Teaching English in Foreign Countries

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Teaching English in foreign countries is an expanding opportunity which offers career building, life experience, and the chance to sharpen teaching abilities in real life situations. Learning English as a second language is one of the biggest growing sectors of the education community as the globalized economy continues to negotiate in English. However, being bilingual is a skill for anyone who wants to expand their opportunities in life. The requirements to teaching English overseas, the benefits, and how this opportunity changes lives will be covered herein. 

First Steps

Those who desire to teach English in foreign countries must not simply be people who can speak English, but those people who know how to teach it-two very different things. The minimum requirement will be to get a Bachelor’s degree, and then to get certified as a teacher. For those set on going abroad, “It’s up to you if you want to travel to your country first and take a certification course there, or get certified at home and then move abroad. Both options work, though the former probably requires more planning” (Griswold). Certification is the fulfillment of the education, which shows that a person has mastered the curriculum and is ready to be a teacher. The, 

required certification is typically a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, and when it comes to earning one, you basically have two choices: You can take an online course or sign up for an in-class program. (Griswold)

For those who choose the online option for certification, it will cost several hundred dollars depending on the provider. However, “The in-class programs, on the other hand, range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, but course providers say this is one instance where you get what you pay for” (Griswold). In the case of those who have already been trained in ESL, the TESOL organization provides an in-depth certification process made up of three steps:

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This is the top of the line program, and for those who are serious the best choice. There are many ways to certify, as “A quick Google search for "teaching English abroad" returns approximately 40 million results, with dozens of companies that promise to empower you on your journey overseas” (Griswold). Thus, research is key for knowing how to navigate this largesse. For those who do not choose the TESOL program it is key to understand what the full package should look like. Lauren Bauer, senior teach abroad manager at Greenheart Travel asserts, “The best programs offer practice teaching experience, placement assistance once you earn your certification, and generous pre-departure and on-site support” (Griswold). So, if any program does not offer this it is not up to snuff. 

Where to Go?

After education and certification has been secured the next step is choosing where to teach English abroad. How to choose where to go will reflect one’s goals for the journey. Whereas some simply want to go to a beautiful location, If you want a guaranteed job placement, it's best to look at Southeast Asia and Taiwan, says Steve Patton, associate director of marketing at LanguageCorps. Job markets in western Europe are guaranteed to be far more competitive. Bauer says that Latin America is also a tough region to get a job since demand for those positions is relatively high. (Griswold)

Thus, determining the “why” of teaching English abroad is the first step of determining where to go. Along with job placement, salaries will be different in each location due to the local economy and the value placed on teachers. For those who determine that a higher salary is one of the chief determinants of a location’s desirability, experts have charted the global landscape to provide an overview;

An English teacher in Vietnam, for example, can expect to earn between $1,000 and $1,500 a month, according to the LanguageCorps website. Someone working in Costa Rica would earn wages closer to $400 to $800 a month, and LanguageCorps notes that it is not typical for these teachers to save up money. (Griswold)

Asia or the Middle East has been found to be a good location for making money, as “That's where salaries are going to the highest and cost of living is going to be the lowest” (Griswold). However, schools in the Middle East often desire a Master’s degree, so there is that to take into account. South Korea is often ranked near number one because of the many amenities they provide their teachers such as:

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Find a School

Once a country has been chosen a school within the chosen country must be found. Researchers say, “If you've chosen the cheaper route of taking an online certification course, you're much more likely to run into problems when it comes to finding a school to teach in” (Griswold). Many schools advertise on online job boards for ESL teachers, but that it a much riskier way to go about the process, as it is unclear who is posting this, and their level of dedication. That is why the best certification programs help their teachers gain placement because they have built up a working relationship with these channels. This is a crucial choice, and experts emphasize, “Generally, we recommend going through a more structured program where you have somebody who's vetting the schools, making sure they're legitimate, and making sure you’re getting the job they say it’s going to be” (Griswold). This is the stage where preparation and research really pays off. 

Random Bits

Once a school is chosen some new teachers are often confused about the minutia of their new position. One aspect of this new confusion is the question if contracts need to be signed. However, each country likely has their own approach, contracts, and requirements which also have to do with labor laws;

The points covered by a contract may include the minimum number of guaranteed hours, amount and frequency of pay, length of service, hours the teachers must be available to teach, whether teachers can teach classes outside of the school, and conditions under which the contract can be broken. Be aware that schools in certain countries will ask you to teach on the basis of a verbal contract only. If this is the case, be sure that you and the administration are clear on the conditions of your employment, so there are no surprises later on. (TEFL Online)

Another frequent question is if people must speak the native language of the country in order to teach English as a second language there. This would be a strong benefit to the teacher, and no doubt enhance their own experience, but it is not a requirement. In some cases where the native language is known, teachers may be offered more money. Researchers emphasize for this question that “if you've been trained in the Direct Method (the method utilized in BridgeTEFL programs), you should be able to teach English successfully in any country in the world, whether you know the language or not” (TEFL Online). As a support system for new teachers, many foreign schools offer language classes and social organizing to help their teachers become more comfortable with the local culture.

There is a large benefit to considering teaching English as a second language in a foreign country, as the current American job market for teachers is very difficult, and nearly flush with ESL. One billion people around the world are seeking to learn English, and there are many opportunities for teachers in this growing market. If you are considering this choice, ask yourself, “Do you want to live abroad, see the world and get paid? Can you see yourself spending your weekends on a beach in Costa Rica or in beer halls in Prague? How about getting international professional experience on your resume?” (Bentley). The top 100 countries for doing this have helped many people find their footing in the world. A few other countries to consider for this opportunity which have not already been covered are:

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The many benefits of teaching English in a foreign country perhaps will not be overcome by any other aspect than life experience. Life experience is the greatest of all opportunities, far more valuable than money or any type of security. Life experience is the means by which the character can be refined through overcoming limitations, fears, and the general malaise of the familiar. Those who seize the opportunity of teaching English in a foreign country may find themselves learning just as much as their students do, if not more.


Today English is the lingua franca, tomorrow if the global economy changes it may become Chinese, and posts like these will become much different. However, for today it is English, and those who are trained in TESOL pedagogy have a great opportunity to see the world while they polish their laurels.

Works Cited

Bentley, John. “Top 10 Countries to Teach English Abroad for Recent College Grads.” Gooverseas.com, 11 Mar. 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/top-10-countries-teach-english-abroad-college-grads

Griswold, Alison. “How To Get A Job Teaching English Abroad.” Business Insider, 28 Oct. 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-get-a-job-teaching-english-abroad-2013-10

International TEFL Academy. “Top 5 Countries to Make the Most Money Teaching English Overseas.” Internationalteflacademy.com, 30 Sep. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/blog/bid/51364/Top-5-Countries-to-Make-the-Most-Money-Teaching-English-Overseas

NomadicMatt. “The 9 Best Places to Teach English Overseas.” Nomadicmatt.com, 31 Aug. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/best-places-to-teach-esl-overseas/

TEFL Online. “About Teaching Abroad.” Teflonline.com, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.teflonline.com/faqs_teaching_abroad.php

TESOL. “TESOL Core Certificate Program.” Tesol.org, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/certificate-leadership-programs/tesol-core-certificate-program

Transitions Abroad. “Teaching English Abroad.” Transitionsabroad.com, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/work/esl/