There are many reasons why people move abroad, but it often happens that someone abroad is looking for work and stumbles over the idea of teaching English. This article is a quick guide for expats thinking about teaching English as a part-time or full-time job while they are abroad.

But first, a quick word on who we are talking about here; that is, the kind of people this article is aimed at. Maybe…

  • You are married to or living with a local person you met back home. (You might have moved to their country to be with them and once you got over the upheaval of moving you find that you are at home all day and wondering what to do to fill the time, after all you could be living in this foreign country for many years!)
  • You are with someone and you moved abroad for their job. (Many companies have offices abroad and perhaps your partner works for one such company. Chances are that they are on a fixed term contract for a few years now your partner is out at work all day and you are looking for something worthwhile to do to fill your time.)
  • You used to work in this country abroad and recently lost your job and you don’t want to go home but you need work to stay in the place you love!

Of course there are many other reasons but regardless of why you want to work, you find yourself thinking about teaching English and wonder if it’s possible… and now this article will tell you!

Can you be a Teacher?

The first question to ask yourself is: Is teaching for you?

Aside from the qualifications (which we’ll come to soon) you need to ask yourself:

  1. Are you happy standing up in front of a group of strangers and talking to them? (Ok, all teachers are nervous the first time they teach, but you need to be at least fairly confident speaking amongst strangers to be a teacher.)
  2. Are you friendly & approachable? (You can’t teach if you don’t like people! You will be teaching all sorts: young children or teenagers, adults, groups of different types… Your students must feel they can ask for your help and you must be happy giving it to them.)

Put simply, this means that if you are a reasonably confident person and like the idea of teaching this could be for you.

This settled, the next question to ask is what kind of teaching you want to do.

Private Lessons or School Teaching?

There are two main options for expat teachers. One is simply to teach private lessons. This will usually mean having one (or perhaps two) students once or twice a week for English lessons. Some teachers will teach in their own home and others will go to the student’s home.

The advantages of private lessons are that

  1. they are flexible and easy to arrange
  2. they pay better than working in a school
  3. they tend to be less stressful than working in a school

But on the other hand they aren’t always a regular source of income. Students cancel at the last moment and often it will take time to build up a regular number of students. You may find you have just one or two students for months and months and if you need the money they can’t always be relied on to provide it.

However, if you prefer a more low key approach to teaching and don’t need to rely on the money, then private lessons could be the way to go.

The alternative is, of course, to go and work for a school. Almost every country in the world has small, privately run language schools. They vary a lot in size and in the way they are run, but you can often get a decent living working regularly in a school in a more structured job environment.

If you check your local phone book or just look around next time you are in town you are bound to see English schools around the place. One of these might be perfect for you!

How Good is your English?

So once you’ve decided you like the idea of teaching English, the next question is simple: how good is your English‏‎?

If you are a native speaker of English (i.e. you grew up and went to school in an English speaking country) then you are fine. Your English will likely be perfect. However, even if you aren’t from one of those countries then you can still find work but you must be able to speak excellent English indeed.

The next thing to think about is grammar‏‎. Your students are likely to ask you questions about the different verb tenses and forms‎ and in many classrooms you’ll be expected to be able to explain things like the conditionals‏‎ and so on. Do you know what they are?

…the good news is that even if you don’t know now, it’s easy to learn! You can either read a good grammar guide and learn it as you need it or even take a grammar foundation course to really get a good handle on what it is all about.

More Formal Qualifications

If you are just teaching private lessons then just knowing English well enough will be enough to get you started. You may just be able to put up a notice in the local supermarket saying Native English speaker offers Private Lessons and away you go.

However, if you’ve never taught before, it could end up in confused lessons where you are unhappy and the student is not learning. Untrained teachers have said that it takes a good year before they really feel able to teach to a reasonable standard and during that time your students might not be getting the best from you. We, then, would always advise new teachers to get some kind of teacher training in before starting work. It will make your lessons better, you will be happier teaching and get more from it, and, most importantly, your students will get a lot more from the lessons and come back for more – and, more often than not, they will recommend you to friends and relatives!

Teacher training then is a good idea if you teach privately, but it’s pretty much a standard requirement if you want to teach in a school.

Check with the rules applying to your country, but you will find that most language schools usually ask for a degree. Often this is for the visa so if you are already living in the country (perhaps on a spouse visa) they may well waive this need if you don’t have a degree (plus, some countries don’t require their teachers to have a degree‏‎).

In addition, the majority of schools will ask for a TEFL certificate. This is a formal qualification proving that you know how to teach English and it is well worth investing in not only to get work, but also to make sure you do a good job.

Finding Work

If you have the qualifications, being an expat resident in the country does give you several major advantages when it comes to finding work in a school.

  1. Unlike teachers applying from abroad you can approach local schools in person and leave them with your CV/Résumé. You might well find them contacting you a long time afterwards if they suddenly find they need a teacher and since you live there already, you’ll be available.
  2. The schools will not have to find you accommodation, sort out your visa or do all the paperwork required for a teacher coming in from abroad. This means you are much more of an attractive option to schools.

So yes, go for it! Given the choice between employing an unseen teacher from abroad and a local teacher similarly qualified, most schools will go with the expat!

Useful Links

ICAL TEFL Course 120hr – the minimum qualification to teach English as a foreign language

How to Teach English‏‎ as a Foreign Language – don’t let anyone tell you it’s just about the ABCs!

Private TEFL Lessons. – an in-depth look at Private English Lessons; how to get them and what to teach, etc.

Do I Need To Know Grammar?‏‎ – is it necessary for an English teacher to know grammar; and if so, how much?

How to Find Teaching Jobs – an article on finding work as a TEFL teacher.

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