Teaching English Around the World: Your Ultimate Introduction

As the need for English proficiency around the world rises, so do the opportunities for English teachers wanting to work abroad.

Why teach English? 

Teaching English around the world can lead to a beautiful career that will satisfy you both professionally and personally.

Teachers, in general, can make a difference in their students’ lives by giving them valuable (language) skills and leading through example on how to be decent.

Providing individuals or even entire communities with an extra language skill could significantly change their lives for the better. 

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Teachers also benefit from teaching English abroad, as this experience can broaden their understanding of the world and present the opportunity for true cultural immersion.

Depending on the location and employer, teaching English abroad can also offer competitive salaries, benefits such as housing or travel allowances, and opportunities for professional development funding, especially if you leverage your salary in a country with lower costs of living. 

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Requirements for English teachers

The exact requirements for teaching English abroad vary depending on the country, the institution, and the specific teaching position. 

A common requirement is a bachelor’s degree in teaching, English, linguistics, or any other related field. However, it is still possible to become an English teacher abroad if you do not hold a bachelor’s degree.

In many cases, having a teaching certification specific to teaching English around the world as a second/foreign language (TESL or TEFL), teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), or a similar certification is required or highly recommended. 

Whether you go for a position requiring a bachelor’s degree or if you stick with another teaching certification, a high proficiency in the English language is indispensable.

Even if English is not your native language, you should have a strong command of English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and communication skills.

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When your employer asks for proof of your proficiency, you could take an English language proficiency test like the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). 

Something not specifically related to English teachers but nonetheless extremely important for anybody wanting to work abroad is the need of a work visa or a work permit. Most countries do not allow you to earn money under a tourist visa and you must apply for a work visa to work abroad legally.

Requirements for obtaining a work visa vary by country and may involve providing proof of qualifications, a job offer from an employer, and other documentation.

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Useful skills

As an English teacher, communication is a crucial aspect of your job, especially when teaching a foreign language abroad. Communication skills are, therefore, extremely important for conveying information, explaining concepts, and engaging students in meaningful discussions.

Another useful skill for international teachers is cultural sensitivity. Understanding and respecting cultural differences and participating in the local culture are important to gain respect and acceptance in your chosen country.

It will also contribute to full cultural immersion and broaden your mind to the similarities and differences between cultures around the world. 

Teaching English as a second language will require patience and empathy. Educators should understand that language learning can be challenging and progress may vary among students. Patience, encouragement, and empathy help create a supportive learning environment.

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Things to consider before teaching English around the world

Before you jump in headfirst, there are a few important factors to consider. First and foremost are your qualifications and language proficiency. Do you possess the minimum requirements, or are you willing to invest the time and money needed to get them? 

Next is obtaining a work visa. This is something you cannot ignore, and unfortunately it does involve quite some paperwork.

Luckily, some employers will help you with your visa or even take care of it for you if they are sponsoring you. 

Moving abroad to start a new life requires careful financial planning. Consider your chosen country’s cost of living, accommodation expenses, healthcare, transportation, and other financial aspects. Find out if you can afford to secure your own accommodations or need accommodations provided by your employer or another type of sponsorship

Traveling abroad and discovering new cultures can be wonderful, but loneliness and homesickness are also part of it.

Therefore it is important to build a support system and network of contacts, including fellow teachers, expatriates, local communities, and professional associations. Seek guidance, mentorship, and resources to navigate challenges and adapt to your new teaching environment and any personal challenges.

Last but not least, there are some health and safety considerations. When traveling abroad, especially to countries that might not have the same level of healthcare as you are used to back home, it is crucial to understand the healthcare facilities, insurance coverage, emergency protocols, and safety precautions in the country where you plan to teach.

Also don’t forget to take the necessary vaccinations and precautions for international travel.

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Tips to Start Teaching English

So you have decided you would like to teach English abroad, and you have the necessary certifications? Here are some tips to jumpstart your career:

  • Research destination countries: research potential destinations by weighing them against each other based on personal interests and career goals. Factor in things like cultural immersion, job opportunities, and cost of living. For example, here is more information on how to teach English in Portugal
  • Understand visa and work permit requirements: once you have a destination in mind, you can start preparing the needed paperwork to obtain a work visa. 
  • Gain teaching experience: if you are new to teaching, it might help your application to gain some experience in your home country first. This can be a paid position, as a tutor, or volunteer work. 
  • Network: network with experienced teachers, alumni of teaching programs, and professionals in the field of English language education. Seek guidance, mentorship, and insights from those who have experience teaching abroad.
  • Research job opportunities: Explore job opportunities through online job boards, recruitment agencies, language institutes, schools, universities, and government-sponsored programs. It is always recommended to research potential employers by looking up reviews or asking around the international teaching community. 

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