Teaching English in Taiwan

taiwan186294885Taiwan has long been popular. Ever since the Portuguese first named it lha Formosa in 1544, the “Beautiful Island” has attracted more attention than countries twice its size. Today the island nation – also known as the Republic of China – continues to attract attention for many reasons. Home to some of the most sophisticated – and densely populated – cities in the world it is also a land of lush jungles and stunning mountains. This popularity, derived from businessmen and travelers alike, is also well reinforced by English teachers. Indeed, Taiwan consistently ranks at or near the top of any “best of” ESL employment list. Why, though, do so many want to teach English in Taiwan?

Why Taiwan?

For many ESL instructors the decision to teach English in Taiwan rests on two important factors: salary and stability. Teaching positions on the “Beautiful Island” typically pay quite well in general. This is especially true when cross country comparisons – a job in Taiwan pays better than an equivalent posting in South Korea – and the (low) cost of living are taken into consideration. More to the point, these high salaries include health care and do not come at the expense of quality of life (like in Saudi Arabia) or stability (like in mainland China). Indeed, many expats report that it was Taiwan’s relatively stable ESL industry that first attracted them. Less competitive than in Japan but better regulated than China, it offers many an oasis of calm –and makes moving halfway around the world for a job that much simpler.

What kinds of qualifications are necessary?

As in many other East Asian countries, in theory any applicant who a) is a native English speaker, and b) has a bachelor’s degree in any discipline is eligible to teach English. In the wake of the Great Recession (2007-2008), however, the supple of would-be teachers in Taiwan has increased dramatically. Although demand for instructors remains high, ESL schools in Taiwan have become increasingly selective. This has resulted in stiffer competition for jobs as well as a general drop in wages for applicants without relevant work experience but has left those with TEFL certificates and experience generally unaffected (and in high demand).

What kinds of opportunities exist to teach English in Taiwan?

ESL schools in Taiwan can be broadly broken down in two categories: public and private. Private schools in particular come in a number of varieties but these subsets nevertheless have more in common with one another than with their public counterparts

Private Schools

The vast preponderance of English teaching positions in Taiwan can be found in private schools. From private day schools on end of the spectrum to afterhours buxiban (“cram schools”) on the other, the private sector generally pays better than the government. As a general rule, however, schedules do not conform to general 9 to 5 and class sizes are smaller. Smaller schools have a more personal approach but may be less stable than the larger ones

Public schools and universities

English is a compulsory subject in the public school system from Grade 3 onwards, meaning that the demand for public school instructors is always high. Such positions generally pay slightly less than their private school counterparts and expect higher qualifications but (as they are not profit-driven) often offer a more relaxed worklife. Class sizes are typically quite large, however, and vacant positions in high schools and universities are few and far between. A 9 to 5 schedule, full weekends and regular (paid) vacations are almost guaranteed.

When is the best time to apply?

Because buxibans and other private academies do not adhere to a strict academic calendar, candidates can apply at any time. Public and private day schools, on the other hand, are usually looking for teachers in March and April.

How can I find a job in Taiwan?

The ESL market in Taiwan is fairly well developed. As a result it relies primarily on direct advertisements – on places like Tealit – recruitment agencies – like Footprintsrecruiting – and word of mouth to fill vacancies. It is possible to find a job teaching English in Taiwan from your home country but, as always, in-person applications give you the opportunity to make sure the position is right for you. Such follow-through is always a good idea.

Idioms In Depth: Idioms from Numbers

dv2051009Even if mathematics is not your best subject we are certain that you will find these number-inspired idioms easy to understand – no calculator required!

In Seventh Heaven/On Cloud Nine
These two expressions are unrelated but are both used to describe a person who is extremely happy. The reason for this should be pretty obvious: someone who is “in seventh heaven” is not just in a great place but on the seventh level of it! A good way to remember this would be to remember that “People who win the lottery feel like they are on cloud nine.”

Second to None
If something is second to none is it, quite simply, the best. Think of it this way: in a two-man race the person who finishes last comes in second (to the faster person) but the first place finisher comes in second to no one – in other words, he is second to none. Try this example sentence on for size: “The food at that restaurant is second to none – it truly is the best in the city.”

Second Nature
Something that comes naturally is simple and easy to do so something that is “second nature” to you is almost as good. That is why we use this expression to describe a skill that requires little effort for someone to master. For example, “Even though Mike had never played golf before, his easy victory proves that the sport is second nature to him.”

To Put Two and Two Together
You should not need your calculator to understand why this expression means to come to a conclusion about something based on evidence. After all, we did not need to tell you that two plus two equals four for you to “figure it out” on your own and, in like manner, this expression is used to describe situations where people understand a situation without a direct explanation. “When James saw that the lights were off in the classroom,” for example, “he put two and two together and realized he would be the first to arrive.”

For more about learning English, check out the Learning English section for more information on how you can improve. Want more Idioms In Depth, check out these related blog posts.

Must-play games to improve your English

playing games83826988Who says learning English can’t be fun? There are tons of games you can use to help you practice English and learn new words! Check out our recommendations of must-play games to improve your English skills:

  • Taboo (med – high English level)

Taboo is an intensely fun and fast-paced game. You need at least four people to play this game. This game involves getting your teammate (s) to guess the secret word you’ve selected by describing the word to them, however, there is a list of words you can’t use (taboo words!) to describe the secret word. You also have one minute to guess the secret word, which makes the game very fun, interesting, and a bit challenging. If your teammates guess the secret word quickly you can draw another card and keep going until the timer runs out. Someone needs to keep track of how many words each team successfully guesses and at the end of the game the points are tallied up to see which team solved more words! This is a great game for people learning English because it challenges them to expand their vocabulary and encourages them to form sentences to help their team guess the correct answer.

  • Pictionary (low – high English level)

Even though Pictionary mostly involves drawing, it does present a great opportunity for some fun vocabulary practice. Try to guess the English word for what your teammate is drawing before time runs out!

  • Scrabble (low – high English level)

This is a classic word game and yet it never seems to get old! Each player selects seven letter tiles at the start of the game (but no peeking!). Use your tiles to create words on the board and select new tiles so that you have seven at all times. Each letter is worth a certain amount of points and the longer/more difficult your word is, the more points you can earn! This game is great for people of all levels of English because you can form simple words to play or complex ones too.

  • Boggle (low to high English level)

This game is like a big interactive crossword puzzle. There’s a small container that holds 16 dice, and each die has a different letter printed on each of its sides. To play you shake the container and scramble up the dice. Once they’ve settled in their place you’ll notice that some of them line up to form words. The challenge of Boggle is to find as many words as you possibly can before your time runs out!

Want to learn more about ways to improve your English? Check out this article on How to Learn English.

5 Ways to Learn English for Free!

learning english79327643There are tons of ways to learn and practice English! Don’t think you have to pay for language classes to improve your speaking skills, learning opportunities are all around you! Check out these 5 ways to learn English for free:

1. Watch Television in English with subtitles

A lot of popular television shows and movies are filmed in America meaning that usually all the characters speak English. If you are able to, set the audio language to English and set the channel’s subtitles in your own language (or vice versa), this will give you the chance to listen to the correct pronunciation of words in English and you’ll be able to understand what the characters are saying as you read the subtitles. As your level of English progresses you can set the audio to English and the subtitles to English, this helps you to catch every word of the conversation if the characters are speaking too quickly.

2. Language Exchange

While you’re studying abroad in the USA you can take advantage of knowing a foreign language by offering a language exchange. A language exchange consists of two (or more) people meeting and speaking in two different languages; if you’re meeting for an hour you can speak for 30 minutes in Spanish (for example) and 30 minutes in English. Another option is to spend one full hour speaking one language and the next time you meet, speak the other language for an hour; this give both people the chance to practice the language they are interested in learning. Use social media, friends, flyers, or a school newsletter to spread the word that you’re interested in sharing your language. You can choose topics to discuss for each meeting, like current events, books, movies, cultural traditions, etc. or just let the conversation flow and chit chat about your lives. This is a free way for two people to practice a language they are interested in learning and a great way to make new friends!

3. WRITE it down!

Carry a notebook with you throughout the day; if you’re in class and your professor or friend mentions a word you don’t understand write it down and look up the definition later. Write down words you hear on television, in songs, during the day, or written in the streets. Eventually after you’ve written the same word a few times it’ll start to stick in your memory and you’ll be able to remember it the next time you see it.


If you’ve got an issue with remembering vocabulary consider labeling everything in your home. Just stick a posted-note with the English translation everywhere you possibly can; after a week you’ll remember words like spatula, oven-mitt, and all those other random words that are so difficult to remember!

5. Top 40 Translation

A lot of the top songs currently playing on the radio are in English. Look up the lyrics to your favorite tune and translate it into your native language. You can use a dictionary and Google Translate for help. Once you understand what the song’s lyrics mean you can learn the words and sing along – this is also a good way to help you learn the correct pronunciation too!

Want to learn more about ways to improve your English? Check out this article on How to Learn English.