TEFL: Working and teaching abroad


Every day millions of people across the globe wake up wishing they could go abroad and experience new cultures and places they have never seen before. There's always the worry of money when dreaming about travelling or moving overseas.  The constant question that people ask themselves is; "How will I survive?" "Will I be able to find a job?".  Little do they know they have the chance to do it without spending a lot of money on a holiday, or on a budget travel adventure.

Teaching English as a foreign language is how millions of intrepid travellers fund their overseas adventures every year. TEFL not only gives travellers the chance to be immersed in an entirely new culture, but to also learn new skills. It is also a way to earn money and live abroad, and see the world.

What is TEFL?

TEFL is simply the teaching of English to non-native English speakers in their home country. TEFL teaching can come in a variety of forms from teaching in state schools, private language centres or working for universities. In some cases, you may even work directly with a business who wants to train and improve their staff's English skills.

English is the preferred way to communicate in the business world and in many countries, the need for English education is extremely high. In some countries such as Japan, South Korea and China, a lot of money is spent by parents and businesses on private tuition to ensure a high level of English. Due to the amount of money that these people are paying, private language schools are abundant and so are jobs for native English speakers. 

Depending on which country you choose to teach in, the packages on offer can be quite lucrative; and rival the salaries of school teachers in the UK. 

How do I get trained?

Firstly, not all countries require TEFL teachers to receive formal certification. However, more and more countries are making it mandatory, if you want to take up residence in the country and receive a work visa. 

In addition, proper training is usually needed for the highly sought after teaching positions. However, it is not always the case. Some countries like South Korea will also require a university degree to teach TEFL; but this can be in any subject. In fact, South Korea has been known to accept university degrees over the presence of a TEFL qualification. 

If you want to get formally qualified to become a TEFL teacher there are a number of courses on offer. These courses can range in time to complete from just a few days to a year long university masters course.

There are also online courses that can be completed in just a few hours. However, these courses are not recognised by a lot of countries as there is no practical teaching hours to complete.

The most popular TEFL courses are the 120-hour CELTA or Trinity TEFL certificates. These give learners the chance to study teaching theory and complete in class teacher training.  I think that this is so important because it gives you a sense of whether you'll actually enjoy teaching, in a foreign country, to foreign students.  When teaching English as a foreign language the style and content that you teach is different to teaching to native English speakers, so it really prepares you for the classroom in the right way.

What does the course involve?

The basic 120-hour course can be completed over an intensive month or part-time over a longer period. The part-time course is perfect for individuals working a full-time job and wanting to complete their TEFL training in the evening in their home country. It is also perfect to do before you go abroad as you can have a teaching job lined up before travelling.

The intensive month long course option is popular with those wanting to travel right away. In most countries, you can travel to the destination and complete the TEFL qualification in that locale. This can be beneficial as you can make contacts to find work in the city or country following the course. This is what I did.

I travelled to Thailand, and carried out my month long TEFL course with TEFL Heaven in Krabi.  It was one of the best months of my life.  I met some incredible people, who years later I still speak to frequently.  The classroom environment really gave me a sense of what to expect whilst teaching, and the course material as well as practical's, really threw me outside of my comfort zone in the best possible way. I overcame my anxiety about standing up at the front of the room and being the centre of attention with all eyes on me.  It made me so much more confident as a person.  The feedback that was given on a daily basis, was so helpful and really allowed everybody to grow and develop to be the best teachers that they can be.  I would highly recommend TEFL Heaven as a company, which is who I used to train with.  They are a fantastic company, that give you the chance to meet incredible people, in a fantastic environment, with great, experienced course leaders & extensive material to aid with learning.  Their growth over the last 2 years speaks for itself, as they are present across Thailand and worldwide.

Where can I go?

The question should actually be: where do you want to go?  Most definitely, A TEFL qualification can take you to an almost endless list of destinations. From the bright neon lights of Tokyo to the barrios of Argentina, there is a teaching position for everyone, everywhere. 

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Depending on where you want to live and teach will depend on how much money you will make. Middle Eastern countries are well-known for paying large wage packets, while countries in Southeast Asia or South America pay less, but offer an amazing adventure. 

Where are the best places to be a TEFL teacher?

The most popular destinations are East and Southeast Asia. Countries like China, South Korea, and Japan have an abundance of jobs, and in some cases you may not even have to have a qualification to work in these countries. 

Packages can included housing and roundtrip airfare, and the salaries offer a high standard of living. However, beware East Asian countries will work their teachers into long hours.

Other popular destinations include Thailand as its non-stop party atmosphere attracts many newly qualified TEFL teachers each year. Southern Europe is another great place to work, but salaries are not usually as well paid as in East Asia. However, you are trading the salary for a slower pace of life and more time to immerse yourself in the culture. 

What should I look out for?

While teaching English as a foreign language is a great job, it can be hard work. Many schools and language centres will get the most work out of you that they can. Remember, you are an investment and foreign teachers come at a high cost to them. 

Beware of agencies that act as a middleman to place you with a school. These groups simply want to get a commission for setting you up with an employer. Therefore, your best interests may not be taken into consideration. 

Double check to see if flights, accommodation or other items are included in the contract. It is also advisable to look online at teaching forums to see what the typical wage package is for the country you wish to work in. 

If you are looking to target particular countries to work and travel in, then join Facebook groups for announcements of TEFL jobs. 

Also check out www.eslcafe.com, www.tefl.org.uk and www.teflheaven.com

Why should I be a TEFL teacher?

Teaching English as a second language is not only a good way to see the world and immerse yourself in another culture, but it can change your life. Whether you decide to continue as a TEFL teacher living abroad or you return home to pursue other interests, it is a learning experience that can't be topped.

As author Mark Twain once wrote: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

So get working on that TEFL qualification and travel the world, give back and earn money all at the same time.