Andrew has had a love for Chinese culture and language from a young age. So much so, Andrew jumped at the opportunity to move to China and secure a TEFL job teaching English in Shanghai. From there his story and experience grew. From being an English teacher to a Chinese-English translator, Andrew has lived the life some only dream of.

Tell us about yourself! We’d love to know about your background, what drew you to a TEFL job in the first place?

What drew me to teaching English was being exposed to the Chinese language and culture as a child. Growing up in New York City, I was deeply intrigued by the Chinese language/Chinese culture. I first saw this in Manhattan’s Chinatown, where my father took me in the late 1950s when I was a child of about 5 years old.

The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China in 1979 created the first opportunity of visiting China. It also presented the possibility of working there. After graduating from Columbia College in the 1970s, I enrolled in the Columbia Teachers College TESOL program that very same year. I did so with an eye to securing one of the TEFL jobs that were just becoming available in the larger universities.

By a remarkable stroke of luck, I secured a position for a TEFL job teaching in a leading university in Shanghai, in May 1980, before I even had a chance to sit the final exam. Lack of this certificate was not remedied until 40 years later, in April 2020, when I enrolled in the Premier TEFL 120 Hour Advanced TEFL Course.

Andrew at computer in 1985
Beijing Hotel,1985. Deputy Representative National Council for US-China Trade.

Do you prefer to teach online or in-person? Why?

The flexibility is wonderful. Besides working as an English teacher, I am also engaged in freelance work as a Chinese/English translator and editor. Teaching on-line permits me to mix and mingle these two pursuits.

Can you tell us about your career previous to teaching with TEFL jobs? Have you been able to transfer those skills to teaching English?

In my case, it was exactly the reverse. The great leap I achieved in my TEFL job in Chinese language skills, teaching English at Fudan University in 1980/81 was such that I was able to secure a position as a translator/editor in a Beijing-based Chinese publishing house in 1982. This was the cornerstone on which I subsequently built a career. First working for the US-China Business Council in Beijing, and then subsequently transferring the expertise which I developed in doing mainland China-focused market research to the more specific subject of working in the field of real estate services related to research and consulting, in the Greater China area (i.e. mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan). 

You took a break away from teaching, what brought you back?

Andrew chose to answer this with a song that reflects his thoughts.

“Come all brother tradesmen that travel along
O pray, come and tell me where the trade is all gone
Long time have I traveled, and I cannot find none
Chorus
And sing all the hard times of old England
In old England, very hard times
Provisions you buy at the shop, it is true
But if you’ve no money, there’s none there for you
So what’s a poor man and his family to do?”
(Steeleye Span)

Test your English skills

You have so much experience with TEFL jobs already! Can you tell us the motivation behind completing the 120 Hour Advanced TEFL Course as an already experienced teacher?

In 1979, I had nearly completed a course in TESOL at Columbia University Teacher’s College, in New York City. I was nearly finished the course when a visiting scholar from Shanghai Fudan University offered me a TEFL job. He offered to write me a letter of recommendation for an audition for a teaching position there.  I met and befriended this scholar in a linguistics class at Columbia and they happened to be head of the Fudan Foreign Languages Department. In May 1980, I hopped on a flight to Shanghai, passed the audition, and did not look back for the next 40 years. 

How do you feel the 120 Hour TEFL Course will enhance your teaching skills and earning power?

For more the 120 Hour TEFL Course was a great door-opener. It provided access to the full spectrum of skills and competencies that must be acquired to become a good EFL teacher. It also alerted me as to how much there was still to learn. Taking the 120-hour course, therefore, sparked a desire on my part to sharpen my on-line teaching skills for a TEFL job. I also wanted to strengthen my grasp of English grammar to the point where I teach it to others – and techniques for doing this in an engaging manner.

You’ve also enrolled in our TEFL-Pro specialism courses including teaching IELTS and advanced grammar. What attracted you to study these?

Since the onset of the COVID Virus Pandemic, so many talented people are at loose ends or under lockdown. The market for online TEFL jobs has become more competitive. If you really want to create a satisfactory career in the on-line teaching field, it behooves you to carve out a more specialized niche, such as teaching very young learners, or providing tutorial support for sitting for the IELTS or TOEIC exam.

Andrew Ness working as a translator
Working at the Foreign Languages Bureau, Beijing, 1984, Translating China ABC into English

What advice do you have for someone considering a career teaching English as a foreign language? 

I would advise people that they are more apt to create a satisfactory career out of TEFL if their interest in teaching is also grounded in some specific interest in another culture/or language. Then actually living in that culture and language, to the point where one becomes highly bilingual. Not only does this provide much deeper insights into obstacles that pose to learning English, but in becoming more multicultural oneself, doors swing open to opportunities which would have never emerged, had one simply stayed at home.

Andrew has been teaching English nearly his whole life and has never looked back. Despite having so much experience already, he felt he needed to do a TEFL course to widen his teaching prospects and skill set. If you have a dream like Andrew did’, but no teaching experience, then a hybrid course with teaching practicum might be exactly what you need!

💡 Are you thinking about upskilling your career? Having difficulty picking a course? Leave your questions below in the comments box, we would love to hear from you! 🙂