Three casual questions about the practice of teaching English in Taiwan

I have no intention of teaching English in Taiwan but there are a couple of things that pique my curiosity about the practice. I’ve tried to search for answers but haven’t come up with much so I figure I may as well just ask.

  1. Is it frowned upon to use sites like Conversation Exchange to find people to meet up with and practice English in exchange for learning some Chinese? I mean, there are a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on paying students. Do English teachers find this disagreeable or is it a non-issue?

  2. Are most positions just for teaching the English language or are there positions for teaching subjects like math or biology in English? I ask this after hearing about the experience of a Canadian friend of mine who went to teach English in Korea and arrived at work to find she was teaching social science to high school kids. That struck me as being more interesting than simply teaching the language itself, but I haven’t seen any indication of this being common in Taiwan.

  3. What is the market like for non-native (but fluent) English speakers with TESL certification? I know in some countries you need to hold a particular passport to qualify for work. I haven’t seen mention of that in my reading about Taiwan but I figure it’s worth asking. An extension of this inquiry: apart from actual job prospects, how do people feel about the native vs non-native issue anyhow? In my admittedly uninformed opinion I would imagine non-native speakers with high proficiency and training would be better teachers than those of us who have never struggled to learn another language, but I also understand that the schools are selling an image as well as a service.

Thoughts?

  1. No. It’s a non-issue. Language exchange is very common, although its effectiveness is dubious. If a teacher does take offense, the market is in even worse shape than I thought.
  2. Most want English teaching only (if you want to call it that).
  3. You will have a much easier time if you hold a passport from one of the usual suspects - Canada, US, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. In many cases, it’s a requirement.

In term of native vs non-native, those doing the hiring will rarely, if ever, be able to discern the difference. The caveat would be skin color. If you are yellow, brown or black, you will face barriers of various kinds that do not exist for whites.

That being said, the market appears to be saturated, and regardless of age, race, sex or color, establishing a foothold these days seems to be very difficult. Taiwan, especially Taipei, does not need more English teachers. While more and more schools appear to be asking for some sort of TESL certification, the time and expense taken to get some will only make sense if you: a. find something that pays a decent wage, and b. plan on staying for more than one year. I see more people with TESL certification, which will separate them from those without it, but at the same time, there appears to be a law of diminishing returns at play. Whereas before, all that was required to teach in Taiwan was a BA in any field, now those doing the hiring want specific fields i.e. English, linguistics, etc., and/or TESL certification, with the rates of pay being the same as what they were five, ten or even fifteen years ago.

As stated ad nauseum elsewhere on the flob, unless you have a compelling reason to come to Taiwan, it’s best to look elsewhere.

n.b. my use of “you” does not refer to the OP specifically, who has clearly stated he/she has no intention of teaching in Taiwan, but is directed at the general reader.

[quote=“Xeno”]I have no intention of teaching English in Taiwan but there are a couple of things that pique my curiosity about the practice. I’ve tried to search for answers but haven’t come up with much so I figure I may as well just ask.

  1. Is it frowned upon to use sites like Conversation Exchange to find people to meet up with and practice English in exchange for learning some Chinese? I mean, there are a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on paying students. Do English teachers find this disagreeable or is it a non-issue?[/quote]

For finding paying private tutoring jobs…it does eat into the market a bit. But for a standard day job, no.

Standard Buxiban = Practice English with the kids
Hard-core Buxiban = Teach English to the kids
Standard Public and Private Schools = Practice and Teach English to the kids
Bilingual Private Schools = Bilingual classes. Many different subjects being taught using English in addition to the standard English class

School Providing ARC = you need to come from a native English speaking country.
JFRV or APRC holders = not much problem as long as your are white, fluent in English and decent at teaching. You can still land a job if you are not white…its just a bit more difficult to find.

There are some buxibans that use other subjects to teach English but they are not common. I subbed at one for one day and they used an actual American science textbook in their classroom for young learners. They had a lot of students (at least 3 classrooms full) but they closed during the next year for unknown reasons. There were at least two schools using the Calvert homeschool curriculum in kaohsiung but one of these now advertises itself as Live Interactive so either it is running a dual curriculum or it moved. This could end up inevitably going off topic but I don’t really understand using textbooks aimed at native speaking lower/mid level students for ESL. ESL students need to learn so many basics before they are close to ready for science and social study materials. And once they have that core I think you can start bringing in challenging readers that are science/geopgraphy based.

One big difference compared to your Korean friend is that a bulk of the buxiban business is focused on elementary students. Most parents have a mentality that their children will go to an all in one buxiban (w/o foreign teachers) that basically does test prep classes for Jr/Sr high school students. The focus isn’t on fluency but rather the test score. I’m guessing that most buxibans end up with heavy losses of students as they enter 7th grade. the buxibans that I have worked for typically lost at least half of their students entering 7th grade.

Bilingual schools exist but they are not common and I think they usually prefer teaching degrees although I’m not sure if that is a rule.

You almost definitely need a passport from an official (Taiwan defined) native speaking country to get a legal job.

[quote=“Abacus”]
You almost definitely need a passport from an official (Taiwan defined) native speaking country to get a legal job.[/quote]

That definition is actually broader than sometimes supposed though:

laws.cla.gov.tw/eng/flaw/FLAWDOC … 069&lno=40

Thanks to Funkymonkey for this

[quote]4.How to determine the official language of the country where passport carried by the foreign language teacher? Print
Date:2009/05/26

The official language of a certain passport holder is determined by “Introduction of foreign governments and their officials” published by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[/quote]

evta.gov.tw/eng/topicsite/co … lue=search
iff.immigration.gov.tw/ct.asp?xI … 09&mp=T002

Thanks to Charlie Jack for originally finding this–I sadly didn’t realize he had for some time!

I did say almost and even if these technicalities are true someone w/o a NZ/AU/US/CA/SA/GB passport would have a hard time finding a buxiban that would attempt to process the work permit. Many don’t even want to hire outside of North America.

[quote=“amarbaines”]I see more people with TESL certification, which will separate them from those without it, but at the same time, there appears to be a law of diminishing returns at play. Whereas before, all that was required to teach in Taiwan was a BA in any field, now those doing the hiring want specific fields i.e. English, linguistics, etc., and/or TESL certification, with the rates of pay being the same as what they were five, ten or even fifteen years ago.
[/quote]
Say whaaat? That’s just wrong.

Well I guess Americans are disqualified from teaching then since we don’t have an official national language. :loco: