Teach English Abroad

Three Things to Get You Started

You hate your job. You hate your town, your apartment. You hate your debt. You hate your student loan, your credit card balance. Maybe you hate your car – well you don’t hate it, but you hate sitting in it during your hated morning commute. Maybe you even (gasp!) hate your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Ok, now substitute the word “hate” for “dislike,” “am sick of,” or “need to get rid of.” To me, any of these is unacceptable. If more than a few are true for you, then it’s time to do some serious thinking.

Now, see if any of these are true: You love to talk. You love to listen. You love to travel. You love adventure. You love people. You love children. You love money. Or, you don’t love money but love living simply.

This little mental exercise is your first step to becoming an ESL teacher in a foreign country. It’s a lifestyle choice and a commitment. Your contract will be for a year or more. You will leave friends, family, and comfort behind. You might not like the food, the culture, your apartment, or your job. Many people do ESL for one year, and take the money and run.

Three things to know before you pursue a career in ESL (English as a Second Language) are what qualifications you need, how to get a job, and what to expect for pay.

What Qualifications Do You Need?

The basic requirement is a four-year bachelor’s degree in anything. They will want to see your original diploma and transcripts, so make sure you bring them and copies with you.

For better job prospects, a TESL/TEFL/TOEFL/etc. certificate will help. TESL stands for “Teachers of English as a Second Language.” There are variations – TEFL substitutes “Foreign Language.” But they mean basically the same thing. You can get a cheapie online and some countries might go for it. Or you can take a course that is recognized by some organization, like TESOL Canada.

Take a look at some ads for teachers in the country you are interested in to get an idea of what they are looking for, though you might find that the best jobs require experience. Dave’s ESL Café (Daveseslcafe.com) is a good resource.

How Do You Land a Job?

You can check classified ads like on Dave’s ESL Café. Where you want to go? Asia, Europe, Latin America? The best pay and most job opportunities are in the three most developed countries of East Asia: Japan, Korea, or Taiwan. But jobs are available everywhere if you are willing to put in the extra effort finding them (and maybe take a pay cut).

After checking out lots of online classifieds for a specific country, you might get an idea of what qualifications or experience they are looking for. Then, if you are feeling adventurous, you can fly to that country and hit the streets. That’s what I did here in Mexico. But it's totally possible to get the job before you leave home.

A question I hear a lot is if you need to speak the language of the country you will be teaching in. The answer is absolutely not. In fact, you will be a better teacher if you only use English, even if you are teaching ESL to beginners.

What Can You Expect?

You can expect stress, maybe homesickness, possibly broken contracts. Remember to be as patient as possible – you will deal with a culture that may take some time to fully understand. After a year you still might not know what’s going on. But, make sure you get what you have been promised, especially if you agreed to a contract while still back home.

In the Asian Tiger countries you can expect to have your flight and apartment paid for, on top of a generous salary. In Latin America, China, and Southeast Asia you can expect low wages, low expenses, and a rich cultural experience. In Dubai and Saudi Arabia you can expect huge tax-free salaries, especially with experience, but some unexpected limits on your freedom. This is really your biggest question, where to go. The rest is up to you.

If you are teaching English somewhere out in the world, please share your experience with us!

Class in Vancouver
Credit: T Campbell http://nohaybronca.wordpress.com/
Kindergarten students in Korea
Credit: T Campbell http://nohaybronca.wordpress.com/