Back when I started this blog I had the intention of writing a lot more about English teaching. However, it hasn't really featured much on the list of topics I write about. Here are some links to other Taiwan bloggers who have written about teaching English in Taiwan.
In Taiwan the English language (英語) is often referred to as Mĕiyŭ (美語), meaning American language rather than English language. Most language schools will use the term Mĕiyŭ in their name rather than Yīngyŭ (英語).
The name of the school whose sign is shown above is Yīnggélán Mĕiyŭ (英格蘭美語). This would translate directly into English as "England American Language [School]". And although England has been used for the name of this school, the sign is decorated with the American flag! Perhaps the owner of the school is hedging his bets and trying to attract customers interested in studying American English and British English.
I am sure most readers of this blog already know Michael Turton's blog, The View from Taiwan. Michael also has a website which is equally voluminous, Michael Turton's Teaching English in Taiwan Web Pages.
This website contains so much information that I won't claim to have read every page or looked at every photo. However, for someone looking for information about living in Taiwan or teaching English there is no better place to start your search.
The pages are arranged into the following sections:
- Living in Taiwan
- Teaching English in Taiwan
- Teaching at a University in Taiwan
- Other articles
- Travels and trips in Taiwan
- Just pictures I & II
Michael has some quite strong opinions about Taiwan life. He doesn't always paint a rosy picture of life here. Michael has been in Taiwan for many years and is an astute observer. I respect his opinions but I wouldn't agree with everything he writes. Michael elucidates on his reasons for writing what he does:
…the number of Taiwan sites has multiplied enormously. What was once a small, almost intimate internet has become a vast wasteland of identical soulless commercial websites that emphasize a kitsch, exotic view of Taiwanese life, tempered by a slight bow to the widespread if imperfect knowledge of foreigners that There Are Some Problems In Taiwan. This site has also been built as a response to those websites. Some of them provide excellent information on visas and jobs. But they aren't going to tell you why so many windows are barred, or how to avoid counterfeit money, or why living next to an open plot of land is a bad idea. It is to fill that role that I constructed this website.
The site also includes a huge number of photos depicting all kinds of things around Taiwan. Michael is great at capturing ordinary street scenes and other things which are typical of daily life in Taiwan (and spiders!).
Update: Problems with the webhosting company took Michael's site offline for a while. It is now back with a new, easy to remember domain name, www.michaelturton.com/Taiwan/teach_index.html.
I was recently interviewed by Expat Interviews about living and working in Taiwan. The interview is now online.
I say a little about some of the things I don't like in Taiwan. I always tend to put a pretty positive spin on things in my blog, but I must admit that not everything in this country is perfect.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Taiwan?
The negative aspects are definitely the appalling traffic conditions and pollution. By traffic conditions I don't just mean traffic jams. While the roads are very busy the traffic usually flows reasonably well. What bother me are the appalling driving habits. Most Taiwanese show no courtesy to other road users, have little understanding of road safety and no respect for the road rules.
Most of the urban areas are crowded and ugly. Although there is some interesting and even beautiful architecture here, most buildings are utilitarian concrete boxes. Little attempt is made to preserve buildings with historical and heritage values. Generally speaking Taiwanese people don't concern themselves much with aesthetics.
I mostly have good things to say in the rest of the interview which you can read here. I hope there is some helpful advice for anyone thinking of moving to Taiwan. Also have a look at some of the other interviews on the site with expats from many different countries.
When I first came to Taiwan in 1999 I was paid NT$480 per hour at ELSI (now known as Kojen). Now seven years later, I am getting paid NT$650 per hour, a 35% increase.
It seems ok at first glance. However, when you consider a number of factors it is not very good at all.
The first one is exchange rates. Back in 1999 the exchange rate was NT$19 to AU$1. So if you convert the hourly rate to Australian dollars I was earning AU$25.26. In 2006 the exchange rate is NT$24 to AU$1. So my hourly rate is now AU$27.08. This is an increase of just 9% which would be below the rate of inflation.
The other thing to consider is my qualifications and experience. When I first came to Taiwan in 1999 I had just completed a TEFL certificate but I had no teaching experience. I could barely make a complete sentence in Mandarin. I now have four years of teaching experience and I can speak Mandarin well. While I was searching for a job in April this year a number of employers were interested in hiring me because of my experience but all of them still offered the same rate of NT$650 per hour.
I am sure there are some jobs out there which do actually reward people for their qualifications and experience, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Often jobs that require a B.Ed. or Master’s degree offer salaries that are little different from what an FOB gets paid for working in a kindergarten.
Money is not the main reason I came to Taiwan. And even though the hourly rate I am getting paid is not great I am still earning more than the average Taiwanese university graduate (and a hell of a lot more than someone working in 7-Eleven). However, I really would like to be rewarded a little for my experience.
UPDATE: Mark of Doubting to Shuo discusses this further on his blog. He has some interesting ideas about how to realise financial rewards teaching in Taiwan.
The classified ad shown above appeared in the Taipei Times today. Bad spelling aside, it provides an example of how Taiwanese employers blatantly and unashamedly engage in all kinds of discrimination. This ad very specifically details the nationality, race, age and gender of the person that the employer requires. Discriminating on the basis of race or ethnicity is probably the worst one. However, in Taiwan it is considered quite normal to specifically state the age, gender and even marital status in an employment ad.
I also dislike the way most Taiwanese people will never admit to the fact that racism is a problem in Taiwan. Most Taiwanese only conceive of racism as something that happens to "Chinese" people in other countries. Blatant discrimination against migrant workers from Southeast Asia (as previously discussed on this blog) and the difficulties black people face in getting jobs teaching English are two of the most obvious ways in which racism in Taiwan manifests.
As an Australian I am not afraid to acknowledge that racism is a problem in Australia. At least a significant percentage of the population in Australia also acknowledges this and the problem is discussed openly. This is not the case in Taiwan.
I have been working in my new job for a little over three weeks now. So far everything has gone well, perhaps a little better than expected.
The two previous times I taught in Taiwan (1999 and 2002) I worked at Kojen (or ELSI as it used to be known). At Kojen I mostly taught adult classes. However, one problem with this was the seven day a week schedule.
When I came back to Taiwan last month I considered a number of different jobs. Although my initial preference was to teach adults, I eventually decided to take a job teaching children in a small buxiban. I am the only full time foreign teacher at the school.
All the classes are in the afternoons and evenings from Monday to Friday. I have every weekend free and, except for the summer vacation, the mornings are free too. I plan to use this time to attend Chinese classes after the summer vacation.
My previous experience teaching children was fairly limited. I had only occassionally substituted for other teachers and taught a few classes for one or two months.
The experience teaching in this school has been quite different to my past experiences. First, the class sizes are small. My largest class has 11 students and most classes have eight students. That makes teaching a lot easier.
The students also seem to enjoy learning and speaking English. Some of the older students have just reached the level where they are confident speaking the language and have enough vocabulary and grammar knowledge to begin expressing themselves in the language.
I will be able to watch these students further develop their language skills. One of the big advantages of teaching children compared to adults is being able to teach the students for a long period of time and watch them develop their abilities. I am looking forward to it.
I am currently in Bangkok and went to get a Taiwanese visa today. The process of getting the visa was fairly simple and hassle free. The last time I had a Taiwanese visa was in 2002 (also issued in Bangkok coincidentally). Although I have been in Taiwan a few times in the interim period, I only got the visa free entry stamp at the airport. Anyway it is interesting to compare the 2002 visa with the 2006 version.
On the 2002 visa the word Taiwan, or even Taipei, doesn’t appear anywhere (in Chinese or English). There is only “Republic of China” and “ROC”.
The 2006 visa is quite a contrast. At the top of the visa it says “Republic of China (Taiwan)“. Although Taiwan is in brackets it is actually written in a larger font size. In the background there are two images of Taipei 101 and a map of Taiwan. There are also the words “Welcome to Taiwan” and “Taipei 101 – the tallest building in the world”.
It is actually difficult to figure out what country the 2002 visa is from or to easily confuse it with China (the PRC). There are no such doubts in 2006.