Can you work in China without Chinese?

It's a common query among those hoping to find job in China: Is it possible to do so if you don't speak Chinese? Although there are nuances to consider, the short answer is yes, you can absolutely find job in China even if you don't know Chinese. Sometimes, not knowing Chinese may be a plus!

I know what you're thinking: wtf? That's insane! When I relocate to a new nation, I need to learn the language so that I can communicate with locals and get a job. No one would ever consider relocating to (choose your preferred English-speaking nation) without first learning the language.

Most employment available to foreigners in China, however, do not need fluency in Chinese. Here are the skills that China Daily deems "urgently required" right now:

Managers in large multinational corporations

Experts at the top levels of global accounting, finance, and design businesses

Faculty members with decades of experience and a track record of excellence in science and education

Famous people from the arts, sports, and the sciences, or recipients of prestigious honors

Your expectations are rather high, right? Okay, I get that most of us aren't quite "seniors" of anything just yet (except maybe a senior in college). So, what are the best industries to enter for recent graduates or those with less than, say, 20 years of experience in a certain field?

If you're an expat and you don't have a ton of experience, these are the top 10 positions in Laowai that you can get without much trouble, as ranked by Laowai Careers

Education (English teaching) (English teaching)

IT \sEngineering \sMarketing

Editing and Writing in the English Language

Trading \sAccounting/Finance

Management and Advertising Translation for Hotels

The ability to speak Chinese is not always necessary for these positions. Not being able to speak Chinese may be a significant asset in some professions, such as English teaching or editing/writing in English. Even if their children don't already speak the language, many parents choose to immerse them in an English-only setting in the hopes that their children would pick up the language quickly. Therefore, there is a huge need for instructors who either do not speak Chinese or who are native English speakers with a strong command of the language. And many businesses would rather hire someone who doesn't understand Chinese to perform their English editing and writing because they believe that the language is more likely to be "untainted" and hence more likely to convey the intended meaning.

Since English is in such great demand, I'd say it's the only language you need to know in order to get a job in China. Foreigners entering China are expected to speak English (even if they are not originally from an English-speaking nation), and locals usually switch to English to communicate with them. Even if English isn't your first tongue, you may still make more money as a private teacher by specializing in teaching it to others. The hourly rate is higher than that of any other language, which is why many fluent speakers of other languages, such as the Spanish and Russian I know, choose to teach English instead. Strange reality, huh?

I don't see why not knowing Chinese would prevent you from finding employment in China.

One reason is that Chinese enterprises aren't fussy about foreign workers when they truly need them. They won't pass on an exceptionally qualified candidate because of language barriers, even if that candidate doesn't speak Chinese. And second, most of these institutions already have Chinese staff who can speak decent English and are there to assist new foreign hires acclimate to the demands of their jobs, interpret for them, and make their lives simpler in general.

When hiring in China, what do companies seek?

In conclusion, the following are the top priorities for Chinese employers:

Exposure to a thriving industry and at least one to two years of work history (as listed above)

Skills that can be counted on to be reliably used in real-world situations, such as those found in the disciplines of information technology, science, accountancy, and management

Possessing the flexibility to settle in and thrive in China

Which means, at the very least, that you can communicate in English

The ability to speak Chinese is only a plus unless your work description specifically calls for it (as is the case with me as a translator). From my own experience, though, I can attest that learning Chinese has improved my day-to-day life and made it simpler to connect with coworkers who may feel awkward using English. Further, being able to speak Chinese may give you an advantage in the job market, but it is by no means necessary to get a position that pays well.

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