How to choose a great Chinese teacher

October 26, 2021

Learning Chinese is not an easy task, so you will want the right Chinese teacher to guide you through the Mandarin learning journey. But how do you choose a great Chinese teacher, what makes a good Chinese teacher, and where do you find good Chinese teachers?

The best Chinese teacher is experienced, has the right educational background, suits your personality and learning style, and will help you build a study plan that is suitable to your goals and needs.

What makes an “experienced” Chinese teacher?

When we hire Chinese teachers at Culture Yard, we look for a couple criteria to determine if a teacher is experienced: educational background, experience teaching to foreigners, English language skills and, finally, we ask a potential teacher to do a demo class.

Teacher teaching in a classroom

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Does a Chinese Teaching Certificate matter?

Many Chinese teachers have a Chinese teaching certificate issued by the Beijing Language and Culture University or from a variety of other organizations. From our experience though, these certificates are very easy to obtain. They require passing a simple theoretical exam and they are not a good measurement of how well a Chinese teacher with such a certificate can teach in the classroom.

Instead, we usually prioritize teachers who have studied for a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in Teaching Chinese to Foreigners (对外汉语), which is quite a common degree in China, or a teacher with a degree in a Chinese language related major, such as Chinese language or linguistics.

Teaching graduate with cap

Photo by RUT MIIT on Unsplash

But even more importantly, we care about the actual experience that a teacher has teaching students. Although credentials should be considered, we prefer to work with a Chinese teacher who has 10 years of experience teaching foreign students but didn’t go to college over working with a fresh graduate that has never taught Chinese before and has only theoretical knowledge.

How much teaching experience is enough and what experience matters more?

From our experience at Culture Yard, you will want to study with a teacher that has at least one year of full-time teaching experience in a reputable institution.

Teachers tend to learn a lot on a job, and teachers who have taught in a good program or in a good school were surrounded by colleagues and supervisors that helped them hone their teaching skills.

Beware of teachers that have only been self-employed or only taught one-on-one students. Be even more wary of teachers whose only experience is teaching their friends.

Teaching Chinese is a serious job that requires many skills. You want your teacher to be able to give clear explanations, to have structure to their classes, to understand where you struggle and why, to include enough review and repetition for you to fully grasp the new learned material, and to have variety in their teaching methods to keep classes interesting and engaging.

Personality matters, a lot!

While teaching qualifications and educational background are very important for choosing a good Chinese teacher, personality matters just as much, if not even more!

Whether you will be studying in-person or online, you will be spending a lot of time with your teacher and you want to make sure that you will get along well. A good personality match is very individual. Some students prefer a teacher that is more serious, some prefer a teacher with a good sense of humor, and for some it is important to share the same interests and hobbies.

Teacher and student laughing

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

One thing we highly recommend is to make sure that your teacher understands your goals and needs. If you need to pass the HSK exam or prepare for an important presentation or job interview, make sure your teacher understands your needs and can help you build the right study plan to reach your specific goal.

Try a class first

When we hire new Chinese teachers, we always ask them to do a demo class first. No matter how good a teacher looks on paper, we can only see how good a teacher really is after seeing them interact with real students.

You can and should do the same. When you choose a Chinese teacher, ask for a demo class or pay for just one class first before you commit.

Alternatively, see if the teacher has any videos on YouTube that can showcase their teaching skills. Look for videos where the teacher is interacting with other students.

Teacher in front of a computer

Photo by Surface on Unsplash

This is the reason we offer trial classes at Culture Yard. To try a free 20-minute private class, fill in this application form. To try a group class, join our “Free Classes” group on Facebook or WeChat (message us to join the WeChat group).

Where to find good (online or in-person) Chinese teachers

While we would obviously be delighted to have you as our student at Culture Yard, there are many other good options for learning Chinese out there.

In China, most major universities have Chinese language programs for foreigners and there are many private language schools in the major big cities. There are also good programs outside of China, just check your local university or Confucius Institute. Finally, you have many teachers on online platforms such as iTalki and Preply.

    General tips for choosing the right school/institution

  • Check the school’s social media, see what content they make, and what students say about the school
  • In China, private schools tend to have better teacher-to-student ratio than universities
  • Outside of China, universities tend to have more experienced teachers than private schools
  • Be careful when choosing a teacher on an online platform like iTalki (anyone can list themselves as a teacher, so make sure to choose a teacher with the right credentials)

We hope that this article will make it easier for you to choose the right Chinese teacher for you. Good luck with your Mandarin studies!