EF’s “REAL Foreign Teachers”: Progress or Dog Whistle?

I spotted this EF advertisement here in Shanghai recently:

REAL English Teachers!!!

The text reads:


  • 100% TEFL/TKT双证上岗
  • 100% 全职教学
  • 100% 大学以上学历

A translation:

At English First, we
only use real foreign teachers

  • 100% TEFL/TKT double certification
  • 100% full-time teaching
  • 100% university graduates

So you see a white face and the promise of “REAL foreign teachers.” Is this some kind of racist ad? No, no, you are mistaken: they’re referring to the qualifications of their teachers, which just happens to be written in smaller type below. It’s just a coincidence that the teacher they chose for the ad is white, right?

This seems like a dog whistle advertisement to me. They’re communicating with the racist segment of their target market while also maintaining plausible deniability.

What do you think?


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I don’t get it. What’s racist about that advertisement?

  2. Potomacker Says: October 12, 2018 at 12:33 am

    There cannot be racism in China because China has no black people. Everybody says so.

  3. Nah. Not racist, just market reality.

    If you asked the company, they’d probably proudly say, “of course we use foreigners”, and “it’s what our customers want”

  4. Just one question : 外教 doesn’t mean foreign teacher ? In this case, does it mean teacher of foreign language ?

  5. Pdwalker, absolutely agree with you. there is not racist, they just proud to use foreigners. I work in China as guest service manager in a hotel, and you know they hired me just because I have European face, i cannot speak Chinese, i cannot solve incoming problems from our guests, but for them just important my white face. I know a case when Chinese English school hired some people from Russia and ex-Soviet countries without high quality knowledges of English. So my conclusion Chinese reflect Europe and US centrism through this way.

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