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China's Most Wanted: A Western Face

CHINA | Monday, 3 December 2007 | Views [1512]

Job hunting in Beijing is not as easy as people think it is.

Many Filipino parents are sending their kids to China believing that landing English-speaking jobs here are easy, especially with the unbelievable demand for English-speakers soaring through the roof. It's true, actually. There's at least one new teach english ad every day on all the teaching job sites I've been looking at, sometimes reaching up to fifty a day. With the Olympics coming up, so many people are trying to learn English faster than they can finish their dinners.

So while the rest of the world is rushing to learn probably the Language of the Year, the whole of China is rushing to learn the language of the West---English.

Take note of that: language of the West. To deny that English came from the West is not only foolish, it's downright stupid. Yes, English came from the West---the blonds, the red-heads, the sharp-nosed fellas from the other side of the world. So why should Asians be surprised at how hard job-hunting in China is becoming for them?

I read an one-paragraphed ad recently that began by saying, No Experience Required. And the next few lines basically said: If you're not Western, don't even think of applying.

I told a Chinese teacher of mine that I was thinking of job-hunting as well. He looked at me and told me that I'd most likely have a hard time doing that. I asked him why, and he told me (as nonchalantly as he possibly could, rar) that it was because I was Asian. Today he announced Break Time earlier than he usually did, went up to me and suddenly said, "Can I speak to you in English?"

I was stunned out of my wits. Uh, fire away!

Then there he was, just...talking to me in English. But what surprised me was that he wasn't just good...he was GOOD! His vocabulary was excellent, his diction was...yes, Chinese, but really good (he's my Chinese prof; it feels like when I discovered that my Filipino friend could speak Japanese really well) plus... what he said afterwards was...influential.

He told me that he and his brother also owned a company similar to what we had been talking about earlier... and why finding a job might not be as easy as I might think it to be. Yes, I don't have a TESOL, but that's not just quite it.

According to him, English teaching nowadays is so big in China that so much is also expected from the industry---for one, parents expect their kids to actually learn how to speak the language. They expect the English teacher to be someone who's credible enough to teach, someone they can be assured of to take care of their kids.

Who better to do that than the Westerners?

I was really disheartened at first, but later on I got over it. He said a lot of things afterwards, but that's basically his point---and it's not really a big wonder as to why the Chinese would think this way. When I get in front of a Westerner, I also get tongue-tied.

For the other Pinoys out there who are also planning to look for a job here in China, GO FOR IT. Try...there's no harm in trying. But I'd like to warn you in advance though: as my friend says, teaching is also a form of acting. Except in China, you don't just act out the part; you also have to look the part. It's not only hard...it might even turn out miserably frustrating for many.

To the rest of the Western world out there, not every "Western" is qualified for every teaching job. Some companies, for example, prefer Americans over Australians; some prefer Canadians over Englishmen, for example. It depends. Just because you're blond doesn't mean you're practically in. And, like I said, teaching is also a form of acting. If you've never taught in your life but would like to start a career in China, then you'd better prepare for your first performance soon.


Tags: tips

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