Dispelling Myths About Teaching English Abroad

Going overseas to another country to teach English abroad is an incredibly rewarding experience that many people miss out on due to misconceptions or myths they have heard about teaching English abroad. In this article we will address a few of the most common myths, and explain what you really do need in order to teach English abroad.

You have to know how to speak the local language.

This is one of the most believed myths about teaching English abroad, and it couldn’t be further from the truth! Nearly all schools hiring TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) teachers do not expect that they will speak the local language. These schools are more concerned that their teachers are native or native-level English speakers, and that they have been thoroughly trained in TESOL methodology (also known as TEFL certification). This allows teachers to thoroughly commit to the immersion approach to teaching English abroad, in which only English is spoken in the classroom. Many schools worry that if a teacher is also fluent in the local language, they will use that common language to communicate during class, and students may not feel the same motivation to really learn English. If you do know the local language where you will be teaching, that is fine, but you may be asked to only speak English with your students.

If you are worried about not knowing the local language, most schools offer local acculturation and language training courses once you have arrived at the location where you will be teaching. These courses help to acclimate yourself to the locale as well as learn your way around the area.

It’s dangerous to teach English abroad.

Most schools offering the opportunity to teach English abroad are located in or near primary and secondary cities in assignment countries. Learning centers and teachers’ accommodations are in safe areas, and most programs will work only with select schools that operate in similarly attractive, secure locations. Although these locations are all safe, it’s advised that teachers should be aware of local customs and rules, and always use common sense, good judgment and caution.

I have to get a teaching degree in order to teach English overseas.

While all schools do require excellent English speaking skills, many locations do not require a college degree – and even where they do, your degree does not have to be in English, Education, or a related field. Schools are generally more interested in candidates who will easily adapt to and thrive in new surroundings.

Once accepted to a program you will most likely go through intensive classroom training and hours of practice teaching before earning a TESOL Certificate. TESOL certification is widely regarded as a rigorous standard for teachers, and requires prescribed curriculum, and a minimum six hours of supervised practice teaching in an actual student-classroom environment. A TESOL certificate is widely recognized by EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teaching schools and programs as the mark of a well trained, highly qualified EFL teacher.

It’s a big decision to live and work overseas for an extended period of time – and you want to be sure you’re truly ready for it before you find yourself far away from home, and unhappy to be there! However, the above myths should not factor into your decision. If you’ve already spent some time in a country and culture other than their own and are anxious to do it again, or are genuinely interested in interacting with new people, and living in and learning about new cultures, you are an excellent candidate for teaching English abroad.

Teaching English Abroad In International Schools

There are many opportunities for teaching English abroad that are open to anybody who is able to speak English fluently. Whether you have a teaching degree or a certificate in English language teaching you can find work almost anywhere in the world.

This article looks at two options for people who want to teach English abroad including private language schools and teaching English abroad in International Schools.

International Schools

International schools are elementary, middle and high schools for expatriate children whose families live abroad. There are international schools that offer an American curriculum, those that offer a British curriculum and many more. The language of instruction in most international schools is English but many of the students have English as a second or third language, and so most international schools have teachers who support these students by teaching them English language.

Teaching English abroad in international schools can be done with the same qualifications that are required for teaching in a private language school however you will be competing with people who have teaching diplomas. With over 4000 international schools worldwide, there are many positions vacant every year.

Teaching in an international school often offers better pay and more benefits than teaching in a private language school. Some benefits you are likely to receive teaching in an international school are annual flights, accommodation allowance, medical insurance and, free tuition for your children in the school.

International schools follow the regular school year, so you will only be teaching for around 200 days, and you will be paid for your vacation time, unlike private language school where you will receive 3-4 weeks holiday in a 12 month contract.

Private Language Schools

Teaching positions in private language schools are easy to secure. English language tuition is a growth business in many areas of the world, in particular in Eastern Europe and throughout Asia.

In order to teach English in a private language school you need to be able to speak English fluently and have a certificate from either Trinity or RSA CELTA. These courses are around 4 weeks long and can even be completed online. Some language schools will hire native English speakers who do not have any ESL qualification, but usually these schools are not as reputable as those that insist their teachers have the appropriate qualifications.

For some countries you will need to have a Bachelor’s degree in order to be eligible for a work permit. You need to check this out if you do not have one because you could end up working abroad illegally. Usually your degree can be in any subject, it does not need to be in education.

Working at a private language school can be rewarding as you learn about the local culture from your students and see the progress they make. You are likely to have a combination of classes with 12-20 students and private lessons where you teach only one or two students.

In Asia you can land an English teaching contract at any time, but in Europe most contracts are from the beginning of autumn in September through to the beginning of summer in June or July.

Having taught English in both private language schools and worked in international schools, I recommend you try and focus on landing a position teaching English abroad in an international school because the pay and benefits are better and you get longer holidays too.

Where Should I Teach English Abroad? Comparing Teaching Opportunities Around The World

Oftentimes, people who desire to teach English abroad have many different reasons for wanting to teach. However, the primary benefits for choosing to teach English abroad that most teachers mention include the opportunities for cultural immersion, new language acquisition, getting paid to travel, cultural idea exchange, and professional success building.

Some Countries More Inaccessible Than Others

Although there are virtually no limits to where a person can teach abroad, there are of course, some exceptions. Many countries in the Middle East are not easily accessible due to the current political climate in that area of the world, making access to visas and even travel arrangements within these countries less than easy. Although much of Africa is accessible, like the Middle East, many countries in Africa do face civil unrest. For those who choose to teach abroad, extra caution should always be exercised when choosing to do so in countries facing political unrest. While there are plenty of great experiences to enjoy in Africa or the Middle East, going to Asia, Europe, or Latin America fairly often means lower security risks and just as rewarding a teaching and cultural experience.

Teach English in Asia

For those who choose to teach English in Asia, there are many benefits to a teaching position in Cambodia, China, Taiwan, Thailand, or Vietnam. To start, pay tends to be highest in Asian countries due to the robust nature of the economy of the Far East “tiger economy.” The Asian economy is aptly named “tiger economy” because many countries have experienced phenomenal growth, with many jobs being created, and a high demand for English language classes so as to foster greater competitive business advantages worldwide. Native English speakers who choose to teach in Asia are a tremendous asset.

Teach English in Europe

Many of those who prefer to teach English in Europe cite high cultural value – both ancient and modern – as a major draw. Beautiful architecture, open borders, a great transportation system, access to diverse languages, and a broad socio-economic environment await those who teach in Europe. The Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Turkey are all rewarding destinations.

Teach English in Latin America

Native English language speakers who favor placements to teach English in Latin America often describe their teaching time in Latin America as active, fun, vibrant, exciting, palate pleasing, and passion-discovering. Many English language teachers in Latin America learn to eat new types of foods, learn all sorts of interesting new dance forms, get fanatical about futbol, and love to practice Spanish on some of the kindest people on earth. Some of the best teaching destinations include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru.

All in all, whether you teach in Asia, Europe, or Latin America, there is a people, a culture and a language for you!