Teach English in China for 1 year or don’t bother at all

Teaching English in China is a major life changing experience. You literally uproot your entire life and move thousands of miles away to an entirely different culture. With such a huge change it’s easy to consider dipping your toes in the water and going for a shorter period. Here is why that’s a terrible thing to do and how the choice of a year or nothing helps so much with deciding whether or not China is right for you.

Chinese classroom

‘Gapyaar’ – standard unit of time measurement for 1 year abroad

The 12 month duration is the typical gap year period, presumably this works around the year long academic years that we often take either before or after a gap year. Thus the 12 month period off school became the norm. A year is a decent amount of time to really get to feel part of your new destination. Its enough time to settle there. To enable you to live life like a local and see the world from their perspective, a new perspective. But do we really gain that much extra from spending such a long amount of time in one place? Would it really be so much less if we cut a few of the ending months away? My theory is yes, and this is how…

It gets better and better

According to the exponential theory illustrated below, shorter durations dramatically reduce the rewards of Teaching in China. This is because the biggest challenges and difficulties occur at the beginning of your time abroad. Challenges such as feeling isolated in your new environment, helpless with the language confused with your new surroundings. Not to mention jetlag, which will make you feel exhausted at different parts of the day. All these problems and more make the start of a position abroad feel a little tougher and less enjoyable.

As we continue to live in this environment, we slowly become settled in our surroundings. This cuts back anxiety and produces a feeling of great satisfaction of overcoming your obstacles. With the passing days and weeks, we become increasingly familiar with our new environment. This makes everyday issues such as ordering food, buying groceries and commuting to work less intimidating and time consuming. By spending less time overcoming these hurdles, we have more time and energy to spend doing the things that we enjoy. We can travel more, socialise more frequently with friends and generally take more time out to relax. As we have more time to relax, we can reflect upon our current adventure abroad and quickly feel better about our situation.

Visualisation of the concept of your rewards increasing in China exponentially using a line graph. As you settle and adapt. This suggests that candidates that teach English for less than 1 year, such as for 6 months gain much less than half the rewards from doing such a scheme. As with so many things in life, it's better to get stuck in and go all the way.
Visualisation of the concept of your rewards increasing in China exponentially as you settle and adapt. This suggests that candidates that teach English for less than 1 year, such as for 6 months gain much less than half the rewards from doing such a scheme. As with so many things in life, it’s better to get stuck in and go all the way.

Work becomes less work

It’s not only the experiences out of work that benefit from us adapting and familiarising to our new lives.  As we settle into our working routine, we will naturally improve our ability in the classroom. We deliver more effective lessons and have less stress and anxiety from our work. In return, our working day becomes more enjoyable and we get more out of our new life in China. If one was to return home after a shorter period such as 3 to 6 months, then as soon as you get used to your environment and reaping the rewards its time to leave. This seems a pity, especially as overcoming the challenges to get to this position is no small task!

Think of the kids

In addition to our own benefit, its important to consider the impact that you will have on your students. Any good teacher will have a strong sense of responsibility for their pupils. By teaching an entire academic year in China, the students have time to get to know you and gain a level of consistency in their English studies. At this point, considering your students is a good test to check if you are ready for China as if you did not consider them at all it’s likely that you are not ready to lead them in their studies.

Chinese characters lit up at a bar

It’s crazy to do this and not learn Chinese

Then there’s the pressing issue of learning the Chinese language, an increasingly topical and useful ability to have. Mandarin is no quick language to learn. Data gathered by language site tutorming.com suggests a minimum 2200 hours is required to learn the language to a good standard of communication. Looking at those numbers, lets say you are exposed to the language 16 hours per day 7 days per week. This assumes that you sleep 8 hours a day and are listening to Chinese every waking minute. Like this, the 12 month period provides 11,200 hours of listening to Chinese.

Many teachers become conversational in Mandarin by the end of their 12 month placement. But those who take shorter placements have less success. Teachers that become conversational are less likely to forget the language as they have the ability to apply it more than those with only broken Chinese who had less time in China to study. By having at least 12 months living and exposed first hand to the chinese language you are greatly improving your chances of learning and retaining the Chinese mother tongue.

A clear question helps a definite decision

The ultimate benefit of choosing a full year or not atall is that it gives you a clear, easy question. In or out. This test’s if you are ready for the adventure that Teaching English in China is. If you are immediately thinking of a shorter placement, you are unsure. If you are unsure, then it’s not for you. The challenge of living in China is not something that can be done by half.

Little of significance is achieved in this world with half heartedness and as the stakes get higher making the wrong decision is ever more serious. The 12 month or none ultimatum makes deciding that much easier. If you read all about Teaching English in China, know its for 12 months and firmly want to do this, then you can sit back, safe in the knowledge that you have the decisiveness and commitment to get the most out of this opportunity.

Our bold part in this

At Noon Elite Recruitment, we strictly follow the 12 month or not atall policy and have a very high success rate and 0 drop out rate of teachers once they arrive in China and start their position (data true for the 2016-17 academic year). Suggesting that this frank but fair requirement ensures the best for both teachers and their students in the long run. Do you think you could handle a year in China? If so drop us your application or contact us to arrange a chat with one of us ex TEFL teachers.