Chinese is a complex language that attracts more and more learners every year.

Spoken by more than 1.4 billion people, it is one of the most widely spoken languages in Australia, aside from English of course.

The fascinating culture attracts many people on a daily basis. Increasing numbers of young people are turning to China for better job opportunities with promising companies.

Learning Mandarin has become a real asset for future generations.

  • What path do you need to follow when you want to secure a job as a private Chinese tutor?
  • When should you start learning the language?
  • Where can you pursue your education?

Here are some answers to the questions you might have before you start teaching private Chinese classes.

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Is it Absolutely Necessary to Have Formal Qualifications to Tutor in Chinese?

While it is essential to have a bachelor degree in education to become a teacher, and at least a major in the language and culture of China, private tutors do not need this level of qualification.

Is this a bonus for the student who does not like to study?

Not quite. You should still think about obtaining some level of qualifications. Even if a formal degree is only rarely requested, it can still be an advantage to prove to your students the level you have acquired and your education background.

Qualifications and teaching experience can make bring in amazing clientele to your Chinese classes.

In addition, you will need to be proficient with the theoretical aspects of the language, such as phonetics, vocabulary, and writing, and you will need to know how to explain them to each student.

As a private teacher, you will also need to be familiar with the curriculum your students are learning, and the education resources they use in their course.

Maybe you're looking for jobs for ex-teachers? Tutoring could provide the answer.

Most of your Chinese language students will expect you, as the teacher, to know how to guide them and assist their learning in the following ways:

  • what tone to use
  • how to count
  • what vocabulary to learn
  • how to write Chinese characters (pinyin)
  • how to use the pinyin.
Where can I learn Chinese writing?
If you can read Chinese writing, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the culture as well as the language. | Source: Unsplash - Sarah White

You can either be self-employed or start working as part of a tutoring organisation.

Tutoring companies are often located in larger cities and offer Chinese language learning as both group and individual classes.

Each company has its own rules but most prefer their tutors to have a degree before they offer them a job.

If you prefer working for yourself, you can post ads on platforms like Superprof. You simply need to create a profile and show your resume, but no teaching degree or other qualification is required for you to join. 

Many university students also look for jobs as private tutors to gather teaching experience or to make ends meet.

If you're a native Chinese student, in Australia learning English at university, you may also wish to look for jobs tutoring your native language, whether Mandarin or Cantonese.

Discover more about how to set up your Chinese language tutoring classes.

When Can We Start Learning Chinese at School?

Vocations and passions sometimes start at a young age. Can you start learning Chinese from an early age at any schools?

Mandarin is fast becoming one of the most studied languages in Australia and is one of the 16 languages listed in the Australian Curriculum. An increasing number of schools even offer Chinese at the primary level.

Although not overly common, there are a number of schools that also offer a bilingual immersion-style program. This is where teachers provide some lessons in Chinese and others in English. Interestingly, a growing number of bilingual schools are in the primary sector, recognising the importance of language learning at a young age.

The International Chinese School in Sydney is well known for its quality program delivered in both English and Mandarin. It welcomes young learners from all backgrounds with an interest in China.

Bilingual education is a real opportunity for all learners to develop an open mind and gather knowledge that can help them throughout their lives.

Discover how you can find students for your Chinese lessons.

Where can I find a Chinese English bilingual school in Australia?
At bilingual schools, a student will access the curriculum in both English and Mandarin | Source: Pixabay - Michael Salinger

Some secondary schools also offer bilingual classes, and many include Chinese as a second language as part of their languages curriculum.

For those who have not had the opportunity to take a bilingual class as children, or have a Chinese teacher in their primary school, it is possible to begin your Chinese language journey in Year 7 in any other year following that.

Being exposed to Chinese at any stage of schooling provides a great opportunity for students to develop skills that will be greatly appreciated by international companies.

If there are no schools near you that offer Mandarin, it may be useful to check with private language institutes whether they offer the language. Weekly classes in the language make it possible to follow language courses parallel to your education.

These institutes are also an opportunity to discover Chinese culture — an important element if you are thinking of becoming a teacher.

What Chinese University Degree Should You Pick?

A Year 12 Certificate is not always enough to become a Chinese tutor.

Some students may not have even had the opportunity to learn the language during their compulsory schooling years. University is a way to get everyone up to speed.

However, you will have to have developed independent working strategies because successful university study requires self-motivation. No one is behind you to tell you what to do and when to do it. No one is going to force you to attend your Chinese class.

Before you begin, though, you need to choose the path that suits you the best:

  • A Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Education, Diploma, Masters?
  • A dual degree or one that just focuses on Chinese language and culture?
  • Which will help you tutor in Chinese in the best way possible?

Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese allows you to have an international career. You may end up in the government sector, the private sector, or an international company and you may serve trade, mediation or even specialised translation.

Other degrees, for example, those focusing on language or literature study, lend themselves to teaching or research. It is a good path to follow if you are looking to become a private tutor in Chinese.

What will your curriculum look like?

The focus will be on the history and literature of the language to help you understand the way the language operates and the thinking experienced by its speakers. Courses involve text translation and comprehension, as well as some work on oral expression.

Check out our article on how to attract Chinese students to your class.

Where can I study Chinese literature?
University learners of Chinese language will often read and translate Chinese literature as part of their degree | Source: Pixabay - Miguel A Padrinan

These are the things you must know if you are looking to become a private Chinese tutor.

You should think about giving private lessons at home during your studies. This professional experience will also teach you the basics of teaching. Being a teacher is as hard as mastering Chinese. It takes time to be a good teacher.

Take a few hours a week to run tutoring classes to learners of different ages and skill levels who want to improve their language skills or start Mandarin classes.

Tutoring in Chinese while you are at university allows you to apply the knowledge you are acquiring in the discipline.

Organise conversation classes and place your ads everywhere. It's the perfect student job for a future teacher.

Join the discussion: how much can tutors earn by teaching Chinese?

Living in China Before Teaching Chinese in Australia

Have you thought about studying Chinese in China itself?

This experience could be a big plus on your resume but is also a golden opportunity to discover the Chinese culture firsthand and speak with native Chinese speakers.

Research shows that immersion is often the best way to learn a language and remember vocabulary. Once you are in China, you will need Chinese words to express yourself. The brain tends to retain much more when the words are linked to functioning in your daily life.

How should you go about this linguistic journey?

There are many different ways to pursue your goals. For example, it is possible to become an intern, study directly in the country, go on a language study trip, or even go abroad for a while and find a job.

Today, it is becoming easier for young people to spend some time abroad during their studies. There are scholarships to help students gain access to this kind of experience. China has agreements with many institutions in Australia, as well as sister-city relationships.

How can I study Chinese in China?
Research shows that living and studying in China is one of the most effective ways to improve your language proficiency | Source: Pixabay - Yinan Chen

If you aren't able to make the trip during your studies because your budget is limited, it is also possible to become an au pair. In exchange for housing and food, an au pair takes care of the family's children during the week. This is a solution for going abroad on a budget.

Some people teach English as a Second Language (ESL) in order to earn an income abroad and gain experience while learning the language of the country they are visiting.

Your plans will be made according to your situation and means.

Be aware, however, that when your goal is to teach a language, it is strongly advised you spend some time in the country and immerse yourself in the culture to gain a cultural understanding linked to the language, making your teaching more knowledgable and authentic.

Let's not forget that language often forms the mind of the young student. Understanding Chinese culture is also a way to better understand the Chinese language. Kung-fu lessons, an introduction to calligraphy, studying Chinese medicine, but also, understanding life in the big city or in the countryside are all part of becoming a language teacher.

So go ahead! These are all important parts of becoming a tutor or language teacher.

Don't forget these important steps too:

  • handling day-to-day needs, such as preparing lesson plans and correcting student work
  • obtaining special language resources and programs for your classroom
  • organising special events related to your language and culture classes, such as dance performances, cultural displays, target-language dinners and other events
  • planning and attending parent-teacher conferences and administrative meetings.

As a language teacher, you may travel from classroom to classroom, or you may have your own room, depending on your school's environment. A growing trend in public and private education today is language immersion schools, where students attend all or some core classes such as maths, social studies and language arts in another language all year long.

Have a look at this guide of everything you need to prepare to give Chinese classes.

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Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.