fit the student schedule into the work schedule.

What you need for learning is time and exposure, making friends and enjoying social activities will help you learn and enjoy your stay here. Movie dates, hiking trips, trips to touristy towns… will all be part of the process. For formal classes, there are evening options for study, early morning options, weekend options, one on one… Once you are here, you can work around it. And by the end, if you have the time/money, you can take one of those pretty intense courses for 3000 usd before taking the Foreign Serviec examinations. Good luck.

Well I will be starting from nothing in terms of Chinese ability so I am going to try to fit an intensive class into my schedule if I can. Obviously I will have to see if I can make it work and if I can’t I will find a way to have as many class hours as I can (probably not 1 on 1 as it might be cost prohibitive).

One more question though. Do the universities check to see that you have a student visa or ARC? I mean if I started classes as soon as I got to Taiwan while my ARC was being processed and I was on a tourist visa would that be a problem? I realize it is definitely illegal I am more asking if it is practical.

You can study on any visa – it’s no problem.

Language centers generally don’t care much. If you ever apply for a degree program in Taiwan while on a work visa (it is possible), you are best advised not to mention that you plan to continue working while you are doing their courses. They have the idea that no one could EVER manage to do that, though for most Westerners, the idea of working their way through school is quite ordinary.

Look for quality over quantity of class hours and you will do fine. An “intensive” class probably wouldn’t be your best bet, IMO, and there are often scheduling issues or difficulties finding like-minded and like-leveled people to form a group. But your mileage may vary depending on the school and the situation at any given time.

I worked (legally) teaching English and studied Chinese at the same time. It was fine. I even saved money, though I then spent it all on travel. I taught about 20 to 25 hours a week, and had 2 hours of Chinese class every weekday at TLI (one of the non-university language centres). The Chinese classes were in the morning, and I taught in the evening, which is normal if you work at a buxiban (cram school).

I’ve been here for a couple of years now studying Chinese and teaching English.

Besides the fact that I can read most of the signs and navigate this place much more smoothly now, it seems there are more (and more interesting) job opportunities for native English speakers with some Chinese proficiency.

If the foreign service is your goal and you don’t have any economic pressures, I’d suggest devoting your time fully to studying. When you’re being pulled between the obligations of both lives it’s really hard to bring your Chinese up to the “functionally fluent” level hoped for by the State Department. On top of that, you’ll be looking at days where class may start as early as 8:00am (though not necessarily) and work may end as late as 9 or 10pm. Of course, I myself am a lazy bum who likes to sleep into the afternoon, so for me it was a one-or-the-other choice. Proactive self-starter types may have no trouble juggling such a life at all.

(Reminds me of a friend of mine who in college majored in three entirely unrelated subjects, worked a job and a half on the side, and graduated in four years. Holy smokes.)

A bit of additional advice; try and structure your lifestyle around your goal of fluency in mandarin. i.e. don’t just schedule Chinese classes and think that’s enough. As much as possible you want to be using Chinese in everyday life so avoid hanging out in foreigner dives too much. Ask for low level classes where you might be able to use basic Chinese in teaching. Fix up language exchanges for the weekend. Be shameless in using Chinese over English to communicate. Whatever works for you. And be patient; unless you’re a language wiz Chinese is never a very fast learn; you’ll have periods of frustration where you’ll feel you’re making no progress but you need to give your brain time to “reprogram” itself. Anyway that was my experience. Everyone’s mileages differ. :sunglasses:

I am similar to Hokwongwei. I teach full time and Chinese has taken a backseat in the priority chain and I make very little progress. I started in Taiwan with goals of working 16-20 hrs/wk and taking Chinese classes but I just couldn’t handle it with the time required outside of class for both tasks. There will be homework/test grading and prep to do outside of English teaching and there will be considerable time spent outside of class in Chinese. Classes are inefficient and I found that I needed several hours/wk with a tutor/LE in addition to 5+ hrs week self studying (reviewing class material and character practice). Someone that is very focused could handle it but I struggled with it.

The bear has some excellent advice also.

Hey Abacus, have you considered taking a few months off teaching to hit the books hard? I think the hardest part of learning Chinese comes in the beginning, when you’re still spending time memorizing character sheets every day. After you get past that part, though, you can spend considerably more time on being a regular human being (as if I know what that means) and it’s easier to balance work and school.

But I don’t really know anything about balance. I had to quit my job because I was unable to focus on my master’s program. Indeed, it’s been 3 years for me and I still haven’t graduated yet…

I did hit the books pretty hard at the beginning so I have a lot of the basics down but I just lost motivation. I’m not sure that would change if I took time off. And if I do take time off from work then it would be to travel. I have actually changed my learning material to the podcasts/transcripts that Adam from CLO (linked here) has. I find them easy to go through when I’m camping at night.

I found the best place to learn in with the school you work at. For instance, I worked and also studied with the same people I worked with at one of our schools branches. It was nice because I know the people I was with and we all had the same goal and worked together as well. So when one of us needed help with our Chinese class/work schedule we all could help each other! Good Luck!.. Steve’O… :laughing: