Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated November 16, 2018
By Mike Cairnduff

Classroom full of students in China

So you think you’ve got it tough teaching English?

Then put yourself in the shoes of Yang Chunyan, a Chinese-born English teacher.

Yang started learning English at the age of 11. She’s now an English teacher at the Three Gorges University in Yichang, Hubei province, in central China.

Why did you choose to become an English teacher?

I took English as my major in both graduate and post-graduate years. I thought it was a good idea to continue using the language in my hometown, Yichang.

I figured it would be tough to work and live in the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Is teaching English different to what you thought it would be?

Yes, quite different. It’s much more challenging than I thought it would be.

What do you like about teaching English?

Learning through teaching is the first thing. It makes me feel proud as I pick up new things every day.

Speaking also means a lot to me. I love communicating with others.

And English is an exotic language!

Yang teaches English in Hubei province, central China.

Teacher Yang Chunyan (left) with one of her students at an English speaking contest.

What don’t you like about teaching English?

There’s so much to learn every day that my brain reaches capacity!

I sometimes find it hard explaining the delicate difference between various words, and memorizing so many verbal phrases.

It can get rather confusing. I think students feel the same way.

Can you tell me about your experience working alongside Western teachers?

I’ve learnt a lot from other teachers at Three Gorges University.

The first Western English teacher I worked with taught me a lot over dinner, like word differences, class activities, cultural differences and so on.

I’ve found that most Western teachers are passionate in teaching Chinese students, even though most students don’t show their active side in class.

Western teachers always find new ways of stimulating students’ interest. Chinese teachers lack this.

Why do you think schools in China want Western teachers?

It’s to help students better understand foreign cultures, as well as improve their listening and speaking skills.

These days, it’s common to see Western teachers at foreign language schools across China.

Do you think China’s demand for Western teachers will grow?

The demand will grow but at a small scale. Chinese teachers are capable enough to teach students basic language knowledge.

For Western teachers, it’s true they can arouse students’ interest as they’re more authentic, but they need to be paid higher than local teachers to attract them to come to China.

Western teachers are not so welcome if they always show films in their class instead of actually teaching something!

What do you think is needed to become a successful teacher?

Passion, continual learning, rethinking and love.

Do you agree that Chinese-born English teachers have it tougher than native speakers?


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