Did you know being born into an English speaking culture enables you to launch yourself into an upwardly mobile career that involves travelling the world, meeting an abundance of interesting people, achieving a feeling of purpose as well as a pretty good pay-packet at the end of it all? Sounds like an ad in the recruitment pages?…But it’s true!
Being a native English speaker is one of the most valuable assets a young man or woman of the world can possess these days.
For some time, English has been the dominant language on this little planet of ours. Due to the fact that the world just keeps getting smaller with every new piece of communications technology and cheap airline tickets, people from opposite ends of the earth are wanting to talk to each other (for all sorts of reasons).
This leads to a lot of people wanting to learn English, and a thriving industry has sprung up to meet this need.
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is by no means a new thing; in fact, it is an established profession. The great thing about it is that there are no specific requirements you need in order to gain a qualification in the field apart from (yes, it’s that simple) speaking English.
Graduation from high school is usually a must but a university degree is not necessary. You do not have to have come from a linguistics, communications or education background and you don’t have to speak another language.
I recently completed a TEFL course with twelve class mates who all came from such diverse backgrounds as nursing, social work, accountancy, secretarial, hospitality and, to top it all off, we even had a professional ballet dancer! The rest of us fitted into a class I’ll just call ‘transient’. The things we all had in common were an ability to speak English (coherently), a vague interest in language use and a handy grammar book and dictionary to consult in case of emergency.
First of all, you don’t absolutely need to gain a TEFL qualification to teach English to foreigners. There is many a story about intrepid travellers turning up in foreign lands and becoming English teachers without any forethought whatsoever.
However, I would advise against this if you prefer to have some credo which will earn you more money and limit your chances of being completely exploited (and know a little bit about how you might go about teaching people who will stare at you blankly when you say, ‘And what’s your name?’).
The following information is relevant for the UK but hopefully will give an idea of the processes involved in undertaking a TEFL course in most English speaking countries.
1. Decide what sort of qualification you want.
In the UK there are various boards governing TEFL courses, the two most prominent being Trinity and the Cambridge RSA CELTA. The CELTA is the most widely recognised and hailed to be the superior qualification at the moment. A TEFL course will generally take you about 4 weeks full-time to complete. Different schools will teach different courses so check it out before you enrol.
2. Find a School.
Make sure your school is a member of a recognised association (e.g. in the UK – ARELS or the British Council) and that they offer a legitimate qualification. In Britain, the Guardian newspaper has an education supplement on Tuesdays, which advertises courses on offer. Apart from that, the Yellow Pages are a good place to start. By the way, try to find a school that includes practical teaching sessions in its syllabus (some don’t). If you’ve never taught before you’ll be glad of the experience.
3. Be prepared to work your butt off!
A full-time TEFL course is intense to say the least. After a full day’s lectures and teaching practice the prospect of spending your evenings preparing lessons and writing assignments doesn’t always thrill. However, you must remember just because you’ve parted with a lot of money to do the course doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to pass. So study hard!
4. Finding work.
There are endless options for work as an EFL teacher. Most likely your school will have a job placement service or a fully-fledged recruitment agency attached to it. This would be the obvious place to start the search. You can always go out on your own offering one-to-one private tutoring. At about Â£15 an hour for a new graduate, it’s not a bad option. Also, the Guardian advertises teaching jobs in its Tuesday issue. In the UK, lots of language schools offer summer schools for teenagers, which is a great provider of work for the summer months, particularly for first jobbers. For those of you with an altruistic streak, working with refugees is also an area with many opportunities.
5. Special Fields.
There are various branches within TEFL that you could enter like Business English, Medical English, Academic English, etc and if you are already experienced in any of these fields you’re off to a head start. There are extra courses you can take for these special fields or maybe you could create your own little niche drawing on your own background e.g. music, art, history, science, popular culture….the list goes on.
6. Gaining further qualifications.
After a couple of years experience, preferably in a foreign country, you might want to do a post-grad diploma in TEFL or even a Masters degree – yes it exists! You could become a Director of Studies or go into teacher training with these sorts of qualifications.
The thing that attracted me to TEFL was that, being a traveller, it could allow for heaps of freedom and it could open doors to countries and cultures that would otherwise not be open to me.
I know there are lots people out there who love to be on the go and don’t really want to settle down (just yet) but at the same time feel like they want to do a job that’s got a bit of a challenge to it. TEFL seems to slide right into that groove, and the beautiful thing about it is that you can take the qualification home with you at the end of your adventure and get a ‘proper job’!
Good Book To Get: Teaching English Abroad, by Susan Griffith (UK)
Email lists for English Teachers abroad, by Malcolm Davidson
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Aegean/4007 – Geocities site, but it has great links found by someone who has done the courses.
http://www.teflfarm.com – Site’s a bit wacky, but looks like there are some good resources here.
http://tefl.com – This list is a bit of a drag, but you might find something in the USA.