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Teaching Chinese when it is your second language?


HSY
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I'm Singaporean and Chinese is my second language. I've always wanted to teach Chinese in a foreign country but I don't know if I'll be able to. I'm fluent enough in Chinese but I wonder if I can make it because compared to a native speaker, I definitely cannot speak as fluently or naturally, and I don't know as much vocabulary. :shock:

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I think you'll be fine. I've seen foreigners with terrible pronunciation and tones teach beginner Chinese classes after only one year of learning (in Europe, Middle East and Africa). If you learned Chinese for 5+ years like many Singaporeans, your Chinese will most likely be better than the average foreign teacher's Chinese. Just say it's your mother tongue, I'm fairly certain most schools won't have a way to check if that's really true. Another bonus would probably be if you looked Chinese, but the average laowai wouldn't be able to tell the difference even if you looked Malay.

However, actually finding a teaching job is a different matter. It could depend on your formal education, your ability speak the local language, work experience, difficulty of getting a visa, supply and demand etc.

Good luck.

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There are plenty of teachers who have Chinese as a second language, so that in itself doesn't have to be an impediment. Of course, it'll be very hard to impossible to do such work in China, and I imagine most schools and students in Singapore will also prefer a native speaker, so that might be a problem. But in general, make sure your Chinese is well above the level of your students, consider taking a class or getting some training in teaching Chinese as a foreign language, and you should be good to go.

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Well, it depends on where you are planning to teach. For example in the US, some schools especially the public schools are very conservative and will only consider native speakers with a Chinese teaching certificate even if the job posting claims that all qualified applicants will be considered.  Though from talking to some of my colleagues who are non-natives, private schools are more liberal and will give consideration to non-natives with or without a Chinese teaching certificate as long as they can show high degree of fluency in Chinese (for example, Chinese proficiency exam results, an academic degree in Chinese, etc). Also, in the US, it is extremely important to actually have a Chinese teaching certificate, and the requirements can vary from state to state. 

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Thank you so much to everyone who replied :) That was really helpful. I think my plans for now would just be to try for a Chinese Language course in university and definitely try to brush up on my speaking skills and vocabulary on the way. Oh and does anyone know how it would be like teaching in Australia, Korea, or the UK? These are just some places I've had in mind.

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If you are in an Australian city like Melbourne, you would probably face lots of competition from native speakers since there is a large Chinese immigrant population.

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You could certainly teach in the UK as there's a real China frenzy going on at the moment, particularly in schools. However to do that you'd need a PGCE qualification to get a proper post and salary. The British Council occasionally place Chinese teachers in UK school, but it might just be mainland Chinese teachers. You'd have to check the website. You might find some of the students rather bratty and lazy compared to those in your home country.

 

If the visa conditions are similar for Singaporeans it is for other non-EU countries, you'd be hard pressed getting a uni job that would give you sufficient hours for a visa as just a language teacher rather than a professor. Obviously, don't just take my word for it, contact some unis if it interests you.

 

If you got employed by a private language school, at least in London your salary would most likely be atrocious, but there are a deluge of jobs available and you could tutor part time.

 

Basically, there are lots of jobs and no one would mind/notice if you're not a native speaker as long as your level is good, but the difficult thing is the visa.

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Basically, there are lots of jobs and no one would mind/notice if you're not a native speaker as long as your level is good, but the difficult thing is the visa.

 

This cannot be underestimated. For the UK, unless you're rich they won't give you a visa. Even if you're married to a Brit they make it as difficult as possible.

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f you are in an Australian city like Melbourne, you would probably face lots of competition from native speakers since there is a large Chinese immigrant population.

 

Wow, what JustinJJ just said in another thread supports this...Sydney has so many native speakers that a Chinese environment is quite possible. 

 

 For the UK, unless you're rich they won't give you a visa. 

 

It's the same situation for the US, I think, visas can be a problem for potential teachers. 

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It's not necessarily the case that you need to be rich to get a visa in the UK. Unless you want a tier 1 investors visa, or you are coming over as a spouse (in which case your partner will need to show they have means to support you for a few years), as long as you have a job and qualifications that show you can do that job you can get a visa without having huge amounts of money. Coming over to the UK and competing with EU citizens for jobs would be tough, but if you have a contact with a school, restaurant/takeaway, or Chinese medicine/massage shop and you have some qualifications in those areas, it's not so difficult or expensive in the great scheme of things. Alternatively you can get a study visa easily by signing up to a 24ish hour a week language course for under £100 pounds per week and attending 80% of your classes you can get study visa. I'm not sure if it still stands, but those visas allow up to 20 hours per week of paid work. You can also 'buy' an EU spouse for £4-10K if you are happy to break the law.

 

It's not terribly relevant to the OP, but it's worth knowing that under certain conditions the UK isn't the fortress we tend to believe.

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If I might put forward another possibility, might some continuing education give you the boost you need to compete? Perhaps I didn't read closely enough to catch your qualifications, but I'm sure that boosting your credentials would be a big plus for any school except the ones who require a native speaker. Being higher qualified would make your salary more competitive too.

As far as requiring you to be a native to teach Chinese, that's hogwash. The best Chinese teacher I ever had was a guy from Ohio who loved the language enough to dedicate his life to perfecting it. We had native tutors, sure, but that non native had a bigger impact on my Chinese education than any of the Bejingers teaching at the university I attended.

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