Studying Mandarin and Teaching in Taiwan

I left Canada to study Mandarin in Taiwan for 3 months. I am now staying a year to continue studying, and teaching English to support myself. I used this forum to do a lot of my research and wanted to contribute my experience and stuff I wish I knew before hand….I hope this helps you.

Studying Mandarin Considerations

  • Taiwan uses traditional characters, and the Taiwanese are taught using BoPoMo phonetics. Mainland China uses simplified characters and Chinese is usually taught using Pingyin. Check with your program to see what you’ll be learning. Also, if you plan on coming back to your home country and continuing learning Mandarin you’ll most likely find they teach “Mainland Mandarin”. There are also other differences.
  • Decide where in Taiwan you want to study, keep in mind the further south you go, the less people speak English (which can be good). Taiwanese is also more commonly spoken in the south, and in Kaohsiung where I am, some locals don’t even speak mandarin (can be bad).
  • Learning Mandarin can be stressful and tiring, especially in the beginning. It takes time to write out and learn characters. It’s hard to study when partying cost so little, and there are lots of hot sunny days.

Teaching – Things I didn’t realize

  • Many schools only have one foreign English teacher, the rest are Taiwanese English teachers. In some cases you might be teaching 16 different classes a week, a different class every hour.
  • You have to factor in prep time to plan lessons when estimating how many hours of “work” you are willing to do. Also, I sometimes stay later to help drill spelling or help students just because I care.
  • Recruiters, I find they seem to ask you more questions than they themselves are willing to answer. I personally don’t trust them.
  • Canvassing schools in person really gave me an opportunity to see what Taiwan schools were like. I was shocked to see what passed for a school….
  • I got many interviews right on the spot, but I found that many schools don’t have reception staff, or even owners who speak English.
  • Some employers ask a lot of personal questions, eg. Where are your parents from and what do they do? How many friends do you have in Taiwan? Do you have a wife or girlfriend?
  • I had to give a teaching demonstration, and I had never taught English before.
  • I needed to submit my original degree to process my work permit. I had it shipped from Canada, but wish I took it to Taiwan with me.

My opinion and personal experience – School and Work.

  • I found that most English schools want you to work at least 16 hours and commit to one full year before they are willing to provide an ARC. I really had to think hard about the commitment. SCHOOL AND WORK IS REALLY HARD.
  • My main purpose is to study mandarin. So teaching english after Mandarin class, language exchange, homework, meals, laundry etc can make a tiring day.
  • Your social life takes a drive when you have to work everyday, and can’t skip work to party or travel.

Generally, it’s easy to find work, but it’s hard to find a great (or even good) place to work. (Don’t worry so much about finding a job while still in your home country. You’ll have a better idea of the environment and the opportunities when you get here.) I’m happy at the school I signed with. They were very professional and were able to answer all my questions about the job in the interview. The owner had a long list of his own relevant questions to ask me about my education, desired vacation time, work hours, etc. They also took the time to show me the material I would be teaching, and gave me time to have a thorough look. I felt good that they made sure we were both on the same page about the expectations and terms before signing. The location was near my school, and the hours fit my schedule. Although everything worked out for me and I’m managing school and work well…it’s hard and my mandarin is some what suffering. If had a choice I would study, and not work, but we can’t always get what we want.

Good Luck!

Good stuff. This would make a great sticky for newcomers!