How To Teach ESL In China

Here is a detailed step by step guide on how to teach ESL(English as a Second Language) in China, would it be great news to also know that not only can you teach ESL in China but also be a specialised subject teacher? I started off as a science teacher because, by qualification, I am a science teacher. Should you be a qualified teacher and have majored in a specific school subject other than English. You can also teach it in English, that’s the advantage.


There is a misconception that when people come to China to teach (especially English native speakers) they come to teach English only. You will be surprised by how some people are teaching Art and some like myself teach science (at my previous job). If you may find that you are not that keen on teaching someone how to speak English and have a specific school subject that you are more passionate about or have majored in, please do not limit yourself to the only one common option. Sometimes you may find that school subject job opportunities pay way better than just teaching English.

So in terms of teaching a school subject. I am taking that these schools are usually international schools and they have kids who are already having more of their school subjects taught in English so that they are not only familiar with English through the English subject but more on the application of the English language in vast aspects of the students daily lives like the subjects that they learn in school.

Please note, this will mostly be applicable to South Africans. To teach in China legally, you need to be a degree holder and we are not trying to do anything illegal here.

Let’s get to it already!

What You Will Need

  • A degree.
  • A valid passport.
  • A Police Clearance Certificate.
  • A TEFL Certificate.
  • A medical report.

Step 1


Pack your confidence with you as nicely as you possibly could because you are going to need it. As shallow is it may sound you need to have such great unshakable confidence. Confidence to pass those interviews and get what you are asking for because it is pretty much possible to get what you are asking for but it is usually deemed as impossible especially for first-timers. Of course, don’t be too unrealistic but ask for what you believe you deserve.

Confidence to survive in China because in most cases as soon as you get to China the only thing that could keep you standing is likely your confidence. You will need to have confidence in what you do and how you do it. Confidence in how you look especially if you are not Asian no matter your skin colour you will be stared at like you are something edible – well maybe stinky. Sometimes you might think it comes from a place of disgust but I have learnt that the Chinese hardly ever mean harm, they are usually just clueless harmless people. Kids will bump into you in corridors, at malls or in the streets and point at you and laugh or some will even cry.

Is it just ignorance?

You need to have enough confidence to know that most of these happenings centred around you have nothing to do with you but with little exposure to what is happening outside of China. Most of them do not know that there are people that could possibly look so different from them as you do, speak differently and even eat differently – yes eat.

Trust me it’s got to be number one on your list. I am a sucker for confidence. It works like a charm and I just think everything you do with confidence has greater chances of turning out well if not great.

Step 2

Apply for a Police Clearance Certificate

Apply for a Police Clearance Certificate at your nearest police station. If you do not mind travelling to Pretoria or live near the South African Criminal Records Centre in Pretoria do that especially if it is urgent. In a case where you already have a job offer, it’s quite faster. All you will need to do is produce the job offer letter to speed up the process. But let’s say in a world where you follow through these steps.

Once you have packed your confidence, apply for your Police Clearance certificate because most of the time it takes it’s sweet time for you to receive it. You could obviously be delayed from that so apply with enough time to spare. You may receive it in 4 – 6 weeks depending on the logistics of the police station you have applied from and how busy it is. Straight from The South African Criminal Records Centre, you may receive it within 2 weeks or a month.

Step 3

Enroll For A TEFL Course

Some schools do not require you to have a TEFL Certificate if you are a professional educator but most will still do. I don’t know what’s with Chinese recruiters and a TEFL Certificate but they just like it so much it’s like you just said you a PHD hahaha. Anyway, I would suggest you get it either way and there is never a loss in adding to your credentials.

I think it’s also a very easy yet time-consuming course and you might find it as fun as I personally did. You could also complete it in a month if you are busy but investing as much time possible into it. Some people have said that they completed it in two weeks. It took me a month because I was very busy with work but invested my time as much as I could. Visit Daddy’s Deals for the one I trust and enrolled in. Quite affordable and accredited too. If you know of any good ones go ahead.

Step 4

Download WeChat

This step is often overlooked and it is one of the most important since a lot of recruiters can communicate with you from the App efficiently and connect you with schools easily from there. It can be a huge problem getting your WeChat up and running for a lot of reasons that I am not so sure about but should it give you hassles. I would suggest you have other communication means up and running to make sure you are ready for interviews because they are going to occur online. Communication means like Skype and your email. Make sure they are working and all set and ready for anything at any time.

Step 5

Make An Introduction Video

Make an eye-catching introduction video. Recruiters and schools will always ask for your introduction video every time they contact you so make sure it is ready. Remember the confidence you needed to pack? Do you see how it’s going to follow you? Yep. Make sure you are confident and you speak well, they just want to hear how you speak most of the time. Take precise note of the length of your introduction video. Try to make it nothing longer than 5 minutes – let’s say you are a person of many words. Make sure you look good like you are going to an interview. Keep it short and straight to the point.

What needs to be in your introduction video

  1. Greet and state your name. Age is usually a choice ( I usually do).
  2. State where you come from.
  3. State your profession.
  4. Your experience as a teacher or in the working place and how that will help you going forth.
  5. Your interests – in relation to the job or somehow know it will boost your chances of getting the job.
  6. You can also state your qualities and how they influence your work.
  7. Say your goodbyes – it’s just good manners. You never know where those could take you.

 Step 6

Apply For Jobs

You don’t want to wait until the last minute to apply for a job. More especially because I would personally advise you to do your research on what city in China you would like to work in and have a salary expectation according to the city’s cost of living. Every city has a different cost of living and the salary does sometimes depends on that so put that in mind while not putting your expectations way too low ( I mean, money money and more money).

Joining Facebook Groups will also help with what to expect from city to city. One group that also helped me a lot was South Africans Living In China. If you have a question or any random question you can go to the group and firstly use the search bar then if there isn’t an answer to your question you can personally ask questions in the group. There is always someone ready to help. It’s a great interactive group to be a part of. Please just remember to be respectful to others as well.

How To Apply

You can visit Teach Away and Serious Teachers and create a profile there. It might take a little while but I suggest you do. It helps with giving you an idea of what to expect when you lay down your expectations to your recruiter. This also just aids you better chances of getting a job that suits your preferences rather than taking whatever comes your way.

Look for options on Facebook groups

Another option could be asking for legit recruiters from the Facebook group I suggested. you can also just go to the search bar and type ‘Legit recruiters’ or something along those lines and you will just find a variety of options to choose from. Read on them and see if people do recommend them or not and go for the most recommended. Add them on WeChat or whatever means of communication may have been provided and take it from there.

Step 7

Authenticate And Legalize Documents

Documents you will need:

  • Degree
  • Police Clearance Certificate
  • TEFL Certificate
  • SACE – If you are a professional teacher

Suggested Options

What I did was wait until everything was ready because I was shying away from the back and forth caused by my documents coming in one by one. Once My police clearance and my TEFL certificate arrived I then hired a lawyer to do the whole process of authenticating and legalizing the documents for me.

I am a very clumsy person especially when it comes to things I don’t understand. If you are like me and don’t mind paying I would suggest you go the route of hiring someone to do it for you. There are also companies that also do this for people. I would suggest a company or a reputable person do this for you if you are very busy. Bear in mind that these are documents that you wouldn’t want to lose not especially at this stage so be very wary of who you hire for this.


An alternative, the group I suggested you join. There is a lot of information there you can type, ‘ Authentication, Legalize or Attestation’, you should find something. A guideline on how to go about it. I am very much not sure about the steps to take when getting your documents authenticated and I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone.

Step 8

Medical Report

You don’t have to wait for your documents to return to get a medical report. By this time you would be having a recruiter that you are in constant contact with or even have been offered a position. Still get a medical report. There is a specific template for this. Ask your school or recruiter to send it to you. Just make sure you know when it will be valid. The last thing you need is to get it done early for it to be invalid by the time you need to use it.

You will need to take with you, two or more recent ID photos of yourself. Consult about the prices before going. We live in an era where we make appointments online or through a phone call. Ask necessary questions before going and don’t be surprised upon arrival. Ask how much? Whether it’s ok to eat before the checks or not. Stuff like that.

Step 9

Apply For A Visa

Number 9 is my favourite number and this happened to be my most favourite step! Applying for a Visa!!!

Go to your nearest Chinese Visa application centre and apply for a Z visa. This visa will allow you to work legally in China. I don’t know about other jobs but please make sure that you are on a Z visa.

What you need for you Z visa application

  • Authenticated and legalized documents
  • Invitation letter
  • Passport and copies of it.
  • Just take your ID photos just in case you need them

That’s it!

I hope I held your hand the best way possible, by this time you probably secured a job and getting ready to leave. All the very best with everything. This might just be one of the best decisions to ever take. Your life might change forever and for the best! To the future! ?✨

Catch the summary down below.

21 Responses

  1. Elize Maela says:

    Hey Mable, how does one decide on a city to work at? I was able to do the comparison on living costs, but what’s the best place to go for? Big Cities or small cities, with your experience

  2. Elize Maela says:

    Dear Mable, I wanted to ask, how do you decide to live abroad, do you search the least racist city? Is that even a thing?

  3. Elize Maela says:

    Wow, this is very well laid out, thank you for this very important information ❤️🙏🏾

  4. Basetsana Direko says:

    Very informative and helpful. Thank you 🙏

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this, very informative.

  6. Senamile Maseti says:

    Thanks dear the information was helpful

  7. Mapitsi says:

    Thank u so much for this hopeful and astonishing guideline, you just brought a bright perspective that I didn’t even begin to imagine💯🔥

    God bless

  8. Precious says:

    Thanks for the informative content. You are indeed selfless ❤️

  9. Asa Dolo says:

    This is amazing girl thank you 😊🥰

  10. Linda says:

    A selfish Queen is what you are.. And just because of that. U are still going places.. Up go very far. Thank you

  11. Mackson Maloka says:

    Mable I’m very proud of u your willingness to explore the world and I’m glad that the place has taught u alot as u’re exposed to an international tech country.

  12. Thandeka Masera says:

    Aaah😍thank you so much, I have waited so long for this content especially from a person I know and wow the quality of your work guurl amazing! . Should there be a YouTube channel im in I hope you are considering. Thank you so much for paving the way for us♥️

  13. Jonas Zibia says:

    Amazing read Mable. On a reviews tab, it’s a five star from me. Keep it up

  14. Motlatsi says:

    I honestly learned a lot today, I have been recruited before and I have been skeptical about it but now you have given me a different view. Thank you Mable

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