I’ve highlighted one issue in my previous discussions about learning Mandarin in China: quality of teaching, and would like to dwell on this topic a little more in this post.
If you have ever read recruitment advertisements of mandarin teachers posted by language schools or institutions in China, you may find one thing quite weird or absurd. You don’t need to be a graduate in Chinese language or teaching Chinese to foreigners to be qualified for the post. All you need is possession of a degree in English or being fluent in English. The rationale: the foreign students have to have an English-speaking teacher for them to understand the lessons.
It is an obvious sign of ignorance on the part of school/university management and poor standard of teaching. Given this, how much hope will you have of good teaching in store for you? Their logic goes something like this: teaching Chinese is not a professional job. Every educated Chinese can teach Chinese, as long as you can speak good English.
I was once involved in the Chinese language school business in China and was asked numerous times questions like “Can your teachers speak English?” “Can your teachers speak Japanese?” Then I would start my rantings and ask them to ask themselves a simple question: If you go overseas to study English, would you expect the teacher to be able to speak Chinese to teach you English?!
The fact is, Chinese schools in China simply ask English teachers to teach Chinese to international students. And they will hide the fact from you, telling you that they are experienced teachers. I know cases likes this personally.
So one pointer to good Chinese language schools/institutions: their teacher ads don’t require the potential candidates to speak good excellent English. If you don’t get the chance to see their ads, which you most likely don’t, ask them who their teachers are. If they say they are university graduates of English majors, forget them!
But please be warned that there are many lies around, and be smart enough to do more research and ask for the former students’ contact for information before you jump into the boat!