Teaching English: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) refers to teaching English to students whose first language is not English. TEFL usually occurs in the student's own country, either within the state school system, or privately, e.g., in an after-hours language school or with a tutor. TEFL teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English.

This article describes English teaching by native Anglophones working outside their own country, a small subset of English taught worldwide. To learn about other aspects of English teaching, see English language learning and teaching, which explains methodology and context, and explains abbreviations (e.g., the difference between ESL and EFL, or TESOL as a subject and an organization). For information on foreign language teaching in general, see language education and second language acquisition.

Teaching techniques used today

See also: Language education


TEFL that uses literature aimed at children and teenagers is rising in popularity. Youth-oriented literature offers simpler material ("simplified readers" are produced by major publishers), and often provides a more conversational style than literature for adults. Children's literature in particular sometimes provides subtle cues to pronunciation, through rhyming and other wordplay. One method for using these books is the multiple-pass technique. The instructor reads the book, pausing often to explain certain words and concepts. On the second pass, the instructor reads the book completely through without stopping.

Communicative language teaching

Communicative language teaching (CLT) emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. Despite a number of criticisms,[1] it continues to be popular, particularly in Japan, Taiwan,[2] and Europe.

The task-based language learning (TBLL) approach to CLT has gained ground in recent years. Proponents believe CLT is important for developing and improving speaking, writing, listening, and reading skills, and that it prevents students' merely listening passively to the teacher without interaction. Dogme language teaching shares a philosophy with TBL, although differs in approach.[3] Dogme is a communicative approach to language teaching and encourages teaching without published textbooks and instead focusing on conversational communication among the learners and the teacher.[4]

Blended learning

Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face teaching and online interactions (also known as CALL or computer-assisted language learning), achieved through a [[virtual learning environment] (VLE).

VLEs have been a major growth point in the ELT industry over the last five years. There are two types:

  • Externally-hosted platforms that a school or institution exports content to (e.g., the proprietary Web Course Tools, or the open source Moodle)
  • Content-supplied, course-managed learning platforms (e.g. the Macmillan English Campus)

The former provides pre-designed structures and tools, while the latter supports course-building by the language school—teachers can blend existing courses with games, activities, listening exercises, and grammar reference units contained online. This supports classroom, self-study or remote practice (for example in an internet café).

Qualifications for TEFL teachers

Teachers can earn English teaching certifications through an intensive 4-week program, or a longer part-time program, either of which provide an internationally-recognized qualification. Please look for courses that meet the following content:

--At least 100 hours of training

--At least 6 hours of Observed Teaching Practice (teaching real students as an experienced teacher observes and critiques you)

There are four courses that are generally considered to be internationally recognized. CELTA and TEFL International have a worldwide scope and graduate thousands of teachers annually. Trinity, mostly UK based, and the SIT course, while significantly smaller than the other two, are also highly regarded.

Both the CertTESOL and CELTA certifications are internationally-recognized and accredited in the UK on the National Qualifications Framework. Both qualifications are externally assessed and accepted by the British Council in their accredited teaching organizations worldwide in over a 100 countries. Of course, the fact that the British Council is funded by the British government and exists to support British Culture, Language and Businesses must be considered as there is clearly a conflict of interest. For instance, the British Council operate CELTA courses in nearly 20 locations. The same can be said of the National Qualifications Framework--these organizations consistently accredit and support each other at the expense of courses based outside of the UK. This is in no way an attack on the quality of their courses, which are considered to be excellent. But one must question the impartiality of organizations with these overlapping relationships.

Internet-based TEFL courses often claim to be internationally recognized, but recognition varies along with price and content of the programs. Private institutions often desire that course be face-to-face, or at least include an element of observed teaching.[5]

Schools around the world run international certificate programs. Qualification requirements vary considerably, from country to country and among employers within the same country. In some cases, it's possible to teach without a BA degree or without a teaching certificate. However, private language schools in some countries are likely to require a certificate based on successful completion of a course consisting of a minimum of 100 hours, usually including about 6 hours of observed teaching practice.

Many language schools accept any certificate that fulfills these criteria, while others look for teachers with specific certificates. It's also possible to gain certificates by completing shorter courses, or online courses, but these certificates do not always satisfy employer requirements due to lack of teaching practice. Also, some private language schools require teachers to complete in-house training programs even if they have a certification from elsewhere. Where there is a high demand for teachers and no statutory requirements, employers may accept otherwise unqualified candidates. Each country is different, and acceptance depends on demand for English teachers and the teacher's previous teaching and life experiences. Another aspect that should be addressed is the age/gender issue when qualifying as a TEFL teacher. Generally speaking there is no upper age limit when it comes to finding TEFL employment, although schools outside of Europe and America sometimes hire only teachers in a certain age range; usually between 20 and 40 years of age. Anyone under 19 may be able to teach TEFL, but usually only in a volunteer situation, such as a refugee camp. The same goes for gender; generally speaking schools, both public & private, will hire either sex. But again, schools outside of Europe and America will sometimes specify either a male or female teacher for a TEFL position. This is especially true in the Middle East.

Pay and conditions worldwide

As in most fields, the pay depends greatly on education, training, experience, seniority, and expertise. As with much expatriate work, employment conditions vary among countries, depending on the level of economic development and how much people want to live there. In relatively poor countries, even a low wage may equate to a comfortable middle class lifestyle.

There is a danger of exploitation by employers. This increases in countries with labor laws that may not apply to foreign employees, or which may be unenforced. An employer might ignore contract provisions, especially regarding working hours, working days, and end-of-contract payments. Difficulties faced by foreign teachers regarding language, culture, or simply limited time can make it difficult to demand pay and conditions that their contracts stipulate. Some disputes arise from cross-cultural misunderstandings. Teachers who can't adapt to living and working in a foreign country often leave after a few months. Quoting from the Cactus TEFL website,http://www.cactustefl.com/get_started/tefl_pay.php out of the United Kingdom: "There does however seem to be a basic TEFL LAW, which states that if you're on a full-time contract of 24-26 teaching hours per week, you will have enough money to pay rent in a modest, possibly shared apartment, pay for food, get out and about to explore at weekends, have the odd beer or glass of wine of an evening, and, over the period of your contract, get some money put aside for flights home at Christmas.

Generally speaking, you tend to live fairly basically, and what you earn is not usually enough to support partners, family back home or pay back debts or mortgage instalments. In many ways, TEFL can be a bit of a return to your student days, where there is less emphasis on material 'stuff' and more in being absorbed into the culture of the experience."

TEFL region and country locations


Opportunities vary considerably across Europe.

Western Europe

Most cities in Western Europe have established language schools. These can be on-site, or operated as agencies that send teachers to various locations. September is the peak recruiting month, and many annual contracts last October through June. Employers prefer those with graduate-level academic qualifications, experience in Business English, or experience with younger learners.

Instructors from the United Kingdom and Ireland, countries within the European Union, do not need work visas to work in the EU, which reduces demand for teachers from outside. Immigration laws require that non-EU job applicants submit documents from their home countries in person after the European employer files an officially documented job offer. If the worker has traveled to Europe to find the job, this means they must return home and wait for some time. Even if they follow the process correctly, visa rejection rates are high. Many private-sector employers don't sponsor them at all, because they can meet staffing needs more easily from nearby countries.

International schools hire some non-EU teachers. These are more desirable positions that require significant experience and qualifications. Various countries' education ministries, such as those of France and Spain, offer opportunities for assistant language instructors in public schools. Part-time employment is usually allowed under an education visa, but this visa also requires proper attendance at an accredited EU college or university, institute, or other educational program. Other teachers work illegally under tourist visas, since the "don't ask, don't tell" method is the only viable solution to avoiding impossible bureaucracy and eventual job rejection.

Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, and Scandinavia

Demand for TEFL is stronger in certain Eastern European countries because of the expansion of the European Union. Such locations also tend to have lower costs of living. Non-EU teachers usually find legal work here with less difficulty. The Balkan former Yugoslav countries have seen recent growth in TEFL—private schools have recruited Anglophone teachers there for several years.

Far fewer instructors work in Scandinavia, which has stricter immigration laws and a policy of relying on bilingual local teachers.



Demand for English teachers in Cambodia has grown over the past decade, though the country has a small population and is dependent on foreign aid for much of its economic development, limiting growth.


Many opportunities exist within the People's Republic of China, including preschool, university, private schools and institutes, companies, and tutoring. The provinces and the Ministry of Education in Beijing tightly govern public schools, while private schools have more freedom to set work schedules, pay, and requirements. Outside of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, salaries range between 3800 to 6000 yuan per month with an average of 4500 yuan.[6] Public schools tend to offer fewer hours per week (12 to 18) with low pay but free on-campus housing, while private schools usually require more than 22 hours a week and may offer higher pay without free housing. Preschool and elementary schools may ask the teacher to work more hours, just as the Chinese teacher would do.

Most schools pay for some travel expenses to and from Asia, and typically pay round-trip for a one-year contract (usually 10 months), and one-way for a six-month contract. Public schools usually pay during vacations, but not for summer break unless the teacher renews the contract,[7] while many private schools have shortened vacation schedules and may pay for whatever short number of days is allowed for vacation. Private schools may also require that teachers work weekends and evenings, which public schools seldom do. Both may have off-campus classes that require extra transportation time. Public schools provide an apartment with some extras. Most, but not all, private schools outside Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou also provide housing.

Company jobs vary, depending on the number of employees they want to train. They may employ a teacher for one or two classes, or a complete set of 14 to 16 hours a week. Tutoring also varies, as in some cases a whole family of students or just one family member.

Some teachers work successfully on an independent basis with several contracts for tutoring, individual college classes, and some company work. The majority of teachers accept contracts with schools. Public school contracts are fairly standard, while private schools set their own requirements. Schools try to hire teachers from Anglophone countries, but because of demand, others with good English language skills can find positions.

Hong Kong

Once a British Crown Colony, English language education in Hong Kong is taken seriously, as demonstrated by recent government-funded research.[citation needed]


In Japan, the JET Programme employs assistant language teachers to work in Japanese high schools and elementary schools. Other teachers work in private language schools, eikaiwa. The largest of these chains are Aeon, GEOS, and ECC. The industry is not well regulated. Nova, one of the largest chains with over 900 branches, collapsed in October 2007, leaving thousands of foreign teachers without income or for some, a place to live. Other teachers work in universities. Agencies are increasingly used to send English speakers into kindergartens, primary schools, and private companies whose employees need to improve their Business English. Agencies, known in Japan as haken, or dispatch companies, have recently been competing among themselves to get contracts from various Boards of Education for Elementary, Junior and Senior High Schools, so wages have decreased steadily in the last four years.[citation needed]


English language has been increasingly important in education, international trade and cooperation in Laos since 1990s. There were some factors on the rise of English in Laos. One of those was that because Laos was marked as a market economy country, and then the government started to open and promote foreign direct investment. The introduction of Laos as an observer in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1992 was also the factor increasing the necessity of English language in the country because among the ASEAN nations English had been considered a common language to communicate for exploring understanding and potential areas of cooperation. Laos was considered as a full member of ASEAN in 1997. During five years until 1997, the government had to prepare human resources to have English knowledge and skills and ability to use it. This was an obligation to Lao government in order to be able to work with other countries in the fields of cooperation effectively. Later, high-ranking officials, business people and shareholders, key persons in administrative level eagerly have started to upgrade their knowledge and skills in English. English have been a language of interest for Lao society ever since Laos opened the country to the world market economy and became a member of ASEAN. The trend of the interest will be increased as English is considered and developed in the field of education as well.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main locations for instructors to work in this region. Positions in these countries have a reputation for often paying very high salaries but also require more qualifications and experience. Private academies and university programs are the main venues of instruction. More primary and secondary schools have begun to recruit foreign English instructors.

South Korea

There is great demand for native English speakers willing to teach in South Korea. The U.S. Embassy, however, reports that teachers have sometimes come to Korea under contracts that promised generous salaries and benefits, but found actual conditions drastically different, and in some cases ended up with insufficient funds to return home.[8] The expatriate English teachers in Korea have formed the Association for Teachers of English in Korea to provide support for teachers. As with Japan, Korea is also nurturing a government-run program for teacher placement called English Program in Korea (EPIK). In March 2009 EPIK reported that it recruited 3,377 foreign teachers into Korean public schools.

Institutions commonly provide round-trip airfare and a rent-free apartment for a one-year contract. Note that since March 15, 2008, visa rules have changed. Prospective teachers must now undergo a medical examination and a criminal background check, produce an original degree certificate, and provide sealed transcripts. On arriving in South Korea, teachers must undergo a further medical check before they receive an ARC card.

Though contracts usually include return flights, some schools offer cash instead. Severance pay equivalent to one month's salary is paid at the end of a contract as well. Citizens of the USA, Canada and Australia[9] also receive back their pension contributions and their employers' part of the pension contributions on leaving the country.

There are four main places to work in South Korea: universities, public schools, private language academies (known in South Korea as hagwon), and private company Business English classes. Recently, small private schools have been opening after-school programs.


In the Republic of China (Taiwan), most teachers work in cram schools, known locally as bushibans or buxibans. Some are part of chains, like Hess and Kojen. Others operate independently. Such schools pay around $2,000 USD a month. End-of-contract bonuses equivalent to an extra month's pay are not mandated by law as in South Korea, and are uncommon in Taiwan.


Thailand has a great demand for native English speakers, and has a ready-made workforce in the form of travelers and expatriates attracted by the local lifestyle despite relatively low salaries. Because Thailand prohibits foreigners from most non-skilled occupations a high percentage of foreign residents teach English for a living, and are able to stay in the country. There is also a growing demand for Filipino English teachers, as they are often hired for literally half the salary of a native-speaker.


There has been significant growth in TEFL within the wealthier non-Anglophone countries of North, Central, and South America as well as the Caribbean. In particular, many teachers work in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.


TEFL in Africa has historically been linked to aid programs such as the US Peace Corps or the multinational Voluntary Service Overseas organization, as well as other aid programs. Most African countries employ bilingual local teachers. Poverty and instability in some African countries has made it difficult to attract foreign teachers. There has been increasing government investment in education and a growing private m

See also


Further reading

Teaching English Abroad, Susan Griffith, Vacation Work Press, Oxford. Many editions.

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

This article is a travel topic.

One way to travel--or to pay for your travels--is to get a job overseas teaching English. If you want to spend several years in a destination, this is a popular way to earn a living.

Jobs worth considering as a long-term prospect--or even as a career--are widely available. They generally require qualifications and experience; see Certificates below. In some positions, the benefits include airfare and housing. Other jobs might do to supplement a backpacker's income, or even let you live somewhere interesting for a year. For some of these types of jobs, especially in remote areas, anyone who looks foreign and speaks some English can get work. However this varies greatly from country to country and type of institution.

Speaking the local language is not generally required, though it may be quite useful in beginner classes and may make your stay more pleasant in other ways.


The students are learning ESL (English as a Second Language) or EFL (English as a Foreign Language) or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). For the teacher, add a T for Teaching to get TESL, TEFL, TESOL or CELTA.

A recent trend in the field is to do a lot of ESP (English for Specific Purposes), designing custom courses depending on what the learners need to use the language for. One branch of this is EAP (English for Academic Purposes), preparing students for study abroad.

The widely-used English tests have their own acronyms:

  • TOEFL [1], for admission to US universities
  • IELTS [2], for British, Australian and NZ universities
(Canadian universities might use either)
  • TOEIC [3], a business English test from the TOEFL people
  • BULATS [4], a business English test from the IELTS people
  • BEC [5] Business English Certificates are from Cambridge. There are three exams at different levels.
  • CPE [6] is also from Cambridge; it is their highest level exam.

Some ESL students may also need or want to take other tests to get into foreign universities. These are not ESL tests, but pre-admission tests designed for native English speakers. They include:

  • SAT [7] and ACT [8] for undergraduate admissions
  • GRE [9] for graduate programs

These are more commonly used in the US than elsewhere.

ESL supplements: fast and cheap
ESL supplements: fast and cheap

Teaching ESL (or any other language) has much in common with any other teaching, but also has its own unique challenges. Among other things, it needs some understanding of how language works, quite a bit of patience, and considerable showmanship, as non-verbal techniques, gesture, facial expressions, are needed to scaffold the the weaker linguistic understanding of the learner.

Teaching English as a second language is significantly different than teaching English literature and composition to a high school class of (mostly) native speakers, though of course there is some overlap as well. For one thing, even intelligent adult second language learners make grammar and pronunciation errors on things any four-year-old native speaker knows; an ESL teacher has to teach and correct those. Also, you have to monitor and adjust your own English, speaking slowly and clearly, avoiding slang, sometimes explaining terms, and so on.

At any level, the teaching needs to be highly interactive. Too much talk by the teacher is fatal; you cannot teach language-using skills either by lecturing or (except in tiny groups) with a series of one-on-one interactions between the teacher and different students. You must set up situations for students to actually use the language. Often this means introducing some vocabulary and/or grammatical structures on the board or in a listening or reading exercise, then setting up some sort of pairs or group task where students can try it out. Various sorts of discussion, role-playing or game activities are often used.

A whole range of props are often used — maps to practice giving directions, newspaper clippings for reading comprehension or summary-writing practice, menus for a restaurant role-play, pictures for parts-of-the-body or parts-of-a-car, cartoons to provoke discussion, and so on. Sometimes the teacher must find or invent these; sometimes the school has a stock, as in the picture, or they can be borrowed from other teachers. It is fairly common for teachers working overseas to ask friends at home to mail them posters and other props, or to collect props themselves on visits home. If you are going abroad to teach, bring props or mail yourself a batch before leaving home.

Getting beginners started speaking English is difficult. Techniques include translation, mime, pictures, and a lot of repetition. With young learners, you may be able to make a game of it.

With intermediate students, you get questions that strain your knowledge of your own language. If "He doesn't have much money" is OK, what is wrong with "He has much money"? Which is better: "a big red balloon" or "a red big balloon"? Why? Is the other incorrect or just unusual? Training and grammar reference books can help here, but sometimes the answer is just "That is the way we do it."

For advanced students, especially in ESP settings, you may need considerable knowledge beyond the language itself. For example, to teach business English above a certain level, you must know quite a bit about business.

A major part of the ESP approach is needs analysis, figuring out how your students will use the language. In some situations, needs analysis is a formal process and courses are written to order for specific groups. Often, however, the teacher just does an informal analysis and finds or invents exercises to suit a class.

Consider a company somewhere that exports products to English-speaking countries. The engineers might just need to read manuals and product specifications in English; they might never hear, speak or write it. Marketers might need to read the quite different language of orders and contracts, and to both read and write emails in much less formal language. Some of them might also need to talk with customers. Executives might need to handle complex negotiations in English — a task that requires not only excellent spoken English but also business skills and an awareness of cultural differences. Ideally, each of these groups would get a different English course.


Anyone contemplating more than a bit of casual work in this field should seriously consider getting some training. Training can make it a good deal easier to survive in a classroom and can help you be a better teacher. A certificate may make it easier to get a job, or to get one of the better ones. Also, in some countries a degree is legally required to get a working visa; there is some hope of negotiating your way around this if you have a TEFL certificate, but almost none without it.

There are a number of different ESL/EFL teaching certificates available.

  • Many schools give their own courses to staff.
  • Various companies in Western countries offer programs, often including job placement help.
  • There are online courses.

Most programs include some classroom experience and can be completed in one to three months.

Short of an MA, a Cambridge or Trinity certificate is sometimes considered the qualification to have, though this applies only to particular countries and teaching institutions.

  • Courses for Cambridge CELTA [10] are given under license by centers all over the world, 286 places as of mid-2007. The CELTA course is generally both more difficult and more expensive than other courses, but of similar duration — anywhere from four weeks of intensive study to several months of part-time classes. Job ads routinely ask for "CELTA or equivalent" rather than just wanting a "TEFL cetificate".
  • Trinity College London [11] has a CertTESOL that is also taught in many places and also widely accepted. It is "or equivalent" for those ads.

The problem with CELTA and Trinity TESOL is that it has more of a marketing advantage than an actually certification. The programs are self-audited (by wholely-owned auditing companies) and there is no such thing as a national or international TEFL accrediting body. Masters' degrees are the only actual accredited degrees or certificates and they are by no means required in nearly all positions, mainly due to the tremendous demand for English teachers and the very short supply.

If you plan to make a career in the field, consider more advanced training such as a diploma course (Cambridge DELTA or Trinity DipTESOL) or a Masters degree. These are required for most teacher training or head of school jobs and for some of the best teaching jobs, in a few limited countries.

Quite a few universities offer ESL/EFL training, often both a Certificate program and a Master's degree. A few offer a Master's program designed for teachers working overseas, with most work done by correspondence.

There are directories of courses at ESL Online [12], ESL Base [13] and Cactus TEFL [14]. Those sites also have job ads.


Popular destinations for paying English teaching jobs include

Worldwide, ESL is a major industry. In any of the areas mentioned above, there are both ESL programs in public schools and universities and quite a few private schools. In some places it seems there is a language school on every block. Japan's eikaiwa ("conversation schools") range from small schools to major chains; both hire native speakers from abroad. South Korea's hagwon, China's buxiban, and schools in many other countries do the same.

There are a few places where it is difficult to go as an ESL teacher. Some countries, like North Korea or Myanmar, are almost completely closed, Your own government may forbid you to go to others; for example, an American cannot teach in Cuba. Jobs are occasionally advertised in war-torn countries like Afghanistan, but taking such a post would be too risky for most. It is also difficult to go to English-speaking countries. Australia does not need Americans to teach them English, and vice versa. There are ESL jobs in those countries — mainly teaching immigrants or foreign students — and some might be open to foreigners who meet the visa requirements (see Working abroad and country articles), but they do not recruit abroad or provide expatriate benefits as ESL jobs elsewhere do.

With those exceptions, there are ESL jobs almost anywhere. There are plenty of jobs in all the areas listed above and some in almost any non-English-speaking country. Areas like subsaharan Africa and the Pacific islands do not have huge numbers of jobs, but they do have some. Given reasonable qualifications (preferably a degree and TESL certification), the question is more "Where would I like to go?" than "Where can I find a job?".

Demand for teachers in some areas is enormous. Dave's ESL Cafe breaks recruiting ads into three groups: Korea, China, and anywhere else. Checking on a random day (not in the peak hiring season which is around July for a September start) there were over 50 new ads in the previous week for China, over 100 for Korea, over 50 for the rest of the world. Some of those employers advertise more-or-less continuously, some have many jobs on offer, and Dave's is by no means the only site with jobs, so overall demand is very high.

There are many factors to consider in choosing a destination. Some prefer a destination not too wildly different from home, perhaps Western Europe; others want to go somewhere really exotic such as Mongolia. Some might want both, a basically European civilisation but still fascinatingly exotic: perhaps Peru or Prague? Any of these are possible. Some jobs are in major tourism centers such as Thailand or Rio, others in out-of-the-way but interesting places like the Maldives. Areas such as Japan and the Middle East often offer higher salaries, but in terms of buying power you might be better off with lower pay in a low-cost country such as Cambodia or Bolivia. The same applies within countries; major cities often have higher pay than rural areas, but higher expenses.

Language can be a major factor. If you already speak a foreign language, it will be relatively easy for you to live in a region where it is spoken. Some teachers choose a destination partly because of a desire to learn the language, or to improve their language skills. This often implies a preference for countries where an important language is spoken — Russia rather than Finland, or China rather than Mongolia. Teaching in Latin America may appeal for many reasons, not least because Spanish or Portuguese are much easier for an English speaker than Arabic or Chinese. It is also somewhat easier for speakers of European languages to learn English than for speakers of unrelated languages; both students and teachers still have to work at it, though. See also university programs below and language tourism.

Places like Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong offer a nice combination. There are jobs for foreign ESL teachers, but many local people speak good English so these places can be much easier to live in than elsewhere.

In India there are few jobs for foreigners to teach English; plenty of Indians already speak excellent English and some of those are trained teachers. There is, however, one fairly large exception. India (especially Bangalore) has many call centers for Western companies outsourcing customer support work. Those centers routinely hire fairly large numbers of people — mostly American/Canadian English speakers, but some for other accents or languages — as accent and cultural coaches for their phone workers. They prefer to hire people with ESL training and/or experience. The money is very good for India, but these tend to be fairly high-pressure jobs like anything in a call center. Also, the hours are often rather odd; you need to be on duty at whatever the peak times are in the clients' time zones. If the clients start their day at 9 AM New York time, then yours must start at 7 PM in Bangalore.

In the European Union many employers prefer to hire teachers from Britain or Ireland because citizens of those countries do not need work visas. Some employers are reluctant to hire anyone who does need a visa.

For country-specific information, see the Work sections of country entries. For some destinations, see also Tips for travel in developing countries.

Pay and conditions

Nearly all ESL jobs that hire from overseas include worthwhile benefits. A free apartment is typical, though some employers offer only a room in a shared place. Most contracts are for a year, though some provide salary for only a 10-month school year. Most include annual two-way airfare home, or at least some money toward the cost. University or public school jobs often have quite long holidays.

Language teachers typically do not get the high salaries and juicy benefits package that an expatriate sent by a company to work in an overseas branch would. In particular, education for any children you have may be a problem. International schools are generally expensive and few employers cover this. The local schools may not suit your kids.

In lower income countries a language teacher's pay is generally enough to live well there, but not much by the standards of higher income places. For example, $800 US a month plus a free apartment lets you live well in China; local teachers are making half that and paying rent on their apartments. You can afford to travel some in the holidays, even visit nearby low-cost countries like Vietnam. However it would be almost impossible to pay off debts back home, or to plan a trip to Japan, on that income. Korea or Taiwan have higher salaries, enough to save some despite higher living costs.

It is also common for schools to hire locally for summer programs, for part-time work, and sometimes for full time employment. These jobs often have fewer benefits than the overseas-hired posts.

The best pay for language teachers is generally in the Middle East. They can afford to be choosy, though; most jobs there require a degree and TEFL certificate, and some require an MA. Some jobs in Japan and Western Europe also pay well, but living costs are high.

There are also some highly paid jobs training oil workers; usually these involve an on/off cycle — 42 days working long hours then 21 days away or some such — with the employer paying a flight out every cycle. Most of these want good qualifications — typically degree, CELTA and five years experience.


For most classes, considerable planning and preparation is needed to produce reasonable quality lessons. A language teacher's workload is generally 15 to 20 contact hours a week; with preparation time, marking, staff meetings and so on, that is a full time job. Generally, there are some extra-curricular activities as well.

There are exceptions. With small advanced classes, sometimes all you need to do is start a discussion. Preparation consists mainly of choosing a topic; students just grab it and run. Or for some classes, you may be given a carefully laid out program with a textbook, student workbook and sometimes even presentation slides provided; such courses require less preparation. On the other hand, some schools will just dump you in the deep end ("Here's your class; teach it!") with no materials, and sometimes with other problems like no photocopier or Internet, or a class where students have wildly different levels of English. In those cases, you put in quite a bit of extra time.

There can of course be problems with this. It is fairly common for employers to want up to 25 classroom hours a week, and some want you in the office at other times. Some schools push the extracurricular stuff too far, requiring a lot of (usually unpaid) additional duties. Some rent their teachers out to local schools, which often means you have quite a lot of (usually unpaid) travel time. At some schools, nearly all classes are on evenings and weekends, or "split shift" schedules (where you teach say 9-11 in the morning then 7-9 at night) are fairly common. The worst schools may have several of these problems together; they tend to burn out teachers, to be unable to keep staff, and to be continually advertising jobs. Beware of such schools!

On the other hand, some teachers assume that showing up for class is all they have to do, wandering in with no preparation and inventing a lesson plan as they cross the threshold of the classroom. Expert teachers can pull this off occasionally, but making a habit of it or trying it without a lot of experience generally leads to disaster. Teaching ESL is not just part of your holiday; it really is a job and needs to be taken at least somewhat seriously.


There is some risk in taking any overseas job.

If you travel somewhere and then look for work, you avoid some of the risks but you incur expenses. Also you may miss out on benefits; free housing and annual airfare home are more-or-less standard when hiring from overseas, but less common for local hires. Finally, you will likely not be able to get a working visa in advance since you don't have a job. Depending on local regulations, this may be a minor detail or a major hassle.

On the other hand, if you are recruited from half a world away, it is hard to know exactly what you are getting into or who you are dealing with. Most teachers end up just fine in their overseas jobs, but problems are common enough that being careful is absolutely necessary.

Japanese school Nova goes broke

In October 2007, a large (1000 locations) chain of English schools in Japan crashed, leaving several thousand foreign teachers stranded. Most had not been paid in six weeks or more, and most were in company-provided housing. Details [15]

Some schools are greedy businesses exploiting both teachers and students; the more cynical teachers have been heard to describe some as "McEnglish". Some recruiters are amazingly slimy and interested only in their commission. Many schools and a few recruiters are just fine, but definitely not all. There are plenty of horror stories — horrible accommodation, outrageously large classes, demands for unpaid overtime, broken contracts, etc. Of course there are lots of happy teachers in other schools, sometimes even in the same school.

The lowest risk jobs are the government-run recruiting programs described below; these can offer a safe way to get your feet wet. Other government-run places, such as universities and public high schools are also relatively safe.

Some factors indicate higher risk:

  • Private language schools are riskier than government programs.
  • "Third-world" countries and those with highly corrupt "systems" are also much riskier.
  • If a recruiter is involved, your risk is significantly higher; either the school or the recruiter can mess you around.
  • If the culture is wildly different from your own, then you may not understand the negotiation process you are involved in or know what questions you should be asking.

That said, thousands of teachers are having a wonderful time in jobs with one or more of those risk factors. Some are perfectly happy in jobs with all four! Be aware of risks and use a little caution, and you should be fine.

Check Wikitravel and other sources for information on the location. Do a web search on the city name along with terms like "pollution", "corruption" and "gang"; you might expect a few hits for almost any city, but if there's a big problem, this may turn it up. If having modern conveniences and Western food is important to you, check websites for major retailers like Ikea or the European supermarket chains Metro and Carrefour to see if they have stores there. Ask the school to email you photos of the accommodation and classrooms.

Checking on the job and the employer is harder. The most important precaution: Ask to talk to current foreign teachers before agreeing to anything. Be extremely wary of any school that will not let you do this.

You can also check the web for comments on potential employers or on recruiters. ESL teachers are a chatty bunch, and mostly literate, so there is a lot of information available. Most of the job ad sites have forums that include comments on available jobs. There are also many country-specific forums offering school reviews or just a blacklist of problem schools. Take reviews with a grain of salt, though; even quite a good school may have a few angry ex-employees ranting on the web. Look for other web comments and talk to current teachers before drawing any conclusions.

Looking for work

Many web sites offer English teaching jobs, including Dave's ESL Cafe [16], TEFL.com [17], ESL Jobs World [18], ESL Jobs [19], and Happy Cats TEFL [20]. One of many employment discussion lists is TESLJob [21]. See also the training section above; sites listed there with indexes of courses also have jobs ads. There are also many sites for specific countries or regions; see the Work sections of country listings.

Some recommend that one should travel to the part of the country you want to teach and get to meet and interview with some of the staff. Many times a series of photographs can be misleading as to what an area or school might look like. Traveling to the city will allow you to see the buildings and streets, understand whether or not the location is a city or countryside, get a feel for the housing and school conditions available, and maybe even talk to existing ESL teachers about their impressions and suggestions. For most people this is not a good option as it costs a lot of money and many haven't really decided the exact location for their work.

Another option is to narrow down your areas and then send out letters of interest with your resume included. This option does require sending out many letters with the expectation that a lot of places will not have openings at this time. Since it is well known that most job openings never get listed in papers or web sites, there is a very good chance you will turn up a great opening that otherwise would never have appeared in media. I lived in one city in China that has more than 15 schools that hire foreign ESL teachers and I have never seen any ads listed on Dave's or other sites for at least 8 of them.

Within some countries the State, Province or other entity in charge of education for many cities will also assist schools in finding staff. Contacting the education department directly can at times surface names of schools needing foreign ESL teachers.

Professional associations

TESOL [22] publishes journals (available in university libraries) which carry job ads, and provides an online job hunt service. Their annual conference includes a hiring fair. IATEFL [23] are another professional organisation with similar services. Both organisations have regional affilates in many areas. Like most academic organizations TESOL is more applicable to teachers of TEFL at the university level where service involvement is required for tenure and promotion and the vast majority of TEFL teachers have no involvement with such academic organizations.

Teachers in many countries have established ELT teaching associations. Like any other job search, networking and finding the people who are "in the know" is a great way to find a job or to learn more about local conditions:

  • Arabia: TESOL Arabia [24]
  • Korea: KOTESOL [25]
  • Russian Far East: FEELTA [26]
  • Philippines: PALT [27]
  • Singapore: ELLTAS [28]
  • Thailand: Thailand TESOL [29]
  • Taiwan: ETA-ROC [30]

At the very least, read the appropriate site to get a feel for the issues that are important in the country you wish to work in. You may also discover who are the leaders locally and what is currently important. Having this information ready will help with any interview. Some sites will link to posts for job notices. Look for conference announcements and plan a visit; these are excellent chances to look for work.

Governments of destination countries

A few countries have government-run programs for recruiting foreign teachers:

  • Hong Kong: NET [31]
  • Japan: JET [32]
  • South Korea: EPIK [33]
  • France: English Assistant Program [34] (Available to US citizens only)

These generally take new university graduates and do not require teacher training or experience. However, you may be posted to a rural school where you're the only foreigner for miles around — great for experiencing local culture, not so great if you wanted to move in with your girl/boyfriend in Tokyo/Seoul.

Governments of English-speaking countries

The British Council [35] is the British government's educational and cultural department. Among other things, they are the largest English teaching organisation in the world, running schools in many places.

The Council also handle recruiting for various foreign governments' English programs. Say Elbonia needs a few dozen teachers; the Council will advertise, collect resumes, and produce a short list of candidates. For the actual interviews, senior Elbonian staff can fly to London and use Council facilities to interview, or the Council can handle the interviews too. For many of these jobs, the Council also provides some guarantees for teachers; if a corrupt school official steals your pay or you need to bail out because of a revolution in Elbonia, you have some recourse.

Council jobs can be searched on their web site or look for ads in the Guardian and the Times Education Supplement or Higher Ed. Supplement. Some, but by no means all, of their jobs are restricted to British citizens. Most interviews are in London. British Council schools may also hire locally wherever they are, but these jobs usually do not have benefits like airfare and housing that the London-hired ones do.

The US State Department also has an English teaching program [36]. Another program [37], paid for by government and run by Georgetown university, sends teacher trainers and other experts abroad; it requires a masters degree and US citizenship.

Other ways to teach abroad

There are many other ways to live abroad. See Working abroad for some details. Here we cover those that involve teaching.

Teaching other languages

Of course English is not the only language for which there is demand. There is some demand for teachers of any major world language.

Various governments sponsor organisations to promote their nations' languages, and offer jobs for speakers of those languages.

  • French: Alliance Francais [38]
  • German: Goethe Institute [39]
  • Spanish: Cervantes Institute [40]
  • Chinese: Confucius Institute [41]
  • Japanese: Japan Foundation [42]

Teachers from other fields

If you have teaching qualification in your own country — but as, say a biology or history or even English literature teacher — then many English teaching jobs will happily accept you, but some will demand an ESL certificate as well.

With such qualifications, consider looking for work at International schools. These are for the children of expatriates. They generally demand the same qualifications as primary or secondary schools back home. Pay and conditions are often much better than language teachers get.

Many of those schools teach the International Baccalaureate program, so one way to find them is through the IB site [43]. Other ways include asking embassies and companies with many expat staff.

University programs

Many Western universities offer some sort of year abroad program, often in co-operation with a foreign university. For students of the language or history of some remote part of the world, these may be a fine opportunity. Typically there are fees which you would not pay if you went on your own, but on the other hand you get credits from the Western university for your foreign studies.

There are two main types of program; examples here are from China but similar things are available in other places.

  • Some programs. e.g. [44], offer full time study of the foreign language. Often these are fairly flexible about time; a year, a semester or a summer are all possible.
  • Others, e.g. [45], give some language and teaching training, then place you as an English teacher in the host country. Usually these require a longer commitment, typically a year. The advantage is that you make at least enough to live on.

Volunteer work

Volunteer positions are usually for a shorter term and may or may not include room and board. For details see Making a difference.

Online teaching materials

Many sites offer teaching materials, lesson plans, or related ideas.

  • The Internet TESL Journal [46] is a source for teachers wishing to understand ELT better or get new ideas: broken down into Techniques, Articles, and Lessons. Updated monthly.

There are several Wikis for English teachers:

  • Wikigogy [47] (from wiki + pedagogy) - a wiki specifically for English teachers
  • ELT Wikia [48] - another English teachers' wiki
  • Teflpedia [49] - yet another wiki for English teachers.

All have lesson plans and teaching materials as well as more general articles.

This is a guide article. It has good, detailed information covering the entire topic. Plunge forward and help us make it a star!


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Wikibooks and other material on teaching English:

See also the subject Subject:English language.


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