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December 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Teaching English Abroad

What you need to know before you go

Teaching abroad can be one of the most fulfilling experiences in one’s life. Not only does it include travel and cultural immersion, but it also entails having a strong purpose in a foreign country and helping others toward their academic goals. But what does it take to teach a foreign language abroad? We explore some of the requirements with teaching abroad today, using English as the example for simplicity’s sake.

Where do you want to teach?

The first question is perhaps the most vital one: where do you want to teach? If you’re able to answer this question right away, you’ll benefit greatly. Different countries have varying requirements for what it takes to be a visiting teacher. Most require a bachelor’s degree, though not necessarily in the language you hope to teach (countries like China, Japan, and South Korea only require the degree itself, rather than a degree in English). Some areas of the world have higher competition and requirements, such as the Middle East, when compared to those with fewer, such as Latin America. You may want to factor this consideration in as well before choosing where you want to go.

Of course, one of the trickiest parts of working abroad in any industry is acquiring the proper work visa. Many countries do not allow foreigners to work without first getting this, a process that could take several months depending on the applicant. Some countries are more lenient, requiring only a tourist visa to start, though teachers eventually do “visa runs” (heading to a neighbouring country to apply for the visa to legally stay in the desired country) after securing a job. Regardless of how often people do it, working with solely a tourist visa in most countries is considered “under the table” (read: technically illegal).

Regardless of where you would like to teach and what the requirements may be, it’s helpful to request any academic transcripts ahead of time so you have it all ready beforehand. Other forms to consider include background/criminal checks and your medical record.

What kind of programme will you participate in?

Most institutions require some sort of teaching certification such as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), and DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – originally Diploma of English Language Teaching to Adults, to explain the acronym).

Perhaps the easiest method is to participate in an on-site TESOL certification programme that will provide job placement afterwards. These programmes require an up-front fee, however they provide the training required that you’ll need to acquire TESOL certification. And because you’re studying in your desired country, these programmes will give you the much-needed immersion to familiarise yourself with the culture before you begin teaching.

Government-subsidized programmes are an option as well. Those interested in teaching in Japan are no doubt familiar with the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) programme. Similarly, France has TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France). Government-sponsored programmes tend to provide housing and offer reimbursements for expenses such as airfare and visas. Of course, programmes like JET are very popular, so the competition is high.

For those looking to save money, or for those with geographic restrictions, online programmes could be an ideal pathway to certification. These programmes are generally cheaper, and they’re a good option for those unsure of where they want to go or are unable to leave just yet.

Private lessons are a simple way to teach without signing up for a programme. Whether you do this in person or online, it comes with the trouble of finding your own students (not too hard with the Internet these days), as well as dealing with any legality issues (we recommend sticking within the confines of the law).

Last but never least, volunteer programmes are fantastic for those looking to teach while giving back. While many programmes will cost you money as well, you’ll be helping out in programmes such as teaching English to underprivileged children in poor areas of the world.

Have you ever taught abroad? What was your experience like? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on language learning around the world!

Picture (c) Fotolia, Gennadiy Poznyakov