Here in Beijing, it goes without saying that we are surrounded by millions and millions of native Chinese speakers. A good number of these hao pengyoumen are also fairly competent at English. So how should we narrow things down when searching for a new Mandarin tutor?
Our approach? Post an ad to the Weiming BBS, an electronic bulletin board frequented by students here at Peking University. For one thing, this approach would greatly increase the likelihood that our prospective tutor lives nearby. (Have we mentioned that Beijing is a large and congested city? Oh, we have? Bear with us as we continue to belabor this fact over and over...) Also, there's something that just feels right about putting our tutoring cash in the pocket of a student from "our" Beida. (Despite the fact that there's no basketball team, at least none that we know of, we're still getting very attached to the place. Z has already added PKU to the list of colleges he's applying to...)
Literally within minutes of posting, my GMail inbox began filling up. I would be reading one reply, and before I could get all the way through it, another response would have already arrived. All told, there were about forty applications. Now, how to choose from among the pool?
When reading through the e-mails, it was hard to not want to hire every single respondent. For starters, I admired the honesty with which so many students assessed their own English abilities.
Honestly,I am not very well in english...if you still don't have a qualified teacher, perhaps you can pick me.
I hope I can help you and your wife and the two children. But to be honest , I don't think my English is very good and I don't have any teaching experience. I would like to try my best.
And then there were plenty of descriptions of personality traits, which made these faceless (well, I did receive several photographs...) students that much more endearing.
If yor are Iooking for a experimented, easy-going, spirited and gentle lady tutor, I believe I am the person!
By the way, I'm a girl sunny and easy going.
Many applicants, naturally, have English names. And since I just received my Chinese name (which, by the way, I still can't pronounce clearly...every time I introduce myself that way, I just get puzzled looks), I am keen on checking out what names people choose for themselves when going the other way. Here are some examples...
Cecelia (no surname Girolami, though)
Joan (two, actually)
The ever-present Lily
So who did we end up hiring?
We went with experience. Here's a partial resume of our new teacher...
PKU-McGill Chinese Language Enhancement Program 2008 ; lecturer of Class 2 (elementary)
PKU Short-term Mandarin class for Japanese College Students (Waseda, Keio etc) in Spring Semester ; lecturer of Class 3 (elementary) & Class 6(intermediate)
PKU-Yale Joint Undergraduate Program ; Chinese lecturer (written Chinese and Chinese character, advanced)
"Spoken Chinese (beginning level)" in CIEE(US) language study program ; lecturer
LanguageCalls company/Tahugroup company( Hongkong) ;on-line Mandarin tutor(one-on-one)
Wish him luck!