Scott Sommers, the same guy who previously posted negatively about my school seems to have it out for English teachers in general. I’ve been looking around on his site a bit and noticed that he’s continuing on a theme he’s been on for a while. Have a look at his post about how he feels English teachers are “economic migrants” with a poor future. His overall tone is shockingly negative. At least it’s shocking to an English teacher, such as myself.

Imagine the next generation of the world I am talking about. There will be children of career English teachers born in countries where the major language is not English. Their parents will lack the job skills and education to return to an English-speaking world where their skills in the culture market have no value. They will lack the language skills in either English or Mandarin to become professional workers in either cultural world. Without the legal guarantees of colonialism, such children will not be able to do anything except move down the occupational food chain. They may become workers in restaurants or stores where only low-levels of language skills are necessary. They may even end up working in local industries where foreign language skills aren’t important. Forced out by economic conditions, their parents would have made the wrong choice. Nevertheless, it would have been the best choice they could have made at the time.

Has anyone ever seen this scenario played out? All of the teenage children of English teachers that I’ve met are quite fluent in both English and Mandarin and have very bright job prospects for the future. Can any English teachers raising children in Asia comment on this?

Also, I can’t say for sure what the situation is for Canadians, but as an American, I can say that this description sounds unbelievable, bordering on the ludicrous. When I first came to Taiwan and worked at Sesame Street, I made the equivalent of $15USD per class hour. Since some prep work was required, my real earnings were closer to $12USD per hour. I think I made $12K in my first year. Waiters make more than that. Pizza delivery drivers make more than that. Most waiters and pizza delivery drivers I knew didn’t have college degrees, which are required for all legal English teaching jobs in Taiwan.

In 2004, new graduates accross the US reported an average starting salary of $39,079 a year. American jobs also contribute to social security, and in many cases 401k programs. How many English teachers here make that in their first year? How many can expect the same career growth here as they could at home? Clearly economics is not the primary motivation to travel halfway around the world, live in a foreign-language speaking country, and earn less than half as much money in the process. For me, the money difference was even greater than the average. My earnings were cut down to a sixth of what they were when I was in America. Even now, working my ass off, I still don’t don’t make what I would back home, still don’t have a 401k, and I still don’t have stock options. I didn’t come to Taiwan for the money. I came here for the same reason many people do- I wanted to experience a culture different from my own, study a foreign language and broaden my experiences. Most of us work for economic reasons. That does not mean that we work as English teachers in Asia for economic reasons.

A quick aside: Yes, it’s true that the average salary for liberal arts majors was only 31K starting, but on the other hand it was 51k starting for engineering majors. I’ve met several engineering majors here, though. Even for people who coasted through relatively easy liberal arts majors, the salaries in the US are still much higher, on average, than what they could expect to make in Taiwan. It is possible to make a lot of money here as an English teacher, but it takes just as much work as making even more money back home doing something else would.