Teaching English and Future Career Opportunities

Ladies and Gents of Forumosa -

I’m a recent college grad and considering the possibility of coming to Taiwan to teach English to learn Chinese. That said, I’ve got a few reservations, with the reputation being foremost among them. Plenty of reasons for this (people coming over with little/no certification or bad certifications, people half-assing the job, the way teaching is done - all of this I have read about, admittedly), but I’m a bit worried about my prospects for jobs after leaving. I don’t plan to teach English my whole life.

I do intend to study Chinese pretty heavily and definitely want to develop professional-level fluency and know I can, as I’ve already learned German to a professional level and am resting around a HSK1/2 from independent study on my behalf in the USA. All that said, I’m looking to eventually return to the USA or Germany/Austria to work, at least for a bit, as professional work culture in Taiwan is seemingly reminiscent of that in Japan and I ain’t got any interest in that long-term. Given that I just graduated and studied during COVID, I don’t really have any relevant work experience for most of the roles I’m applying to - I’ve only really got a BA in History, German, English, and a smattering of other skills, none of which have really had a workplace application yet.

Have any of you done this before? Did the Chinese language proficiency prove relevant and useful? I’ve got German proficiency at the moment and it sometimes doesn’t feel like it’s particularly useful in the USA - is Chinese much the same? Is there any way you can prove to an employer that you didn’t just laze about? And what are the odds of finding a proper entry-level job within Taiwan, maybe after a year or two here, which will let me develop a bit of work experience to make myself a bit more marketable?

Otherwise, one other question: what are the odds I could work in some logistics capacity for a year in the USA and then find a job with Maersk or Evergreen or what have you in Taiwan as an opportunity to do this very same thing and have the opportunity to live in Taiwan (or China, if it gets less crazy with the lockdowns) for the same reasons?

TL;DR how are the growth opportunities in other careers after going to Taiwan to teach English for the purpose of learning Chinese?

A lot of broad questions, I know, but any and all help will be appreciated.

Best,
Cdn1234

1 Like

Ok

If your real goal is to learn Traditional Mandarin then it’s a worthwhile prospect.

Cost of living increases have been quite noticeable. The kind of housing you could get 10-15 years ago is a fraction of the prices being asked today.

The cost of food hasn’t really changed all that much. It’s still quite expensive to eat healthy. And even more expensive if you want those things you’re used to from back home.

If you’ve read the horror stories available all over the internet, and on forumosa, trust me when I tell you they’re all true. Even worse is we can no longer name and shame schools due to the various legal threats.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t good schools. There are. They’re also very hard to find.

If you opt for the chain school type of employment I doubt you’ll have the time to study Mandarin. Their standard MO is to make sure you’re so busy you have no time to do anything else.

If you want to be accredited and apply for public school teaching then I would encourage you to do your certificate IV in teaching before coming here. You can also do another course alongside that that would allow you to teach at universities. Although many are saying university teaching in Taiwan is no longer a pleasurable experience (low pay and high demands while watching senior staff do very little).

As for returning home it all depends on what your specialty is. Some go straight to teaching. Even teaching ESL to adult learners. Others go back to what their area of study centered on. More go into their own businesses using their experience from being treated fairly badly by bosses in Taiwan to create better working environments.

Before you come you should read up on childhood psychology. Many kids here are berated into submission and told that test results are the most important thing in life. Also many of those same kids are taught by their parents that they will have to care for their parents once they finish school. In other words that the cost of their education is like a loan to be repaid.

With the current situation I’d encourage you to do your teaching certificate over the next year. Join some Taiwan language exchange groups and start learning over livestream chats. And apply for the Taiwan government public school teaching program. The next year will see how much further the situation with China deteriorated or improves. If it gets worse then you still have a teaching license that you can use elsewhere.

Best of luck with it.

1 Like

As a Mandarin and Cantonese speaker who spent many years in the US, I can tell you that there are very little job opportunities in the US that require any kind of foreign language proficiency. America likes to force everyone else to learn English, so there is no real need for Americans to learn other languages.

The only foreign language I can think of that might give you a bit more job opportunities in the US is Spanish.

3 Likes

This university is nearest thing to merchant-marine type university in Taiwan and has a Mandarin Training Center. You go there, I bet you can find some of the closest connections (outside of just walking into Evergreen, Yang Ming, Or Wan Hai office for a job) in the shipping business

“National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) , located in Keelung, a major port city situated in the northeastern part of Taiwan, is one of the leading universities in marine science and ocean technology throughout the world.”

Good luck.

https://r083.ntou.edu.tw/?Lang=en

1 Like

Pretty sure the moe is trying to scrap the teaching certificate requirements. All that means is salaries will probably follow that of the Fulbright ETA program — 40k/mo regardless of where you’re at and scrapped benefits kind of following. You’re lucky to get 800/hr and 15 hours a week at a cram school. Its a race to the bottom for teachers nowadays. At the current rate, a licensed teacher does make min 65k/mo in the public schools. But the moe spends a lot of time and energy telling FETs to stop complaining about the low pay, even though it’s shit pay given what you sacrifice and have to put up with.

Reason number one to call them “world languages” and not “foreign” languages: ASL (American Sign Language) will open all kinds of doors and that need will never go away. ASL interpreter programs are in practically every community college in the US and a well-connected community college (any public community college in any county that values education) will have you in high-paying job placements from the get-go.

1 Like

Yes, I know. That’s why I specifically said foreign languages. Because I wasn’t including ASL.

1 Like

I’ve been noticing the same. Plus the current situation with China has tipped the scales for me. Taiwan has gotten too expensive too quickly with too little reward to be seen as a viable option anymore.

1 Like

The short answer to your questions is yes I have done this before, but everybody’s story is going to be different so I’ll tell you from my perspective.

Mandarin is a great thing to have on your resume and will open doors for you but not by itself. You need other skills. If you have other skills to go with it, then having the experience in Asia and Mandarin ability could give you an edge.

I spent four years studying Mandarin and teaching English. I took classes in the morning and taught in the afternoons/evenings. I also thought about working at a local company or going on to grad school in Taiwan. Ultimately I chose to go back to the US for grad school and got an internship in the industry I wanted to be in. The internship led to a job at the same company upon graduation. And after a few years, opportunities opened up where Mandarin was important and I had an edge over my peers. I’ve been offered jobs in mainland China, HK, Vietnam, but turned them down because the timing wasn’t right (or didn’t like the location :wink:).

Ultimately, I created my own opportunity by convincing my current company to allow me to build an office in Taiwan from the ground up. All in all this process took 14 years: 4 years of teaching/studying Mandarin + 2 years grad school/interning + 8 years working in the US to land back where I wanted to be.

My experience teaching was not relevant and did not help in my current career. It paid the bills. So keep that in mind. The longer you teach the harder it will be to change careers. Also I don’t think companies would’ve cared as much about local experience. I do not regret the path I took because it worked for me.

My suggestion would be to focus on the industry or function you are interested in now and build towards that. You mentioned an interest in logistics. Start taking a look at how you can start building towards that as a career. Evaluate if there are reasons why a company would need to send an expat over instead of hiring locals. Or are expats limited to senior management? I think working for a year and being sent over is overly optimistic. Expats are expensive.

Look at certifications that could help you get an internship if you are not planning on continuing your education (i.e. CSPC, CPIM). Find people you know in the industry and ask to interview them about their experience. Your BA in History and languages will not be enough to get you in the door. You’ll need relevant experience.

Best of luck. Keep at it and don’t give up.

9 Likes

Why

Have seen many make the jump but it’s risky. Taiwanese are very skeptical when it comes to hiring foreign employees if you don’t have a degree from a well known uni or work experience in a famous company. If you want to make sure you can find a job you can try an MBA from a good Taiwanese uni but the downside is that it’s worthless outside of Taiwan if you don’t work a few years with your MBA here first.

1 Like

Because teaching is not relevant experience for say logistics, and you need to start from the bottom, so the longer you teach employers will question why you’re changing careers at this point. Plus the older you are employers will be more reluctant to hire you for an entry level position and you’ll be behind all your peers.

2 Likes

Have you been abroad lately?

The costs in North America (and, based on what I’ve read here, also places in Europe) have gone through the roof.

Taiwan is not cheap anymore, at least in the capital. But it looks like a bargain to me compared to the frightening costs I saw overseas this past summer.

Guy

5 Likes

Some good responses already. I’ll throw in my two cents here because like the OP I came over here to teach English with no teaching qualification and no intention of being a teacher long-term. Unlike the OP I was not a recent college grad I was 28, was working office jobs and just looking for some adventure, something new. I taught English for 4 years while I learned Chinese to basic proficiency (conversational plus a few thousand written characters), by which time I was tired of the English teaching game (I did the singing monkey bit for kindergarteners but also adults and company classes, etc., which was basically another mode of being an entertainer, all buxiban stuff.) OK, conclusion of background, to the point.

All my friends and family in the US would say, Wow you know Chinese, you can easily find a job here or anywhere! But I learned, as mentioned above, that there were no jobs waiting for me in the US – because I was proficient in Mandarin but not truly fluent, and there are tons of Chinese/Taiwanese-Americans who had way better Chinese than I in addition to English. I learned that my value was really here in Taiwan, where being a native speaker of English while also being good enough in Mandarin is sorely needed (even if many companies/orgs don’t recognize how badly they need someone who is truly English literate).

Point being that learning Mandarin will be more of a help for a career in Asia, if your long-term goal is to work in the US then you may want to re-think. Or a second point being that, as mentioned above, Mandarin itself won’t be what gets you a career in the US, other skills will be more important for that. Which is not to say you shouldn’t come here, if you want to live here and learn Mandarin for a few years while you figure things out, you’re young, you could do worse … and you never know what opportunities may pop up or where the road may take you…

9 Likes

I’ve got a solar set up back home. 10Kw with battery back up. Will be buying a fully electric car towards the end of this year or early next year. The only real differences in costs that I see are public transport and bananas. Most everything else, including rice, is cheaper back home. And no water fees. Cell phone costs are about exactly the same.

But if you’re talking about the price of things like McDonald’s and kfc then I suppose Taiwan is cheaper. I don’t eat any of that stuff. Or maybe once or twice a year.

Maybe airport transfers are cheaper. Not the airport train though. That’s about the same price. Even looking at electronics they seem cheaper back home.

Honestly I’m struggling to find things here that are cheaper. Even sports facilities back home are the same price or cheaper.

As a Canadian, this certainly made me chuckle. Taiwan is a bargain compared to the costs for utilities there.

Guy

2 Likes

I know Americans with near native level fluency in Chinese who got jobs in international business type roles out of college (double majors in Chinese and international business types). The only thing Chinese proficiency helped them with was being different on their resume and having something to talk about in the interviews that the interviewers were genuinely curious to know more about.

If you can learn Chinese to an ACTFL Intermediate-Mid level, you can get a teaching license to teach Chinese in the US. If can bring your level up to Advanced or Superior, that’s job security for you — I’ve seen schools in mid-sized (~500k population) cities in the US offering 74-98k salaries for part time teaching because they want Chinese teachers so badly. But you will want to look into effective Chinese teaching methods. They’re not the way you will be taught, I guarantee it.

I don’t disagree that some places are more expensive for things like utilities. If it wasn’t for the solar panels my electricity bill back home would be quite expensive. Once I invest in a fully electric vehicle that will also significantly reduce costs. I’m grateful I have options that can reduce my overall costs. And really wish more people had those options available to them. It makes me wonder how Taiwan will really cope with the transition to renewables and electric vehicles. Gogoro scooter recharge stations are one thing but truly electric vehicles pose a significant challenge due to parking restraints and charging options.

Not just fast food. ALL restaurants in Taiwan are significantly cheaper than in Western countries (comparing the same type of restaurant, of course). Especially since you also need to factor in the tip in some countries. I love yakiniku, and it costs like US$20-40 here, whereas most yakiniku places back home in the US cost $40-60, not including the tip.

Not to mention you can get even cheaper meals here that don’t even exist in the West, such as the $90NT bento lunches that are everywhere. I eat that almost every day and never have to cook or go grocery shopping.

I don’t see how anyone can believe the cost of living in Taiwan is as high as the West. There is a reason that salaries are lower in Taiwan.

Rent, housing, utilities and bills are significantly cheaper in Taiwan. I’m paying $500/month for a nice brand new serviced studio apartment here with utilities and housekeeping included (there are smaller rooms for $350), whereas my rent in the US was $1,000/month for a room in a shared apartment with 3 other guys in a wobbly house built in 1890 (in a similar sized city).

The monthly health insurance premium is also cheaper than most other countries, as are most personal services like haircuts and massages.

All in all, my monthly living expenses here is $1,500 a month (and I’m a big spender) or $1,000 if I’m frugal. Whereas it was $4,000 back home (or $3,000 if I was being frugal).

I’d say the only things that cost more here are imported consumer goods like iPhones and laptops and Nike shoes, and also cars, which aren’t things you buy every day, so that shouldn’t affect you much.

Of course, imported grocery items cost a lot, but that’s everywhere. If I went to a specialty import grocery store in the US to buy European food items, they would cost just as much as they do here.

Also, you can’t compare the cost of living in Taipei to the cost of living in Smallville, Ohio. If you want to compare Ohio prices, then compare with Taitung or Pingtung.

3 Likes

Imported clothes (brand name) are expensive in Taiwan relative to other places.

Fruit is expensive here relative to North America.

But over all, Taiwan is unambiguously cheaper for me compared to life in Canada now.

Guy

1 Like

Yes, I was including clothing when I said “imported consumer goods” but how often do you go shopping for clothes? And unless you are buying expensive items often, the US$5 difference is negligible when buying a US$15 t-shirt in Taiwan compared to a $10 t-shirt in the US.