Can Non-Native English Speakers Teach English in China?

With Chinese economy gaining more traction in the global market, speaking English becomes more of a necessity for its citizens. This is why demand for English teachers in the country has skyrocketed. For 2015 to 2016 alone, it is estimated that at least 4,000 teachers are needed nationwide. This gives many individuals, like myself, a chance to combine part-time traveling with a full-time job.

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There is, however, a shortage of native English speaking teachers since most native speakers come to China looking for work within the scope of their previous experiences, most of which are not related to teaching. On the brighter side, this opens doors of opportunities for non-native English speakers to fill the gap. Here are the crucial things to sort out and understand for you to find a lucrative teaching position in China, even if English is not your first language.

Working Visa and Other Important Chinese Regulations

To work as an English teacher in China, one must obtain a work visa, which means complying with the regulations put together by the Chinese State Administration for Foreign Expert Affairs. The minimum requirements dictate that an applicant must hold a Bachelor’s degree, at least two years of post-graduate work experience, and a TEFL certification. If you lack TEFL certification, you can easily do it online while in China. I did mine in two months when already being employed by one of local high schools in Huan yuan, Hunan province.

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If you meet all of that and if after the interview, the school you applied to gives you a position, then the next step is to process the needed paperwork. First, make sure you have a valid passport and a formal letter of invite from your employer (Foreign Expert Invitation). A Foreign Expert identification card is also required; this will be provided by your school as well. Next, present the invitation letter to the Chinese consulate nearest you in order to apply for the work visa, officially known as the Z visa. You need to apply in your home country.

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Once you have the visa, a physical checkup will then be required. You may be asked to do this before and after relocating. Once in China, you will have to register yourself in the local police station and work with your school to obtain a Residence Permit. Paperwork processing may take more than two months.

What Is the Advantage of Being a Non-Native English Speaking Teacher?

At first glance, being a non-native English speaker may appear to be a barrier when it comes to teaching and moving to China. However, if you look more closely, there is an advantage. The demand is nationwide. Most native speakers are likely to concentrate their efforts in the top-tier cities. In other areas though, competition will not be as fierce. If you look for jobs with this in mind, landing a position may be easier for you.

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What You Can Do to Improve Your Chances of Being Hired

The best approach is to ensure that you are qualified. A TEFL certification is one of the best options to show that you are fit for the job. As much as possible, go for the 120+ hours certification. Aside from this, it is also advisable to send your CV to recruiters who exercise non-discriminatory hiring processes. Or, seek out schools who clearly welcome a diverse workforce. By being discerning with your job-hunting and application process, you will definitely minimize rejections. Another thing to keep in mind is your attitude. You can be a native speaker of English with a great teaching background but if you don’t enjoy teaching and having fun with kids, the school is not going to be happy with you. Be active, passionate about teaching and never stop being creative. It is very important when teaching English in China, especially when you are  non-native English speaker. In this case, your positive attitude could be one of your biggest advantages, trust me!

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Give It Your Best Shot

Overall, teaching English in China even if you are a non-native speaker is very much possible. You just have to be aware of the obstacles that stand in your way and, at the same time, always keep an eye out for the right opportunities. Hone your skills, polish your resume, and show without a doubt that you are the right person for the job. Look at me! I came to China in August 2011. Although I had some relevant teaching experience and Bachelor degree, I held a Polish passport and had no TEFL certificate. Nevertheless, I had this passion for teaching, positive attitude that pushed me to further develop myself as a teacher. I started my TEFL course online, proved to the school I was a good teacher and therefore I was offered a full-time contract with many perks such as high salary, free accommodation, food and a lot of spare time to travel across China. If I could do that being a non-native English speaker, you can do that as well! :)

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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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