Teachers vs. "Teachers", etc


As one who is leaving in 12 days for Keelung, I hope that the apparent hostility towards “uneducated” teachers on this message board is merely a product of the medium. At the risk of spouting off about something of which I am ignorant, a semi-rhetorical question:

Is it not possible, in theory at least, to learn a trade without some sort of lengthy, “formal” education? I only say this as a recent (last weekend) college graduate, but I would think that any form of teacher training naturally involves some element of practical application. If there are only, perhaps, a handful of college graduates who look at TESOL activities as a career choice, versus, say, a way to “see the world until I work for a brokerage” or somesuch, doesn’t it make a certain amount of sense to have a place for these dedicated albeit “uneducated” individuals? In my own case, I see it as a way to fund future graduate work in the field, and to have practical experience to add to that process.

I wonder if there isn’t some sort of strange ranking system here that equates formal education with drive, motivation, desire; any number of intangibles that really seem to make the difference between effective and ineffective teaching styles. This is purely anecdotal: I’ve had a fair share of language classes during my undergrad career. 6, actually, and I feel as if I’ve learned something about the process of language teaching. If we equate CELTA or M.A. with inherently good, and EverythingElse as inherently limited, I feel we might unfairly leave out other possibilities.

Perhaps I’m simply rationalizing my inadequacies aloud. I am not claiming to be a good teacher; I’ve never done it. I would certainly hope, however, that upon my arrival I will not be immediately written off as someone with little to contribute.

I hope this didn’t sound pretentious, as that certainly wasn’t the intention. I simply think that sometimes individuals should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

aol im:sumimasenator


I know it is possible to become a good English teacher without having done it before. I know several people who have accomplished it. However, the fact remains that because they are the exception rather than the rule, the occupation here is often derided, both by teachers and non-teachers.
The fact that cram schools here are generally poorly managed adds to the problem.
If you are just out of college or university, you have the whole oyster in front of you. Do whatever you want. Few people discover a true calling in teaching here. Most use it as a vehicle to fund other adventures or buy time for the future.



Unless you’re coming here to specifically improve your Chinese, I’d give Taipei the big miss as far as teaching English is concerned. Friends of mine taught in Tokyo a few years back, earned a proverbial-load more money than they would have here, and lived a better life in a cleaner city.

If you want to earn some money to fund some travel and see & experience part of Asia, then I’d seriously consider Japan as an option.

I can now almost hear people tapping away in response to this (if I hear the 5,000 years of culture thing again, I’ll scream), but Japan has a pretty rich & interesting history and culture too. I’m not rubbishing Chinese culture, it’s just that the life of a teacher sounded a hell of a lot better in Tokyo than it did here in Taipei. I think they had had some qualifications for teaching English though, but I’m not certain.

Have fun whatever you do, it sounds like you’re the sort that could raise the generally low standard, even if it may be for just a short period.

On a general note to the English teaching fraternity here, before I get written off as anti-teacher, I’m not. I consider teachers back home among the “unsung heroes” of society (to wax lyrical a bit). They perform a vital service to the community & society for usually very little reward or recognition. Here, I’ve met some good ones - patient & dedicated. My Chinese teacher is exceptional, and deserves a lot of respect. There are, however, a large mass - an industry in fact, that are not so deserving of praise. Unqualified, and into a bohemian lifestyle, they contribute little to English language teaching, and it is no wonder that unscrupulous operators take advantage of them.

Here’s a marketing idea - if the good teachers don’t like being lumped in with the rest, why not set up a college with qualified teachers of the highest standard and price accordingly? You could charge a premium, and gain the respect that you think you deserve. Then it would be a competitive advantage for the others to be regarded in a poor light.


Oh, those damn bohemians! Never met one yet who could teach me anything other than how to load a bong. I LOVE prejudice in all its shapes and forms, so please keep these posts coming.


If not Japan for teaching, try Vietnam. It’s a shithole to live in, but these days the pay for English teachers there is about what it is here. And the cost of living is very low. Living in Vietnam is not for everyone, but if you want something very different and need to save money, try it.


I have some advice:
Don’t take advice about teaching English from people who don’t do it for a living. Makes sense, right?

I teach English in Taiwan, and I like it a lot. That’s all I have to say, one “yes” vote.


There EO goes again.

Yeah, don’t listen or take advice from people who have years of experience in Taiwan, and don’t listen to people who have taught English before they went on to something else. That makes sense, doesn’t it?


Look Wowsers,

If you don’t like me, I get the point. But I don’t think you’re helping anyone out by using up space on this website just to insult me. If you don’t have anything constructive to say, why bother posting?

And I think it’s perfectly rational to ask people who teach English for a living about it, and perfectly rational to ask businessmen about getting a corporate job…if you look at the original post, he’s asking questions about being a teacher…now, I just don’t understand why you have to take out time just to point out that you think I suck…it’s immature and a waste of time.

Eye Opener


Honestly, I just like getting people (you) pissed off so they (you) write lots of stuff.

Ever hear something like this before?

Ha ha,



Many of us who teach English have somehow ‘fallen’ into this profession as a means to lead an international lifestyle. Sadly, after several years abroad, we have found that we have difficulty returning to our home countries due to the freedom this field allows us.

After eight years of teaching English abroad(a field I quite enjoy), I realised that if I wanted to boost my professionalism, increase my living standard, and afford myself some sort of status in this field in the future, then my only alternative would be to ‘become theoretical’ and bolster my qualifications in the world of TESOL.

Presently, I (and several others here in Taiwan) am enrolled in the distance learning Aston University MSc TESOL/TESP programme.
This course is offered through a reputable British university and can be completed in 2-5 years.

See http://www.les.aston.ac.uk/lsu/

Aston’s is the oldest distance learning masters programme out of the UK, and according to many, the best. When I’m finished with this degree, I will be qualified to teach at a university level, publish articles for journals such as TESOL Quaterly, specialise in such areas as course and syllabus design or teacher training, produce materials and even further my education to a PHd level if I choose.

There are many distance learning programmes available for those who want become more professional in this field, and as English is the international language, this sort of training does not only apply to us here in Taiwan. The opportunities to find satisfying work in TESOL anywhere in the world once completing such a degree are endless.

The benefits of distance learning are linked to the fact that we are able to work, study, and study our work, simultaneously. The drawbacks are that we may not have the support of classroom learning or lectures.

Luckily, the Aston programme encourages the local participants to have study sessions together and most of us are in regular contact. We also have a resource centre here in Taipei with many of the texts and materials needed for our modules.

see: http://astontaiwancentre.homestead.com/index.html

Also, our professors make yearly visits in order to give us workshops and guidance and are very helpful throughout the programme via email contact. From what I’ve heard, I don’t believe any of the other DL programmes, offer this kind of support.

So, if any of you English teachers feel you’ve hit a brick wall with your teaching or have decided to make it your life’s work rather than just a year abroad, I strongly encourage you to enroll in a Masters TESOL course via distance learning or even an
on site programme. Upon completion of such a degree, you’ll never again be lumped together with those who are NOT professional, even if you believe you are.


Let’s back up a bit. The opener of this discussion, StLouTom, said that he was off to Keelung at the end of the month. Why would you want to live there? Did you agree to a job before you arrived here in Taiwan?

(from a former teacher here of 6 years)


I don’t live in Keelung, but I know it pretty well. Ok, it’s not a great place, but it wouldn’t be bad to live there if you had a motorcyle or car. It’s just 40 minutes to Taipei by bus or train, but the best bit is the nearby attractions.

By motorcycle you are very close to yeliu, which is cool, Jinshan and other beaches, and best of Jiufen, which is the coolest place in Northern Taiwan and heaps of other great places in the mountais around there. If you drive south an hour you can go past the great beaches of Fu Long and Da Xi all the way to Ilan.

So if you’re still going to Keelung, make buying a scooter one of the first things you do when you get there.



I lived in Keelung for a year and all I can say is, you’ll be constantly sick from the never ending rain (I got bronchitis and literally almost died), Keelung people are the most racist in Taiwan, I think it’s because the big cruise ships dock there for a few hours every week, so all these fat white people who can’t speak any Chinese go into town and bother everyone…

Apartments are almost the same price as suburban Taipei, oh, I mean they ARE the same price…there’s nothing to do and you can’t study Chinese because there’s no Chinese school…good points? Ok, I can think of three:

1: Miao Kou night market
2: Jiu Fen
3: It’s close to Taipei

Otherwise, I couldn’t WAIT to get out at the end of that year…I’ve never wanted to go back. Once.


I did agree to a job before I arrived. I realize this is not S.O.P. for you experienced Taiwan teacher types, but being a rookie, I am allowed a degree of latitude.

I picked Keelung (out of a number of different offers from KaoHsiumg, HwuWei, Taipei, Chiayi, etc.) because I heard it had very few expats and very little to do. I intend on spending most of the year trying to learn how to teach effectively and how to speak Chinese effectively.

As for the weather, I’ve lived through a Galway winter and through a year in Seattle, so I’m not terribly concerned. I like rain. Lots and lots of rain. The more the better.

As for there not being a Chinese school there, I can only say that with a few well placed textbook purchases and a few well-aligned friendships that I won’t need a school to learn Chinese. I’ve got my PDA8866 with super IC card expandability and motivation, so I’m not terribly concerned. I just got out of college, and am only to happy to take a break from the receiving side of structured learning.

Racism? I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be on the receiving end of racism. Being an amateur social scientist, I can’t help but think it will be terribly interesting.

As for Japan and 'Nam as better alternatives: I’ll never know unless I do all three. I’ll get back to you with the verdict in a decade.

I do intend on buying a motorbike, but only because I really like motorbikes.

aol im:sumimasenator


All I have to say is I’m 99% sure you won’t learn Chinese. Why?

If you want to learn Chinese, you need to study every day, really hard, which means “language school”…which Keelung doesn’t have. Using a computer? Whatever. A computer won’t correct your pronunciation or tell you about daily life. Now, if you just want to learn a few catchy phrases and have horrible pronunciation, and waste a year when you could have been actually learning Chinese instead of tinkering through, then move there.

I have a friend who’s lived there for 6 YEARS, and my Chinese is 20 times better than hers because she has no school. She would agree, as a matter of fact, the last time we met up, she was downright jealous. I’m not bragging, it’s because I go to a language school.

Sounds like your romanticizing Keelung because you want to move to the place that’s most like where you live now…mabye not.

Anyway, you’re gonna have super culture shock wherever you move to in Taiwan, so I don’t see how depriving yourself is a good way to go. I went to Keelung because I just plain didn’t know any better, at least you have this website with experienced residents. All I had was Lonely Planet. Well, you can listen to what I’m saying or just throw it away, it’s up to you, but I’m telling you right now, you won’t learn Chinese well without a language school. Hello? You’ll be speaking English all day at your bushiban, and if you start out having English-language only relationships, they will, I promise you, never change to Chinese…why? Taiwanese want to speak English sooooooooo badly, hence, you having this job…whatever, I feel like you won’t listen to anyone’s advice anyway…so why exactly did you come here in the first place? For reassurance? Well, I can reassure you that Keelung is the armpit of Taiwan. (quote of a former Keelung resident)

Oh, the Pizza Hut is good there…sure why not.

By the way, you’re wrong, there are lots of foreigners there, and they all speak crappy Chinese, and that’s why people in Keelung think foriegners are stupid.


I appreciate your concern. A few comments:

I taught myself Spanish. I speak with Colombians, and they say my accent is fine. Enough Univision can stand in the place of a pronunciation coach, and I anticipate using Taiwanese radio and TV to the same end. I am 99% certain that my attempts will be as useful as I choose to make them.

For what it’s worth, I intend to stay away from the Pizza Hut. I can’t imagine why I’d bother to go half way around the planet to eat a rather nasty pizza that I could just as easily get with a phone call.

To think that I’m romanticizing the place seems a bit ludicrous. I know very little about the place, but I’m going at it with an open mind. If openness to experience is somehow a less-than-ideal way to go about things, then so be it. Chalk it up to a character flaw, if you’d like. As for moving someplace that’s “like where I’m at now,” I can only say that I’ve spent 21/24 years of my life in St. Louis, and I’m relatively certain that Keelung isn’t much like St. Louis… Unless it is, as you say, “the armpit of Taiwan” In which case my tenure in St. Lou ought to have fully prepared me, it being the armpit of the Midwest.

I did not come here for reassurance. Indeed, if you notice my original post, you’ll see I didn’t ask any questions about Keelung itself; whether it’s pleasant and amusing, not-armpit-like or what have you. I was trying to come to a clearer understanding of peoples perceptions of the teaching profession.

I suppose I might run into culture shock, most people do. I don’t anticipate it being very bad, as I’ve been through it enough to be somewhat immune to its effects. I did a bit of research in the subject during my undergrad career in Psychology, and it’s hardly as tough to beat as most people would like to make it.

Should I get to Keelung and hate it passionately, there is no supreme fiat that mandates that I stay there. Until proven otherwise, however, I intend on giving it as much as I can, with an open mind and a positive outlook… perhaps another character flaw…?

aol im:sumimasenator


Your ambitions seem admirable…however most people come to Taiwan with these ambitions in hand. however Taiwan is a different place to what you first expect from reading about it in books.
I lived in Keelung for 4 years and my Chinese was poor…if you are going to teach English then this will slow down your Chinese further. believe me if you are in Keelung for long enough…you will after a while live for the chance to speak english and eat Pizza…You can not click your fingers and just become native
Hopefully you will succeed…just don’t let the frustration get to you if you become disappointed by slow progress.


Naturally the “going native” thing is a pretty common thing to try, but I’ve learned enough while living abroad to understand that I’ll ALWAYS be THE AMERICAN. Naturally some Pizza Hut isn’t out of the question (I remember commuting two hours to Bangkok for a Quarter Pounder and a pack of American Label Marlboros) but I really want to try and eat as much native cuisine as possible. For one thing it’s cheaper, for another, I can find a Pizza Hut in any major city on the planet, while Taiwanese is less available. Carpe Diem and all that rubbish.

My aims in learning Chinese are modest. I don’t expect to become immediately proficient, nor able to pick up any piece of literature and be able to work through it. Ideally, I’d like to be able to read through a few children books, able to order food and buy things at a market, to give and receive directions, and to be able to produce enough aimless chatter to get my way through a bus-stop meeting. To this end, I think a year is plenty.

I’m extremely excited about Taiwan and its challenges.


I’m telling you, StLouTom, listen to the people who have responded to “life in Keelung.” If everyone is telling you that it is not the place to be, why are you being obstinate? You should be saying to yourself, “Hey, maybe I don’t know what they do. Maybe I should change my thinking.” Keelung is a port city and has been well known for as long as anyone recalls as being a place you would never want to live.
The others are correct; you will not learn Chinese without going to school. You may have learned Spanish from a book, but try sounding out Chinese characters.
This situation is one that is on my pet peeve list. How many times have you come across people who struggle against the forces because they are too proud, too embarrassed or too dumb to ASK FOR HELP, AND ACT ON IT. Why would a person insist on doing it his own way when the voices of experience are telling him he will be wasting his efforts? If I went to Japan to live and the resident foreigners said such-and-such a place was a sinkhole that I should avoid, I would listen.
We are offering you a map but you want to wander in the swamps.
Give Keelung a miss. If you have to cough up a deposit consider it money spent to buy experience and freedom from being locked into a situation that I can assure you, you will not enjoy.
If you really want solitude as a foreigner and, unlike Keelung, natural beauty, try going to central Taiwan. I can think of dozens of places to start your life here in Taiwan besides one of probably the worst.
Listen to the old ones. Many of us have lived through mistakes and can help you avoid making the same ones.


If I were concerned with popular opinion I’d have gone to Grad School in Puerto Rico and given Taiwan a miss altogether. Being dumb, proud and obstinate, I chose ground zero instead.

Again, I did not come here for advice. Frankly, I was hoping to attract the attention of TESOL professionals and to talk to them about the job. The response, which has been for the most part vapid and hateful, is pretty much what I’d expect from the internet. Just another case of a wonderful resource being used for bickering and nastiness.

On the list of “people I care to take advice from,” old ones who spend their time trolling expat message boards are on about the bottom of the list. Followed shortly thereafter by people who desire comfort and ease as some sort of ideal to be strived towards, people who care about Pizza Hut proximity, people who cannot function without supervision, and folks who can’t see that “bad places” have much opportunity for good learning.

Very fond of swamps and places that are probably the worst,

aol im:sumimasenator