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Many feel the call to teach, and plenty more harbour an insatiable wanderlust. Exciting opportunities present themselves wherever the two passions overlap, and at the very least the former can help pay for the latter.

While teaching English abroad can be a life-changing adventure, it�s a daunting prospect and the planning phase kicks up all kinds of questions. Chances are you�ll be looking at a long-term timescale (if not indefinite), so gathering as much information as you can get on what to expect is hugely important.

With that in mind, we�ve compiled the following guide to help you tackle all the issues surrounding teaching English abroad. It should be especially useful for anyone who hasn�t a clue where to start, but those who have done background research will find it serves as a concise overview and may want to skip to the relevant section.

1. Why Teach English Abroad?

Other than being a rewarding experience in its own right, teaching abroad comes with numerous other benefits:

  • - Helps fund travel (or at least keeps costs down with discounted living arrangements)
  • - Looks great on a CV
  • - Improves work skills and gains connections
  • - Possibility of picking up a new language in the host country

Let�s be completely honest: temporarily moving to a very different country and being in charge of teaching people who don�t share a common language is at best nerve wracking and at worst downright terrifying. However, rest assured that you will receive all the training you need beforehand in order to succeed and will be in safe hands once you get there. What�s more, you�ll have gained no end of confidence by the time you emerge from the experience.

2. The TESOL Jargon

When researching courses for the prerequisite training, one thing you will come across are the many acronyms (TESOL, TEFL, EFL, etc.) which are used in the industry and these can be tricky to get the hang of simply due to their sheer number and subtle differences.

Note that the trend is to pronounce all of the below phonetically, i.e. TESL and TEFL become �Tessle� and �Teffle� respectively.

TESL vs. TEFL - TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language and is mainly used in the U.S., whereas TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and is the more popular term in Europe (specifically Britain).

Confusingly, TEFL technically carries with it the assumption that the teaching is carried out in a non-English speaking country while TESL relates more specifically to teaching English in an English country to non-native speakers (e.g. immigrants learning English in the States). Over time however the distinction has all but been dropped, so the two terms are pretty much interchangeable.

Certified TESL/TEFL courses are the most popular entry points for people looking to teach abroad.

EFL/ESL - Refers to the practise of the above.

TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, often used as a catch-all phrase to all aspects of EFL/ESL. It is also the name of the global professional association representing people who work in the field.

ELT - English language teaching/teacher. This is mainly understood to mean teaching English as a foreign language, specifically in non-English speaking regions, rather than a teacher practising in an elementary school.

ELL - English language learner, a student of the above. The less common acronym LEP (limited English proficiency) is sometimes used.

A further breakdown of all the niche terms can be found at: www.tefl.net/ref/terms.htm

3. I�m Ready To Study! What�s Next?

Great! The most popular way of starting the journey is by finding an accredited TEFL or TESOL course (as mentioned, there isn�t much difference between the two). Most courses are run through schools and agencies, so there are plenty of resources online. To start you off, we�d recommend the following resources to find an official course:

  • www.teflcertificationabroad.com/search/united-states
  • www.teflcertificatecourses.com/

You�ll need to decide what will work best for you - there are plenty of reputable online and distance learning courses available as well as in-class placements, both of which will see you earn an official qualification on successful completion of the course. However, some food for thought:

Really think about the options. Online study sounds great, but you�ll be missing out on the chance to mix with other students on a personal level. Not only is the camaraderie good for the spirits, but it can be useful to gain the experience of others while planning the next step.

The course is not famed for being easy. We have no doubts about your commitment to succeed, but it is worth pointing out that the course is seriously hard graft. The pass rates are very high with most accredited schools (90-100% in many cases), but ask anyone who has been through it and they will tell you that it took a lot of work to get there.

Plan your time. This is especially important if distance learning as you�ll be running off your own steam, but either method requires good time management as you�ll be studying intensively for the best part of four to six weeks.

There�s nothing stopping you going abroad right now. Chances are that you�re itching to get on the plane right now, and the thought of four weeks in a classroom is nearly unbearable. The good news is that there is no reason why you can�t go to your target country and complete your TESOL/TEFL course there - while you obviously won�t be teaching immediately, it gives you a great opportunity to settle in and get to know the country better.

Other great resources for gaining TEFL/TESOL certification include:

  • www.cactustefl.com/
  • www.i-to-i.com/
  • www.tesolonline.com/
  • www.americantesol.com/
  • www.tesolcourse.com/
  • www.worldteflschool.com/
  • www.ontesol.com/
  • www.teflcorp.com/
  • www.teflinstitute.com/
  • www.bestteflcourse.com/
  • www.eccthai.com/

TEFL students

4. Will I Be Able to Find Work After Qualifying?

It�s perhaps easier to find a work placement now than at any other time in history, since the demand for language teachers in non-English speaking countries is growing with no signs of slowing down. Depending on who you studied with, many TESOL/TEFL schools guarantee job placements or at least work closely with you in order to find one.

Such agencies have built up a wealth of strong contacts over the years which will help immeasurably, but even if you have to find work yourself, we�d be very surprised if you didn�t find a job quickly. After all, there are an estimated one billion learners currently studying and only so many teachers to go around.

On the off chance that you do struggle, be sure to hit up the various language schools in your target country with some phone calls (or polite emails if you�re concerned about international call charges). Needless to say, make sure your own English skills are in check when making contact - sending out a typo-ridden email to a language school will not stand you in good stead!

While it�s not suitable in some cases, we can�t overlook the fact that some teachers seen tremendous results getting out there before finding work. It is very easy to network and make connections in person though this approach to travelling comes with the obvious risk of being stuck without work.

Ten great resources for finding TESOL jobs:

  • www.esljobsworld.com/
  • careers.tesol.org/
  • www.jobs.edufind.com/
  • www.totalesl.com/
  • www.eslemployment.com/
  • www.tesol-direct.com/tesol-jobs
  • www.eslbase.com/jobs/
  • www.tefljobplacement.com/index.php
  • www.transitionsabroad.com/
  • teachinternational.com/new/index.php

Thai kids

5. Where Should I Go and What Can I Expect?

By far the most popular location for teaching English as a foreign language is Asia - countries like Cambodia, Laos and Taiwan have seen massive growth in this area, and the staples of South Korea, Hong Kong and China remain hugely popular.

However, don�t limit yourself! There are a number of excellent countries which serve as great teaching and travelling destinations. Here�s a summary of the various hotspots and what to expect, as well as a few ones to think carefully about before taking the plunge:

Latin America: Getting a working Visa can be difficult, but once you�re in you are almost guaranteed to have a happy experience. Brazil and Uruguay are great for teaching prospects and the money can be good, but we wouldn�t rule out Peru either (mainly low-paid orphanage work, but its quality as a travel destination can eclipse this).

South Korea: There�s no shortage of work here and it�s a great country to visit. What�s more, the salaries are high compared to the cost of living (we recommend living outside a big city and commuting in). Make sure you have a good contract with a proper institution however as this is a common pitfall here.

Russia: Since it�s very overlooked by new teachers, the demand for staff in Russia is through the roof and jobs often come with a lot of enticing perks. Make sure your contract is very sound before agreeing to it, though.

Mexico: You may need to combine your TESOL certificate with other higher education (usually a university degree as a minimum) in order to get work and the country is famous for being a bureaucratic nightmare, but once you�re in the benefits of being in Mexico don�t really need stating! There is some political unrest within the country at the time of writing this, so be sure to check with your embassy before making plans.

Thailand and Japan: We�ve grouped these two as they are very similar with regards to teaching English abroad and are two of the most popular locations. The main plus points to consider: very high demand for teachers (you don�t even need TESL certification for many jobs), safe travel, stunning scenery and friendly locals. The main negative would be the low wages in real terms, especially if you plump for Tokyo.

Europe: Specifically, Paris and Prague specifically are hot destinations for teaching but the entry requirements are usually quite high and a basic knowledge of the country�s own language may be required. The benefits of teaching in Europe come from its unparalleled culture, though you will pay a premium for it.

The Middle East: Contrary to what you may think, there is a ridiculous amount of money to be made teaching English here (Saudi Arabia and the UAE are top picks for both money and quality of living, but note that only men can teach here). If we have to explain the possible downsides of teaching and travelling in the Middle East, you probably aren�t fit to teach in the first place!

City life

6. What is the Pay Like?

Let�s face it, in most scenarios you�re not going to become exorbitantly rich teaching English abroad (though there are a few countries where you can make a very tidy sum). The worldwide average monthly salary works out at around $1,790.

Here you�ll find a list of various pay scales by region. However, this is by no means definitive; salaries can change massively depending on experience, individual contracts and a whole host of other factors, so take these as a rule of thumb only.

All monthly averages are in U.S. dollars. Here�s some of the best and worst, but remember that the country�s cost of living will have a massive impact on the actual value of your salary.

  • Kuwait: $5,389
  • United Arab Emirates: $4,778
  • Oman: $3,900
  • Japan: $3,226
  • Saudi Arabia: $2,963
  • France: $2,510
  • Malaysia: $2,329
  • Taiwan: $2,257
  • South Korea: $2,004
  • Spain: $1,652
  • Czech Republic: $1,644
  • Kazakhstan: $1,600
  • Poland: $1,447
  • Thailand: $929
  • Mexico: $789
  • Ukraine: $655
  • Cyprus: $600
  • India: $510
  • Albania: $500
  • Peru: $467
  • Honduras: $200
  • Pakistan: $116

For a more detailed breakdown, be sure to visit: www.esljobsworld.com/esl-salary-calculator/

Beach teachers

7. Where Can I Find Others Who Have Taught English Abroad?

While they�re indispensable, all the facts and figures in the world don�t stack up to personal accounts of those who have taken the plunge. A little while back we highlighted some of our favourite TESOL blogs written by people on the road. They are consistently not only insightful but incredibly entertaining, too:

  • www.teflnewbie.com/
  • spaintheblog.blogspot.com/
  • www.all-about-teaching-english-in-japan.com/
  • www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/work/esl/index.shtml
  • www.aclipse.net/
  • www.myseveralworlds.com/
  • blog.torgodevil.com/
  • www.uvolunteer.org/volunteer-life/
  • teflblog.tefl-tesl.com/
  • www.esljobproject.com/


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