Teaching non Taiwanese students

It’s been quite some time since I visited this site, having left Taiwan three years ago, but here I am. Since returning to Canada and vowing to get out of ESL, I’ve found myself teaching ESL once again, in Toronto. It has been quite enlightening to teach non Asian , and non Taiwanese students.
Although I met many, many wonderful students in Taiwan, far too many were so dull and difficult to teach. I’m talking about teaching adults, not kids. For example, this was a common exchange;

me: “what did you do on the weekend?”

student: “nothing”

me:“nothing? you must have done something?”

student: “nothing”


me: “what do you like to do in your free time?”

student: “sleep”

Fast forward three years and now most of my students are Latin, mostly from Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela. You can’t keep them quiet! Conversation class is such a breeze! Talk about politics, gay rights, the arts, abortion, sports, the media? You name it, everyone has a strong opinion. We get some Koreans, Japanese and Taiwanese and they sit in silence and fiddle with their electronic dictionaries.
I know it’s a cultural dynamic and I have tremendous respect for Asian culture, but as an ESL teacher, give me a Brazilian any day of the week over a Taiwanese.

Yes, I really liked teaching in the UK, which I did for a few months when I got back. I actually had second thoughts about quitting.

An advanced class with people from all over the world was great. Very demanding in terms of new material and creativity, but an absolute dream to teach. Many of the students were much older than me, fairly accomplished, professionally, had lived in my country longer than I had so were genuinely interesting. Didn’t have to 'construct anything because they wanted to talk. I just had to make sure I knew the answers to their questions about English.

It’s also part of the ‘traveller spirit’. I had a ‘foundation IELTS’ class in a private place in the UK. Many who have taught exam prep know what ‘foundation IELTS’ is code for, so I won’t explain, however with the exception of a few depressing ‘daddy’s money’ brats from China, the kids in my class all had shitty jobs in restaurants and came to learn English, so were a pleasure, even though their level was low. I taught a Thai kid who had a masters in rural development and came here to learn English ‘for fun’, an Iranian football coach, a German 19 year old who had picked up the most ‘idiomatic’ English from working in the loading bay of a supermarket.

They’re always going to be more fun than kids who stay in their own country to learn, for whatever reason. They are risk-takers and people who jump into other cultures at (often) great personal discomfort so they can follow their goals.

It’s good for your teaching, too. You get lazy with monolingual classes, esecially if you have done it for a while and know their language.