Teaching English as a second language
April 18, 2005 8:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in hearing from people who have taught English as a second language in a foreign country. Share your experience with someone who is considering entering this field.

I've caught the travel bug. Teaching English overseas seems a good way to earn some money along the way. I have a smidge of teaching experience - I used to teach IT skills to adults.

Should I take a TEFL/TESL course? How do I ensure the course provider is reputable? Any recommendations? There doesn't seem to be any internationally recognised TESL qualification - is this in fact the case?

Is teaching English overseas a particularly competitive field? What can I do to improve my employability?

If you were to do it all over again, what worked well and what would you do differently?
posted by Ritchie to Education (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You might find this tangential thread to be useful as well. Best of luck.
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:56 PM on April 18, 2005

Sorry I didn't mean to link directly to my comment in that thread. The whole thread is here.
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:57 PM on April 18, 2005

Any ideas where you're going?

If Asia...the link to the school I did my TEFL at is in the thread Staggering Jack linked. I can vouch for the quality, price and credentials.

There are a few different recognized TEFL training programs. Search on TEFL, ESL will net you a LOT of sites. There's no definitive credentials but a handful that are very transportable - names escape me at present....Cambridge is one.

What I would do differently? I would teach immediately following the course, while it was all fresh in my mind.

In asia you will be able to work most places. email me if you want more.
posted by peacay at 9:08 PM on April 18, 2005

odinsdream, I don't speak any non-English language. From checking with people who have taught overseas, it isn't essential (in fact it seems to be the norm rather than the exception, but maybe I'm wrong about that).

peacay, I was considering South America, but I'm happy to go anywhere, really.

Staggering Jack, thanks for the pointer to the other thread - I searched for tesl/tefl before posting, but somehow missed it.
posted by Ritchie at 11:02 PM on April 18, 2005

I am a teacher trainer living abroad, as well as an English teacher. It's a career choice I've never regretted, I've been living outside Canada for going on 11 years now, and I'd never go back.

Teaching is better, imo, than just travelling. You actually live somewhere foreign for an extended period of time, make local friends, marry local women, learn the local language, etc. There is the opportunity for full cultural immersion that would be really difficult to get as a tourist.

I've just bought a couple of textads on this site, and seeing as I have just yesterday updated my school's webpages with exactly the sort of info you are asking for, I hope a self link will not be considered out of order?

Regarding reputable courses, there are two main ones: the CELTA, organised and assessed by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate; and the SIT TESOL certificate course. I am a qualified trainer on the CELTA, and currently getting my credentials for the SIT TESOL. The main reason these two are more reputable and recognised is that they have a practical teaching component with trainer feedback, and they have an external assessor who inspects each course to maintain quality standards. I'd stay well away from any other "teach ESL" course. The CELTA and SIT TESOL are widely recognised and accepted by international employers, others might be OK but who knows...

I am happy to talk to anyone in more detail about this via email, it is in my profile.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:03 AM on April 19, 2005 [2 favorites]

This is an essay I wrote a while back, basically to answer AskMe questions about teaching in Korea. It doesn't precisely answer your questions here, but you may find it useful.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:34 AM on April 19, 2005

"I've caught the travel bug. Teaching English overseas seems a good way to earn some money along the way."

That's not the best recipe for a good teacher, not from the school's or student's point of view. Unless you have lots of experience, the school is going to end up training you just to see you take off to Tahiti. Also, any school that hires inexperienced transients is not a very good school, and you may discover that it has terrible bosses who cheat their teachers as much as they cheat their students.

So if you hope to get work in a decent school, be dishonest when you apply. Do not say you have the "travel bug," say that you are going to their country specifically because that's where you want to live, and that you are applying for a teaching job because that's what you really want to be.

Then fall in love with a local and stay there forever.
posted by pracowity at 2:54 AM on April 19, 2005

I was wondering about teaching in Japan, and since this seems as good a place as any... Does anyone know the viability of teaching french in those locales? I could swing the english, especially after the course, but I'm a french native (French-Canadian), and the language is just easier for me. Would the fact that I'm French-Canadian instead of French from France make a difference? Are you aware of any similar to a TEFL for french?

Inquiring minds want to know...
posted by splice at 4:18 AM on April 19, 2005

I know for a fact that there is a German and Italian equivalent of the CELTA, and... yes, it looks like there is a French one, too...

As far as I know, most international French as Second Language teaching jobs would likely want continental French.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:26 AM on April 19, 2005

It seems to be the lot of foreigners living here to have a love-hate relationship with Korea, and with Korean people, who can be so xenophobic and yet so hospitable and kind, so abrasive and impolite yet so conscious and careful of the niceties and minutiae of feeling and mood, so puritanical but so boozy and sexy and free, so group-focussed yet so individualistic, so backwards but so modern
You could easily insert Vietnam for Korea here.
Nice read stavrosthewonderchicken.
posted by peacay at 4:56 AM on April 19, 2005

Splice, I was just looking at some ESL jobs and happened across one that was for a French teacher in China.
posted by hazyjane at 6:55 AM on April 19, 2005

Thanks hazyjane. The thing is, the only place I'm interested in is Japan, for very specific reasons :). I'm not just looking into this as a travel opportunity but an actual steady job. China would certainly be nice, but it doesn't have what I'm looking for.
posted by splice at 8:41 AM on April 19, 2005

I taught English in Japan for two years. My advice is:

- Pick a country you LOVE. Living overseas is terribly stressful and being interested in the country helps smooth out the rough days.
- Don't spend any time alone in your apt if possible. The depression and loneliness can set in quickly and just eat away at you.
- Don't actually expect to teach a language. You are more likely to teach people about culture differences, getting along with a stranger, and being comfortable communicating with someone who doesn't speak your language. Most countries have their own English teachers and you will probably be stuck as a human tape recorder if you follow the easy route.
- don't spend any time with fellow foreigners. The fastest way to a nightmare of an experience is to spend your free time with other expatriates. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Make friends native to that country. And spend as much time with them as possible. It will speed up the acclimation process and make your time there more rewarding.

Teaching English overseas is really about cultural exchange. If you look at it that way, it's terribly rewarding. I began teaching night classes to adults and focused on cultural english...analyzing Friends (it was popular there at the time), teaching how to read recipes (and cook them! Use foreign foods like Nachos!), teaching "useful emergency english" and not the textbook junk. Make it fun and make it relevant!!

And lastly, reverse culture shock (coming home after being gone a while) is far worse than the actual culture shock. Your friends and life will have moved on. Be prepared for that.
posted by Dantien at 9:57 AM on April 19, 2005

Oh, and without a college degree you will get the crappiest teaching job in the world...teaching for NOVA or some school like that. Get a bachelor's degree. Apply for the JET programme. Its far superior.
posted by Dantien at 9:59 AM on April 19, 2005

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