Things you should know before teaching English abroad


Have you ever thought about living in another country? The excitement of learning a new language, culture, meeting exciting people, and discovering unique sights is appealing to many. However, often the cost or fear of the unknown deter most people from considering the possibility of moving to another country. Nevertheless, what if you knew you could gain steady employment at a job that is both rewarding and engaging?

Teaching English abroad offers anyone who speaks English fluently the opportunity to live in a different country. There are literally thousands of job opportunities available for people who are willing to acquire a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. If you are considering this possibility or want to find out more, here are a few tips that will help you make a decision that could change your life in so many positive ways.

1. You are Needed

Millions of people want to learn how to speak English. Over two billion people speak English, so it is the largest language by several speakers and the third largest language by the number of native speakers.

With so many people wanting to learn the language if you are fluent or a native speaker, you can find employment. In fact, many countries do not require a degree to work as an instructor teaching the language. Of course, it is essential to find out about each country’s different requirements, but you would be surprised how many countries are desperate to find native English speakers willing to teach.

Also, you do not need to be bilingual to teach abroad. Since so many people have a grasp of the English language, getting around another country is not difficult. You can ask someone for assistance or use the many translation apps to help you get around your new home. Also, experience traveling abroad is not needed to take a job teaching English. Remember, this is an adventure for you, and teaching English is helpful to the many students who want to learn your native language, so everyone wins.

2. Research

Before you uproot your life and leave on your adventure, make sure you do your research. You want to find out about the country and culture, but you also want to find out about the program options. You can easily find articles about the various programs available. Try to narrow it down to two or three possible programs and then look at the articles about the country itself.

Deciding on the program must come first because you want to make sure you are getting paid adequately. You also need to check out the time commitments as well as where you might actually live. Does the program provide housing? Is the salary enough for you to rent, eat, and enjoy? The more research you conduct, the more likely your adventure will be successful.

TEFL Certification

Although you do not need prior teaching experience or a degree, you cannot begin teaching English without some credentials. A TEFL certification such as Cambridge CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL or any reputed 120 hours TEFL course gives you the “passport” you need to start  teaching English abroad. This certification is recognized and mandatory in most countries. Many organizations that offer a certificate will also help place you in a position. So, again, do your research. You want this experience to meet your needs, so choose the certification program that gives you as much or as little assistance, you need to make this adventure a success.

First, make sure you find an accredited teacher training program. The program will help you understand the necessary skills for teaching 4 to 6 classes each day. They will provide you lesson plans and teaching tips. After all, along with your English fluency, you also need to understand how to teach students of all ages. You would not want to stand in front of a class without a plan. TEFL courses will provide you with games, activities, and lesson plans, so you are prepared for your new position.

However, you should not need to pay thousands of dollars to get your TEFL certification and job placement. The TEFL certification program typically costs under $1200, and some programs offer discounts. Many courses are now online so that you can begin on any day at any time. Once you have your certification, you do not need to pay to have someone or a program find you a job. With so many countries in need of English teachers, you can find a position through job boards, recruiters, and online resources. Using a recruiter can help find jobs and set up interviews. Again, you must do your research to ensure the recruiter is reputable.

Timelines and Money

Each country has its procedures for interviewing and its timeline for hiring, although there are always exceptions. Since China has a high demand for English teachers, they tend to hire year-round. At the same time, Europe tends to hire in September and then again in January.

Some of the larger government-run programs that employ many from the United States and Canada prefer to hire a year in advance. If you are looking to go to Asia, many programs hire year-round yet focus mainly on September and November in connection to the end of their semesters. Many language schools in South America hire year-round but will focus their efforts in February through early April.

Before accepting any position, you must look at the salary and consider if you want to make money or break even enough to enjoy the adventure. If you are going to add money to your savings account and meet your needs of living abroad, you should consider working in major Asian nations. They often provide free airfare and enough income for you to afford expenses and add to your savings account.

Many Persian Gulf countries pay even more but will require a teaching license and experience. If you are satisfied with making just enough money to afford housing, pay bills, and enjoy some entertainment on the weekends, you should consider Europe and Latin America.

Teaching abroad is less about making money and more about the experience, so this decision will depend on your situation and what country and program most appeals to your needs.

Teaching abroad is an exciting possibility for many reasons. Learning about another culture and interacting with people from different backgrounds will enrich your life and expand your perspective. You will also spend time working in a rewarding profession to help people reach their personal goals of improving themselves. If the idea of living abroad intrigues you at all, take the first step and do some research to begin the process of enriching your life.

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This article was originally published in Jan-2021 and was last updated in Jan-2023.

Author: Sarah Williams

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