Imagine working in Bangkok Monday to Friday and heading off to a tropical Thai beach for the weekend. Or working a few hours in the morning, then spending your afternoon checking out the food markets in Hanoi. Or walking along the Corniche in Doha on your way home from work every day. This might seem like a fantasy, but for many people these kinds of scenes are a reality.
Living and working abroad is a dream for many of us, but it doesn’t have to be. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is one way more and more people are choosing to live and work in the country of their choice, whether that’s Thailand or Tanzania or Turkey. Not many careers allow you to earn money while living the life you’ve always dreamt of, but teaching English as a Foreign Language is one of them.
What is a TEFL teacher?
TEFL stands for teaching English as a Foreign Language. A TEFL teacher is someone who has done a TEFL course and is TEFL-qualified. They have learnt how to teach learners about the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of English, as well as the skills involved in reading, writing, understanding and speaking the language. They have studied teaching methods and know about different teaching techniques they can use to teach their students effectively. They understand how to utilise student groupings and student interactions to maximise the learning potential of lesson activities. They know how to plan a lesson, and what to do when the lesson doesn’t go according to the plan. They are able to control a class and deal with any discipline issues as they come up. They understand how to assess their learners, and how to help them progress as quickly and easily as possible.
Where can TEFL teachers teach?
TEFL teachers teach in kindergartens, primary schools, high schools, universities, language schools, summer camps and in-company. They teach General English, Business English, English for Academic Purposes, English for Exams, and English for Specific Purposes, which includes anything from English for Nursing to English for Aviation. They teach face-to-face or online.
TEFL teachers teach in both English-speaking countries and non-English-speaking countries. In non-English-speaking countries, learners learn English at school or in preparation for working, studying or living in a country abroad. In English-speaking countries, foreigners who are currently working, studying or living there learn English to help them cope in the community.
What can TEFL teachers earn?
Teaching salaries depend on where you teach. Generally speaking, TEFL salaries are fairly generous relative to where you are living. In some countries you can earn a very good salary while also being given accommodation, a flight allowance, health insurance and paid holidays. In other countries your salary might not be as high but the cost of living is low enough that you can still live a comfortable lifestyle.
If you are teaching online, you are probably earning an hourly wage. How much you earn in a month will depend on how many hours you work. What’s more, time usually spent commuting to and from work can now be spent teaching and earning money. So if you’re worried that your hourly rate might seem a bit low, remember to factor in all the hidden costs you are saving on by working from home.
Even better, if you are an independent online teacher you can set your own rate – and the sky is the limit! With a good qualification and a bit of experience under your belt, this rate could be high enough that your working hours are low.
Who can be a TEFL teacher?
The good news is, anyone can be a TEFL teacher. If you are not a native speaker of English then you need to be able to speak English at at least an Advanced level. Some countries require you to have a Bachelor’s degree but many don’t, though a TEFL (or CELTA) certificate is preferred worldwide. You will probably need to apply for a working visa in the country you want to teach in, so there may be a few hoops you need to get through for that, but that usually means having a clean criminal record or passing a medical check. Once you have identified which country you would like to work in, do your research to make sure you qualify to teach there before applying for jobs.
Do I need to speak the local language?
No! Immersion learning has been proven to be a very effective way of learning a language. This means that in EFL classrooms all over the world, English is the medium of instruction as well as the subject of the lesson. TEFL teachers don’t use translation when teaching because it is actually more helpful for their students when they don’t. This is why TEFL teachers only need to be able to speak English, and no other language. Of course you might want to learn the local language to help you integrate into the community and upskill yourself, but it’s not needed for your job.
I’m sold! How can I be a TEFL teacher?
Simple. Sign up for a TEFL course, get TEFL-qualified and you’re good to go. With a TEFL certificate in your pocket you’ll have the qualification and the confidence you’ll need to teach in any classroom in any country all over the world, or even just in your home office!