How to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)

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Are you a great communicator with a passion for travel? Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a unique and interesting career opportunity that could take you on the adventure of a lifetime. If you’re bored of working 9-5 within the same four office walls, then why not spread your wings and see where a career as a foreign language teacher could take you? There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored, and the possibilities are endless…

What does Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) involve?

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (also known as “TEFL”) involves exactly what it says on the tin – which is helping non-native speakers of English to either learn English from scratch, or work on their existing English language skills.

English is a valuable language that is widely sought after by countries across the globe, so teaching opportunities are vast, and they’ll always be someone in the world who could benefit from your language skills and experience.

Where can I teach?

teach english abroad

TEFL has the potential to take you on adventures to all corners of the world, so you could soon be sunning yourself in regions such as Latin America or Southern Europe. There are also options to teach English to non-native speakers living in native-speaking countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA – so the world really is your oyster!

What skills do I need?

The right person will:

  • Be fluent in English.
  • Have excellent communication skills.
  • Be patient and kind – as learning a whole new language can be tough, and people will take to it at different rates.
  • Be keen to explore new countries and cultures.
  • Be open-minded and willing to adapt to the culture and customs of another country.

What will I love about TEFL?

what will I love about tefl
  • The opportunity to visit new places and meet new people from all over the world – many people describe TEFL as a “life-changing opportunity”.
  • You could explore a country you’ve always dreamt of visiting, whilst earning money at the same time.
  • It’s often described as a “gratifying” or “humbling” experience that can give you a fresh perspective on life.
  • TEFL can increase your confidence and public speaking ability as you will have to stand up in front of groups of students and deliver lessons.
  • The chance to step outside of your comfort zone – after all, that’s where the magic happens!

What are the challenges?

  • Learning to teach English to people who don’t have any knowledge of it at all can be challenging – while TEFL courses can help teach you all the skills and basics you need, it can still be a daunting experience stood up in front of a class of non English speakers!
  • Moving to work in another country for a lengthy period of time. The disruption that this can cause is what stops many people from considering the role. But for those keen on the idea, moving abroad is more of a bonus than a challenge! 
  • It’s not all beaches and cocktails – it’s important to pick your location carefully as different countries offer significantly different salaries in relation to the local cost of living. It’s also worth noting that many (although not all), of the opportunities will be in cities where the bulk of the local population reside, not just where the tourist hotspots are. But for those comfortable with an urban hub, this can provide a great base to explore from.

How much will I earn?

TEFL salaries are very variable – as it will largely depend on where in the world you choose to teach, but it will usually be enough to live off by local standards. Many employers also offer free flights, accommodation and other bonuses, but again, this will very much depend on who you take a job with. It’s always best to confirm the details of your salary and any perks and bonuses (in writing) before accepting any offers.

Are there opportunities to progress?

tefl opportunities

The TEFL industry is huge and progression can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. If you get on particularly well at the place you’re teaching at, they could offer you a permanent position and the chance to progress to more senior teaching roles.

You may also decide that you’d like to go on and become a TEFL course designer or tutor, and help run courses for people who want to start their own journey to teaching English as a foreign language. If you’re in it for the long haul, you may even want to work towards becoming a TEFL Director of Studies.

How do I get started?

You don’t need to know any other languages or have any formal qualifications in order to teach English as a foreign language. As long as you’re fluent in English and willing to take an accredited TEFL course, there’s no reason why you can’t get started…

Take a short TEFL course…

tefl short courses

The best way to prepare yourself to teach English as a foreign language is to take an accredited TEFL course which will cover topics such as lesson planning, grammar and classroom management. This should give you the skills and the confidence you need to get the most out of the role – and courses can usually be studied online, in person, or both.

Most employers (across all countries) will expect you to have had at least 120 hours of TEFL training as a standard – and as long as you’ve completed this and gained your TEFL certificate, there’s no reason why you can’t apply for your first teaching position.

Course provider i-to-i offers two qualification levels – the TEFL Level 3 and TEFL Level 5.

TEFL Level 3 is cheaper, but still enables you to teach abroad whilst travelling.

TEFL Level 5 is more in-depth, so is a little more expensive and takes longer. However, it enables you to teach both abroad or online – and with a higher earning potential.

If you’re not sure which to do, there’s more information on the i-to-i website…

Apply for a TEFL opportunity somewhere in the world…

Apply for a TEFL job

Once you’ve successfully completed an accredited TEFL course (made up of at least 120 hours of study), you’ll receive an internationally-recognised TEFL certificate and can start applying for jobs. And the first (and most exciting thing) to decide is where in the world you’d like to go.

It’s important to keep in mind that different countries have different entry requirements and criteria for hiring TEFL staff – for example, some countries in Asia have a compulsory retirement age of 55 or 60, which means that teaching opportunities for people above these ages often aren’t widely available. This means you need to research your dream destination carefully, but thankfully it’s only a minority of countries and there are plenty of other places around the world who do hire teachers well into their 70s. For example, in Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico and Nicaragua, older teachers are very desirable because of their skills, experience and work ethic – and the warm weather, beautiful scenery and rich history in these locations, make them incredible places to live and work.

If you find that you really enjoy TEFL and want to make it a long-term plan, but you struggle with the idea of being away from home for long periods of time, then you could consider TEFL online. You can teach a group of students regularly in a virtual classroom (using a webcam and headset), without having to leave the comfort of your own home. Many employers ask that you first have a year of TEFL experience before you start working online, which means that even if you only wish to teach abroad for a year, you will still have the option to continue with your TEFL career when you decide to return to the UK.

The rate of pay and the benefits attached to each TEFL job will vary significantly depending on the country you’re visiting and the employer. Course provider i-to-i will provide you with lots of information about the country you’re interested in teaching in, so you can make an informed decision. Once you start browsing, you never know where you might end up!

Not sure where you’d like to go?

Already know where you’d like to work?

Enjoy the journey!

Did you find this page helpful? Have you already studied or taught TEFL? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at [email protected]

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