Saturday, June 22, 2013

Teaching English As a Foreign Language: The Benefits and Pitfalls

English: One of many signs for schools in Vanc...
ESL College in Vancouver (Wikipedia)
by Barry John Jones

In 2007 English was listed third in the world for spoken languages, behind Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.

According to The BBC Languages website English now ranks second.

English is the international language of commerce, but the main reason for its rapid increase is the internet. In particular, social networking.

Many of us have looked at social media sites and winced at the quality of English being used, and wished there was something we could do about it.

Commenting on another person's post and correcting them is not only rude, but can also be considered to be extremely offensive.

Many people who use English as a second language are either self-taught or they have had insufficient training.

If you believe your English is more than good enough to help resolve the problem, then becoming an EFL teacher is the way forward. There are many benefits for doing so, but there are pitfalls too.

In this article we will take a brief look at both of these, and how they can help you decide if you can make a difference.


Travel the world

Most people enjoy travelling, but very few of us can afford to do it as often as we would like. Added to this is the problem of not being able to remain in a location we like due to the financial costs of staying there.

Teaching English as a foreign language provides a fantastic way to earn a living doing what you love doing most, travelling the world, and being able to stay where you are at the same time.

Career advancement

It does not matter if you are already a teacher, or if you are just starting out, being able to advance your career and, in turn, strengthen your resume or CV, the most important thing you want to do is make yourself known.

At the same time, teaching in various locations, and under different conditions, will help boost your confidence, team-working skills, social integration abilities, and learning to handle different classroom scenarios.

Culture experience

There are very few employment opportunities which will allow you to move around the world, allowing you to immerse yourself in different cultures.

A majority of overseas vacancies rely on the employee being able to relocate to a foreign destination on a relatively permanent basis. TEFL does not do this.

Most contracts of employment are relatively short. This is, of course, not the result in all cases. There are a great many opportunities to find a position which is long enough for you to be able to fully immerse yourself in a culture.

Hours of work

Teaching English as a foreign Language is by no means the same as teaching in an English-speaking country.

As a general rule you are only required to work part-time, around four hours a day if teaching in schools, allowing a great deal of freedom to explore and learn about the country you are in.

Earning potential

One of the things which teachers of English as a foreign language find attractive, among other things, is the earning potential. The high demand for quality teachers ensures a decent wage.

At the same time the cost of living in a majority of countries is low in relation to this, enabling you to save enough money to be able to move on to your next teaching opportunity as it arises.


Having the necessary qualifications

There are many teacher training institutes available, but getting the right one is the key to success. The level of your own education can, and does, have a significant effect on your success.

I am a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language, but I am not a graduate of English. I haven't finished a degree course, and it has set certain restrictions on where I can teach.

On a recent trip to Albania I discovered that in order to teach a Cambridge or Oxford ESOL certificate was required, as well as a degree in English.

An ESOL, or English as a Second Official Language certificate, course is not cheap, and a considerable amount of time and training are involved to attain one.

A standard TEFL certificate is acceptable in a great many cases, but if your dream is to teach in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East make sure you do your research in order to require the qualifications you will need.

The red tape obstacle

If you are intending working anywhere in the world you will need to check the visa requirements. If you are intending on working in Spain, for example, you will need to register with the Department of Employment to receive your national employment and National Insurance number.

It is also required that you open a bank account, as most employers are not prepared to pay international bank transfer fees.

Visas for work are generally easy to get and the school or institute would normally help you with this. However, not all visas are that easy to get. Some countries will require you to visit their embassy in your own country in order for you to submit an application, and receiving a reply can take a time.

Make sure you check with the relevant embassy before you apply for any position offered. It will save you disappointment in the long run.

Family and relationships

Teaching abroad is not ideal for everyone, especially if you have a family. It's just simply not practical to drag your family all over the world with you just to realise a dream.

If you are in a relationship it will have to be a very strong one. Months away at a time can put a considerable amount of stress on any relationship. If you do intend teaching overseas make sure you take these things into account.

As you can see the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls. But you have to take them as a whole. Think about where you want to teach and do your research thoroughly.

Barry John Jones completed his TEFL course in 2012 and has worked in Spain. It is his wish to continue teaching English, but with a move towards Eastern Europe where the opportunities to teach are on the increase. It is for this reason the article has been written.

It is his hope that anyone reading this will be able to help him to find work in Albania or Kosovo, without the need for him to take a three year degree course, or have to pay for further certificates.

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