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Jobs for Non-Native English Speakers in China

Jun 15, 2017 By Jessica A. Larson-Wang , Comments (5)     Add your comment Newsletter

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It is well known that native English speakers have an advantage when it comes to finding work in China – if nothing else, there’s always English teaching. However, what if you don’t come from one of the major English speaking nations, what if English is your second or even third language? What opportunities can you expect to find in China?

Source: Данила

English teaching
While the teaching jobs available to non-native English speakers may not be the best the teaching world has to offer, there are still plenty of teaching opportunities available to people for whom English is not their native tongue. While you might not be chosen as an oral IELTS instructor, being a non-native speaker is rarely a detriment when it comes to teaching children, especially very young children. Many kindergartens employ non-native English speakers. While it is normal that as a non-native English teacher your salary might not be as high as your native speaking counterparts, beware, for many unscrupulous schools will take advantage of non-native speakers, particularly teachers from African nations and the Philippines, by offering insultingly low pay and near exploitative conditions. If you are employed as a foreign teacher, no matter the color of your passport (or your skin), you should be making a fair wage that is, if not equal, at least comparable to what your native speaking colleagues are making.

As a non-native English speaker your best asset may in fact be your ability on your own native language. While translators between Chinese and English are fairly easy to come by, it is not so easy to find translators that are competent in three languages. One Vietnamese woman in Kunming honed both her Chinese and English skills and set herself up as a successful freelance translator. A Danish man set up a translation company in Shanghai and employs a team of translators from around the world specializing in many different languages. Speaking a language that is not commonly studied in China but not necessarily obscure either, such as Arabic or Italian, along with having above average Chinese skills can be a big advantage in the translation industry.

Many people of all nationalities have profited from China’s increasing economic prowess and have set themselves up as consultants, serving as much-needed go-betweens for foreign companies looking to expand into China. Do you have what it takes to be a consultant? Having some connections in your home-country can be a start. One group of Italian friends set up a consultancy business after an initial success with family business connections in the marble industry. Their company went on to work with the Italian embassy and escorted Italian clients around Guangzhou during the annual Guangzhou trade fair. While setting oneself up as a consultant is easier said than done, those individuals with the right mix of skills, personality and connections could find consultancy to be a very lucrative endeavor.

While not as high-flying as translation or consultancy, there is a market in China for English speaking nannies. Since most native English speakers can make more money teaching English than they can looking after people’s children, this job usually falls to Filipina women. In Beijing the starting rate for Filipina nannies (ayis) is about 50RMB per hour at minimum, and often includes benefits such as room and board. While it doesn’t sound like much, this is about twice what local nannies make. While an English teaching position may require experience and educational qualifications, nanny positions only require experience, and for those non-native speakers whose English language or Chinese skills are not up to par, nannying for wealthy expats in Beijing or Shanghai could be a good second choice career.

Well, maybe superstardom is an exaggeration, but if you have a talent, consider exploiting it in China. Many foreigners, regardless of nationality, in Chinese cities from Kunming to Chengdu to Beijing to Guangzhou have set themselves up as DJs, honing their skills as they go along. Foreign-looking women can book gigs as dancers even without much dance experience and foreign men can pass themselves off as rappers as long as they look the part. Fire-dancers, drummers, singers, strippers, saxophonists, and even Beijing opera and xiang sheng performers have been able to make good livings for themselves by plying their talents to the Chinese public. If you actually are talented then all the better, but for many, the ability to fake it really well has proved good enough! There are some opportunities too that are available to anyone with the right look, no need for talent – films and TV shows often look for foreign extras, and advertising agencies are often seeking foreign models. If you have foreign or half-Chinese children who love preening for the camera, you could consider child modeling, as foreign child models are always in high demand.

China is one of those places where you can truly make your own destiny, and no matter whether you’re from the UK or Ghana, you should be able to find your niche in China. While finding a good job or a stable income may be more difficult for non-native speakers who do not necessarily have the cushion of English teaching available to fall back upon, there are plenty of other opportunities that can be even better.

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Keywords: Jobs for no native English speakers china can I get a job as a not native English speaker china jobs other than english teaching china china jobs not english can I get a job if I’m not an English speaker china

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5 Comments ( Add your comment )


You mean to say China has no practical use or professional jobs for competent non native speakers? Well, color me surprised! It must be all the "fierce competition from talented locals", yeah that's it!

Jun 15, 2017 16:29

Zethe, this article is to show the easy-found jobs in China, in fact. However, there are tons of professional jobs in China for international candidates and it's not that hard to get hired to them if you have the necessary skills and you fit under the job requirements.

Jun 16, 2017 11:17

It depends on your definition of "professional". Thanks for the obvious statement about skills and fitting requirements. I'm quite aware and am overqualified for the most part, but that's not the point. The point is China has little to offer in the way of true professionalism nor is it worth my time (or anyone's time) to pursue the professional route here. A perfect example of lack of professionalism is this website's lack of a proper "enter" function. Why do you think my paragraphs look like a block of text? If I wanted to find a truly "professional" job that met my skills and requirements, I would go literally anywhere else in the world, but I'm here for the money. Now, if you really do have a list of "professional jobs" that are worth anyone's time, I wonder why they aren't on this list? The truth is professionalism doesn't exist here, and underlying racism is just icing on the cake. Even as a native speaker I cannot/would not bear to be apart of the circus show you call "professional jobs" here. Furthermore, it says nowhere on this article the term "easy-found jobs".

Jun 16, 2017 17:38

Hahahahahahah, well put Zethe. Well put.

Jun 19, 2017 08:38

Hello, My name is Ashley Barlow. I'm 24 and Nigerian. I'm really interested in teaching English in China. The first time I heard about it was back when I was in the university- the Department of Asian languages -Chinese used to hand out flyers , inviting us celebrate different Chinese festivals with them at their Confucius Institute - Dragon festival,Spring festival etc I fell in love with the culture (at least,the little part I was seeing) ,the colours, dances and all. My friends thought it was boring ,but I kept going back and eventually I made friends with a Chinese teacher. I used to help her polish her English and make proper pronunciations (her English was fair enough but her pronunciation sometimes went off). She told me she would soon be leaving as she was on a one year contract and that China was trying to establish a stronger relationship with Nigeria- so teachers were sent to Nigeria from china and also Nigerian teachers also went there to teach. "China really needs English teachers, Ashley. It doesn't matter if you don't speak Chinese,you're not required to. You should apply. They'd take you,since English is the official language in Nigeria." She left a few months later, and I lost communications with her as she said she Facebook wasn't used in China. However,I was looking forward to this opportunity to do what I loved doing most and that's teaching,and more so, doing it in a country whose culture I admired seemed wonderful. Maybe it's because I'm from a continent rich in cultures and traditions,I can't say. Altogether,I have about 4 years of English teaching experience. I have a BA in Philosophy. While I was iin school ,I studied Chinese Philosophy and took minor courses from the department of English Language. I assumed all these would be enough to teach in China, but then the shocker came when I started applying for jobs and I would see "Native English speakers " preferred. This was like someone slapped a wet towel on face, jolting back to reality. Is this how it actually is? When did English start to differ from English? Would it be appropriate for a school to reject teachers from Mexico or Colombia and maintain that you believe only a teacher from Spain can teach Spanish just for the sheer fact that he or she comes from Spain ,where Spainish originated. Language is a shared possession of humankind. And language is artificial, not natural , so any one can master it to fluent levels. Nigerian parents speak English as a first language to their kids and leave the environment to teach you native languages or you can learn it in school as a subject. But English is used to teach all subjects (except traditional languages) in schools. . .Nigerian has over 250 languages which have zero similarities so the only way we can communicate is by speaking English to facilitate understanding. So speaking English is kind of inevitable. I basically make all my mental calculations and thoughts in English. While searching for jobs, ,I saw job ads that said "Native English speakers- no experience necessary, no certificate holders also welcome,just hold a passport from any Native English speaking country-Australia,New Zealand,Britian,Canada,American or South African (since when is the english spoken in South Africa better than the english spoken in Ghana,Liberia ,Uganda or Nigeria? We were all colonized by the British except for Liberia which was colonized by America. Even though,I'm really interested in ESL jobs, it doesn't seem to be enough to get them as my search has (and still is) been filled with disappointments and rejections. After sending my details to the email provided,I'm guessing they usually assume I'm white because of my name, they'd ask for my picture and that's where the rejections emanate. It's obvious there's an image issue going on about what they think the traditional English teacher should look like- light skin,straight hair and white. Apparently,it's a marketing strategy-what the children want triumphs what the children need. The irony is that the Chinese in my country are treated with the same amount of prestige and respect we give to visitors both within and outside Nigeria. There are Chinese / Oriental hotels around, Chinese restaurants, Massage Palours , Chinese institutes. . .all around Nigeria. Goods are constantly being imported and exported. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa (larger than Egypt or South Africa) and this attracts millions of foreigners. There are millions of Asians here in Nigeria ,Chinese ,Indians and Lebanese make a large part of that number. . And that's just Asians . .Europeans are way more. Nigeria has a "live and let live" mentality. It's such a shame that the Chinese don't see us the same way. I haven't given up but the confidence which I built over the years is waning. Any advice?

Jun 23, 2017 22:55

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