Teach English and Live Abroad? Your Top TEFL FAQs Answered

Firstly, the demand to learn English is huge… There is an estimated 1 billion learners of English worldwide. In many countries demand for learning English outstrips supply. Learners improve their English in a variety of ways; they attend private language schools, take English classes by phone, learn English in-company and take 1-1 lessons. To meet this need English teachers are in constant demand; preferably with a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other Languages) Certificate. In short, qualified English teachers are needed worldwide now and for the foreseeable future.

Below are 4 questions we are often asked at our language school by prospective EFL teachers.

1) I haven’t got a teaching background. Can I teach English? Most people who train to teach English have no teaching background. They come from all walks of life and jobs. We’ve trained students, chefs, a retired solicitor, nurses, mainstream school teachers, the list goes on and on. A teaching background is not essential. What is helpful is a flexible and friendly personality. While in some countries a degree is necessary to teach and native English speakers are preferred, this is not always the case as it is an enormously wide and varied TEFL world.

2) I can’t see myself teaching large classes of kids. Do I have to? While many can’t imagine themselves in front of a class; a good TEFL certificate will prepare you well for delivering successful lessons. But if teaching English a class is not for you, don’t worry. As mentioned earlier, many learners prefer a 1-1 environment, particularly business people and so you don’t have to teach large classes or children if you don’t want to. You can target the students you want to teach.

3) How do I choose a TEFL course? There are so many out there

You can train to teach English online, in-class or even over a weekend. The choice can be bewildering. Your decision may depend on cost; a good online course costs around 200-400 GBP whereas an intensive 4 week course can be around 1000 GBP. It may depend on where you want to go. In more competitive English speaking countries such as America, Canada and the UK an intensive 4 week CELTA or Trinity is generally advisable. Outside of these countries, an online course can take you far but won’t mean every job is open to you. Whichever you choose, ensure you select an established, accredited provider as a guarantee of quality. The advantage of an online course is that you can combine your general TESOL training with a specialism such as young learners, 1-1 or business so you can get to specialise early, making you stand out from those with a generalised TESOL certificate only and giving you an advantage in employment.

4) What are the prospects like? What can I earn?

While it’s difficult to be exact, as a general rule of thumb you can usually expect to earn enough to live on in Western Europe and live well by local standards in Eastern Europe. Some of the best contracts can be found in Japan, China and South Korea and the very best in the Middle East. Teaching English is not generally a source of great wealth in itself although there are other interesting off-shoots. Our TEFL graduates have opened their own schools and franchises, established lucrative freelance networks of 1-1 students, written TEFL books and gone into management. To check out typical demand, pay and contracts in your country of choice, try typing ‘TEFL jobs Japan’ into a search engine, for example. This simple method of research will give you valuable insights into what to expect. A reputable TEFL school should also be able to give you an overview and advise you on what course is the best fit for your dream location. We advise many in this way every day.

It is not just money and the possibility of living abroad that make TEFL so appealing. EFL teachers can carve out part-time teaching to fit around their family commitments or to supplement a retirement income or other job. The flexibility of TEFL is often part of the attraction.

Your next step

If you think TEFL might be for you, explore your visa options via the consulate or embassy and research typical pay and conditions via the web – or contact any good TEFL school for an overview of what to expect in your country of choice. Enroll on an accredited TEFL/TESOL training course and you will be one step nearer to starting your new life overseas. Teaching English can be a wonderful way to live, teach and earn abroad as well as personally enriching and rewarding. Thousands embark on this new career every year. Could you be one of them?

Louisa Walsh is passionate about teaching English and is partner in TEFL teacher training company Global English http://www.global-english.com/ She is also Manager of Phone English; an online English training school where you can learn English by phone http://www.phone-english.net/Englishforspecificpurposes.html for interview English, business or general English training.