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How to Teach English as a Foreign Language

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TEFL Jobs Abroad


Ideally, to teach English as a foreign language, the prospective teacher should have a degree and a recognised TEFL certificate; though a degree, in any subject, would satisfy many language school owners.


Anywhere that people want to learn English from a native speaker. Though only experienced, qualified teachers will be able to teach in English speaking nations.

In some countries, teaching English is virtually the only job you will be able to find. Asia, for example, has no need of dishwashers or waiters; its own masses can fill those jobs for far less than we can survive on. Japan is a popular choice for TEFLers, and Taiwan, South Korea and - to a lesser extent - Thailand are equally keen to obtain your god given skill of speaking English. In the past ten years private schools have mushroomed across China representing some of the best opportunities for finding a teaching job.

Outside of Asia opportunities are not quite so great but Eastern Europe has embraced the English language as a way to get ahead after years of Russian lessons. In Africa and South America, like Asia, English teaching is the easiest or only chance of finding paid work.

At it's most basic level, teaching English to a class of either children or adults involves the "chalk and talk" method; standing at the black or whiteboard and writing and speaking only in English. Language school owners tend to discourage use of the local language (some of which you'll pick up after a while).

Adults and children are, of course, entirely different and teaching to one group will be different to the other. Other factors to consider are the level of English of your students, which may vary drastically, and their willingness to learn. Many teachers face the dilemma of whether to press ahead with advanced topics for a minority of able learners or to teach the basics to the less advanced students. Also some schools, particularly in Thailand or China, will expect teachers to pass EVERY student in the class.

Teaching can be both a rewarding and stressful experience and the work doesn't always stop once you step outside of the classroom. Whether you teach on a one to one basis to a polite businessman or to a large, unruly class of spoilt kids, lesson planning will play a major role in your life. Expect to start accumulating materials such as songs, games and pictures.

Some schools will snap up any native speaker who doesn't mumble, no qualifications needed. But you also run a higher risk of being employed by a shark, working for a fly by night organisation that is slow to pay your wages, if at all. And of course working at the bottom pays a bottom wage.

A degree will vastly improve your chances of getting work, so take your certificate, or a copy, with you. Teachers are expected to teach only in English so a foreign language is not required.

The number of TEFL sites on the web gives an indication of how big this industry is, though you will face competition from other worker travellers. If you're serious about financing a stay abroad or a world trip through teaching English, look towards getting some qualifications. The benefits include a greater chance to find work, earn higher wages and work for good schools.

An introductory TEFL certificate can be taken for a couple of hundred pounds. Even better is a recognised industry qualification such as a CELTA diploma or TESOL certificate. These can cost around £1000 and take several weeks to study but vastly raise your prospects.

Often a fortune compared to the local population, though in Japan, for instance, extortionate rents can eat into your wages. Private tutoring can bring in a higher hourly rate but commuting to clients' homes will ensure you can't work too many hours, whereas a fixed number of hours and a set wage will mean your hourly rate is lower. The price paid for more hours and security. An alternative, mentioned earlier, is to teach English to a family in return for your keep.

Finding Work
Most schools would prefer to hire a teacher face to face. They fear broken promises from teachers as much as teachers do from the schools.

A number of organisations can arrange work in advance, particularly in developing countries. Using the internet, or a TEFL guidebook, is the best method to locate them.

Get qualifications if you intend to do more than pick up work on a casual basis.

Further Information
Susan Griffith's Teaching English Abroad (Vacation Work) is our favoured choice. The latest edition and other books on Teaching English are available from

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