Teaching English abroad is a interesting experience, and can be a motivating and rewarding experience. Teaching English as a second or foreign language abroad can also be a way of supporting yourself whilst developing your language skills in your country of choice.
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If you are thinking of teaching English abroad, and wondering which sort of qualification -if any- you need, you cannot be blamed if you feel confused by the sheer volume of courses available claiming to be the one that will prepare you best for your job.
English teaching requirements vary from country to country and place to place. Most of the better-paying jobs require that you have some sort of formal TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign Language) or TESOL ( Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) qualification.
There are many different qualifications and courses out there, and it is hard to know which ones are the best given the different options available. This article aims to give a brief overview of the different courses of study available to the TESOL learner.
The most respected qualifications from the UK are the Trinity College London and the University of Cambridge certificates and diplomas. Many of the top-paying EFL institutions around the world state they require their teachers to have a certificate issued by one of these two institutions, or one of their affiliated and accredited centres. The British Council, for example, in most countries, will not consider applicants without at least a basic Cambridge or Trinity certificate.
Courses for the Trinity CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and the Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) are offered in the UK, along with in many other countries around the world. Accredited CELTA and Trinity TESOL institutions can be located through the official websites (www.cambridgeesol.org; www.trinitycollege.co.uk )The usual duration of a teaching course for both of these certificates is four weeks of full-time teaching. Courses can also be taken part-time over the course of anything up to a year.
The cost of such course varies considerably depending on where you learn: in countries with a higher cost of living the courses are more expensive than in those with a lower cost of living. All accredited centres provide the same qualification- that is to say, a CELTA certificate obtained in London or in Cairo have no difference in their legitimacy- the cost difference is merely a reflection of the living costs and wages needed to pay the teachers and trainers.
The courses are often more expensive than the non-Cambridge/Trinity certificates available in the same country.
There are countless other TESOL programs and certificates offered by other competing organisations and institutions- from distance learning courses, e-learning and web-based tutorials, to group classes and private lessons. These are often a cheaper option than the Cambridge and Trinity certificate courses, though of course they are not as widely recognised. However, many employers in different countries are quite happy to take on teachers who have any form of TESOL qualification. The best and most practical courses are ones that will offer you hands-on experience in assisting or teaching students as part of your training. This is invaluable as nothing else can prepare you for standing in front of a class of expectant students for the first time!
However, for those who have other kinds of teaching experience and are familiar with the classroom setting, the distance and e-learning courses can be a good way of learning the subject, techniques and methods specific to ESOL teaching, without having to focus on basic general teaching techniques. These courses have the obvious advantage of being able to advance at your own pace. Indeed, it is possible to complete them in a much shorter time than the 4-5 for the standard CELTA and TESOL courses. Many of such courses will offer some form of online support in the form of a tutor or supervisor; nearly all will involve an exam of test upon completion of the study material.
Many private language institutions worldwide will accept these types of certificates as qualification.
There exist also numerous TESOL specialised courses, such as Teaching English for Business Purposes, or Teaching English to Early learners, that can be worth looking into if you are interested in a particular area of English teaching, and that can increase your 'employability' in these fields.
It is possible to get TESOL jobs without any formal TESOL qualification. In many countries, particularly -though not exclusively-where demand for ESOL teachers outstrips supply, there is no requirement for potential teachers to have a TESOL certificate or diploma of any kind. The minimum requirement for most places is often a University Bachelors degree, and having English as your native language or mother tongue. If you show enthusiasm in teaching, and are University-educated, this can be enough to secure you a job in many private institutions and language schools.
The Berlitz language school, for example, which has centres worldwide, takes on teachers without any formal TESOL qualification and trains them from scratch according to their own program. They normally are amongst the better paying institutions and have a good reputation.
It is a good idea to try and arrive in the country you wish to teach in before finding a teaching job or spending money on a course- once you arrive you can gain a knowledge of the market and might find that obtaining a certificate is unnecessary. If it proves you do need one, CELTA and TESOL are offered worldwide, and the chances are that they will be cheaper to obtain in your host country than back at home. Finding a job before arriving in the country often means that the recruiter takes a cut of your salary, and most of the best paying jobs are usually found after arrival.
Opportunities can arise once arriving in a country that would not have been considered prior to arrival- for example, high-end pre-schools and nurseries in many places often look for English speaking staff so that the children can be exposed to English at an early age. This rarely involves having a TESOL qualification, merely the enthusiasm and patience for working children. Offering private tuition can also be both financially and emotionally rewarding, and by putting up fliers in bookstores or cafes, depending on the country, you can find lots of work. Word of mouth is by far the best promotional tool, and once you have a few happy students more are sure to come!
While teaching experience and qualifications are definitely a plus when looking to teach English abroad, they are by no means necessary. The best approach to deciding whether or not to follow a certificate course, and which course to study, is by getting to know the market in the country where you wish to teach. There are many resources on the net for this, a good place to start is "Daves ESL cafe", at www.eslcafe.com, where you can get advice and recommendations directly from people working all around the world.