Top Tips for Teaching English as a Foreign Language Abroad

English Teacher with Chalk

Making an informed decision about what you want to do in life, or simply what your next step is going to be after completing A Levels and/or a degree is no easy task. From the current job market and extra-curricular courses to travelling the world, there are numerous options available to young people. An increasingly popular choice at this juncture, though, is to spend a year or two teaching English as a foreign language abroad.

The rewards are plentiful: you can travel to faraway places, absorb new cultures, learn a different language, become a confident and grammatically adept communicator and make some good money while you’re at it.

What is TEFL and how can I get certified?

TEFL, unlike other teaching diplomas, is a vast and ever-expanding industry that draws native or proficient English speakers from all over the world for its promise of adventure. Some young people who decide to enrol in one of the many TEFL courses available use the opportunity as a stopgap before returning home to look for something more closely related to their studies. Others enjoy it so much that they ride the TEFL wave for a few years before heading home.

In any case, you’ll need appropriate TEFL certification to help you find work. There are countless TEFL courses out there, but the most coveted are Cambridge University’s CELTA and Trinity College London’s TESOL courses, which guarantee the very best TEFL jobs. Both can be completed either part-time (over the course of six months) or intensively (four weeks) and offer actual teaching practice as opposed to solely online courses. These courses are run all over the world by participating ELT schools and organisations.

Where are the best job opportunities?

Given that English is the most learned language worldwide, it’s possible to find a teaching gig just about anywhere, but the best-paid TEFL jobs (roughly 1,200€/month) can be found in Europe where there is currently a high demand for exam courses among young people. Teaching English in Spain, France or Italy is a popular choice, given their proximity to the UK and comparatively easier language barriers to overcome.

However you may want to explore further afield and completely immerse yourself in a totally new culture. Teaching opportunities in China, Thailand and Vietnam, for instance, are ample, since native EFL teachers there are high in demand. The typical pay may not be as high as in Europe but the cost of living is much lower, so a relatively lower income is just as sustainable.

It is possible to earn some serious money in oil-rich countries like UAE and Saudi Arabia, where schools and academies often boast of extremely lucrative salaries (£2,000+/month) but be warned; these TEFL jobs often come without the laid-back and enjoyable lifestyle that other parts of the world present.

Who is suited to TEFL and what to expect?

Naturally, EFL teachers are required to be well-organised, creative, attentive to their students’ needs, and above all, patient. For instance, just because you’ve explained the third person use of the verb ‘to be’ 17 times doesn’t necessariluy mean it’s been taken on board. Mistakes are made over and over, and it’s the teacher’s responsibility to slowly and carefully iron these out without losing his/her temper (or the will to live).

In general, the key to making the most of teaching English as a foreign language abroad is keeping an open mind and embracing your new world. Expect to be surprised, enlightened and even shocked at times. There’s a difference to merely passing through a foreign country and actually living in one; with time you begin to understand national customs, habits and behaviours on a deeper level, and eventually you’ll even start to adopt these practices yourself. That is when you feel truly immersed.

What other opportunities might arise from TEFL?

One of TEFL’s most distinct advantages is the grounding it can provide for subsequent career opportunities. Not only does teaching English abroad help you become a stickler for the English language but it also gives you the chance to become a fluent speaker of another language. Consequently, you may be able to pick up blogging, copywriting, proofreading and translation work on the side, which may later turn into something more substantial.

Alternatively, you may wish to remain but aim higher in the TEFL industry. The DELTA course, also accredited by The University of Cambridge, offers a diploma in ELT and paves the way for a career in course/school management. With the right extra-curricular qualifications, there may also be opportunities for marketing and sales roles in the commercial side of the industry.

Planning a year out and liking the sound of teaching English abroad, but want to consider a few other options first? Check out our pick of things to do on your gap year.

Alternatively, have a look at our Level 3 Diploma in teaching business English.

(Image by Bjorn Egil Johansen.)