Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So what is teaching English in Korea REALLY like??

Nowadays, guys going abroad to teach English in Asia are a dime a dozen. In these tough economic times, its actually not that bad of a gig if you consider what these programs have to offer. Go to any job site such as or just Google, "Teaching English Abroad" and you'll get tons of hits. Here's an example of one I found online yesterday. The salary and benefits are decent for recent college graduates looking to experience life in Asia and as a teacher there.
  • Compensation
    • From $1800 ~ $2700 (per month)
  • Benefits
    • One month Bonus (after 12 months)
    • Free airfare
    • Furnished housing provided
    • 21 Days Paid Vacation
    • Partial Medical Insurance Coverage
    • Save up to $15,000 per year  <== I have no idea where they came up with this figure.
You only need to be a native English speaker with a 4-year college degree willing to travel and live in Korea. Those are probably going to be the easiest qualifications you will need to fulfill throughout your entire career.

What I always find fascinating about these Asia-Pacific based English programs is how they always cater toward recruiting white people. You may ask me, "Well what's wrong with that?" My answer, "Not all white people are extraordinary English speakers or teachers." Don't get me wrong. I'm sure whites probably do excel in English over non-whites even after dissecting SAT scores. Feel free to disprove me here. I'm curious as to what the breakdown is really like. 

Let me put this in a different perspective though.

Imagine if American software companies went recruiting for programmers in Asia and all of their advertisements had nothing but Indians, since everyone knows that Indians are like the Mexicans of IT. If you're Indian, you're genetically predisposed of being good with science and engineering. Though it may be generally the case, this is where it turns borderline ridiculous. (This isn't a knock against either ethnic group. I have the utmost respect for both of them as they are hard working contributors to society.)

Back in university, one of my best TAs was a white guy who taught English in Japan and lived there for 4 years. Even he was dumbfounded by the absurdity as to how the schools he taught at disfavored native English speaking Asian-Americans from teaching sitting them on the bench majority of the time. Apparently, this preconceived notion of "White English = Right English" was a common theme at many of the schools he taught at. Eventually he gave the staff reasons as to why he believed this sort of thinking was flawed. He argued that: 
  1. Asian-Americans raised in America are just as fluent in English as him.
  2. Asian-Americans are no less qualified to teach the language.
  3. Students someone of their ethnic background or similar speaking the language with such fluency as an inspiration.
Granted, this doesn't mean these English teaching programs will not hire you because you're of Asian descent. Times have changed since then and the world is embracing globalization and ethnic diversity albeit advertising and marketing has not.

Alas, this brings me to the title of the topic at hand. So what is teaching English in an Asian country such as Korea really like?  Ladies and gentleman, watch and learn.


  1. In China it's even better: they rather hire Russians, Germans, French and Spanish teachers who are white to teach English over Asian-Americans or Canadian, British, Aussie, etc.

  2. That's pretty funny.

    You can't blame them completely for having that kind of mindset. Many Asians don't see Asian-Americans in the the US mainstream media or entertainment. I feel like its hard for them to accept that an Asian person can speak English better than someone who isn't white since they probably feel as though they're going to the "source".

    The whole thing is quite amusing if you ask me.

  3. My comment has nothing to do with Asian vs. White, but I do have a funny story. I was in Japan, hanging out with a bunch of white English teachers, and there was this white Polish guy who had been hired as an English teacher. He spoke English fluently, but his accent was really heavy and he was hard to understand.

    One of the American teachers said to him, totally in a nice way, "Hey, you speak English very well."

    The Polish guy got offended and said something like, "Tank you vetty much. You speeek Engolish vell too."

    I guess English is as English does. It's only as useful as those to whom you're speaking, and maybe the English school was right to hire him, just in case they had students looking to communicate with English speakers in Poland.

  4. It's the pernicious vestige of Anglo-saxon imperialism. In fact, white Americans generally speak and write terrible English. "Between you and I." "Him and me go to the market." Jeesh!

    But white is right. It's the flawed world we live in.


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