FAQ's About Teaching English Abroad

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What are TEFL, TESL, and TESOL?

TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL - Teaching English as a Second Language
TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Essentially all three have the same meaning; teaching English to non-English speakers. All carry the same qualification weighting and are internationally recognised.

TESL used to be more commonly know in North America, but is now recognised worldwide. It;s used to refer to teaching English in a native English speaking country. Immigrants to the USA and Canada often do not speak English when they first arrive; therefore when they learn English it becomes their second language.

TEFL is more commonly known in Europe and refers to teaching English abroad. Europeans learning English tend to do so to be skilled in a foreign language, not because they want to live in an English speaking country.

TESOL is a more recent and general term that incorporates both TESL and TEFL.

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Do I need a University Degree to teach English?

Yes and No.

It really depends where you go. The governments of some countries will not issue a working visa to people without degrees (countries include Taiwan, Japan and South Korea).

Other countries will hire English teachers with just a TEFL/TESOL qualification. If you're an EU citizen you can teach English in most Europen countries without a degree, just a TEFL/TESOL qualification.

In some parts of the world (particularly South East Asia and Central America) you will find schools that will take on teachers without any qualifications, however there are risks associated with these positions. It’s unlikely the TEFL job is legal, therefore you will have no rights and risk deportation. Also, the pay is usually lower.

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Do I need a TEFL/TESL Certificate to teach English?

A TEFL/TESOL qualification is increasingly required to teach English, and it's now difficult to find consistently good TEFL jobs without a recogniosed TEFL/TESOL course. Also, for personal advancement a TEFL/TESOL course will expand your extrinsic knowledge of English.

Generally, many European jobs require some kind of teaching qualification i.e. TESOL/TEFL certificate. In other countries, such as those in North Asia, you can get a TEFL job with just a degree in any subject, however a TEFL Course will help you secure a good TEFL job and prepare you for the teaching environment.

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Do I need to be a native English speaker?

In most cases. Though it can be possible for non-native teachers to obtain work teaching English if they have a TESOL qualification and a near native level of English. Non-native English speakers will generally find it easier to obtain employment whilst in the country they have chosen to work in. Certain countries require you to be a native English speaker in order to obtain a legal working visa.

Citizens from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa can legally obtain working visas for most countries..

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Where can I earn/save the most money?

Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are the most highly paid location to teach English abroad. All pay in excess of $1500 per month.

Right now South Korea offers the best conditions if your main goal is to save money. The cost of living in Korea is low compared with Japan and Taiwan and jobs are plentiful. In South Korea you can expect a starting salary of around $1500 per month, 3 – 5% tax, return airfare paid by the school, free accommodation and a bonus of one months salary at the end of the one-year contract. It’s not uncommon to save 75% of your income.

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Do I need practical teaching experience?

There are plenty of TEFL jobs available these days that don’t require any formal teaching experience. In Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, first time teachers can expect excellent employment packages. The more experience you have, the more opportunities are available to you. In South Korea, after one year many teachers stay on to find University positions.

Do I need a Masters degree to teach in a University overseas?

Universities around the world will ask for a Masters degree. However, particularly in South Korea, where demand is high, Universities have often been known to hire teachers with a Bachelors and at least one year’s previous experience.

Who pays for my flight?

Typically, the school will pay for a one-way ticket if you work just 6 months or a return airfare if you stay for the term of the contract. Some schools, particularly those in the Middle East, will pay costs of relocation. Some TEFL jobs in less developed countries and voluntary TEFL jobs tend to ask you to pay your own airfare.

Note: It is common to purchase your own outward ticket and get reimbursed on arrival. Although if you request the school can arrange for a ticket to be forwarded to you.

Is my accommodation paid for?

Most TEFL jobs provide either free accommodation or an allowance for rent, often with the option to choose. If you opt for an allowance the school can help you secure a home. (Consider the deposit).

The quality of housing in North Asia is comparable to Western countries. And usually comes in the form of a modern apartment either private or shared with other teachers.

In Third World countries accommodation is likely to be more basic, you will often share with other teachers or be housed with a local family. Living with locals can be a great way to really get to grips with the local language and culture.

In Thailand (primarily Bangkok or Chang Mai) you will probably need to find your own place to live, but you can find quality apartments for very reasonable prices.

What is a University Transcript?

Your university transcript is an official document listing the grades you received for each module of your degree, for each academic year. Your transcript is required as evidence of your degree and the number of years you studied.

If you do not have your transcript, you can request this from your university. This will usually be dispatched within 10 days, and in most cases is free.

Do I need to speak the language of my destination country?

No, it’s not essential to speak the language of a country to be able to teach English there. Once in the country you’ll immerse yourself in another culture and will find many opportunities to pick up the local language.

Many schools offer free local language courses as an incentive. If you have this opportunity, take it! You will find settling into your new environment much more enjoyable if you take the time to learn. Make a start by learning basic phrases before you arrive, i.e. ‘hello’, 'goodbye’, ‘how are you?’ – you know the drill!

Should I get immunisations?

Much the same as if you were going on holiday, check what if anything is required and go to the doctors.

In brief: It’s not essential for countries in Western Europe, or for Japan and South Korea. If you keep up with regular childhood immunisations, such as diphtheria, polio, tetanus etc. you should be fine. If you are going to a tropical country you will need extra immunisations, most commonly Hepatitis A. To make sure you are fully protected, seek the advice of a doctor at least 6 weeks before you leave.

How much money should I take with me?

Depends how much you spend!

You will be paid a month in arrears, so you will need to allow living expenses for the first month. Remember you will be paid again just before leaving, sometimes twice for a 12 month bonus contract.

Check with your school or Recruiting Advisor what you will be expected to pay before you leave. For jobs providing airfare, you may have to pay for the flight upfront but this will be reimbursed on arrival. If you are responsible for your own accommodation you will need to check how much the deposit will be, plus your first months rent.

Do I still have to pay tax in my own country?

If you are paying tax in your destination country, you will not have to pay tax in your home country. Some countries will require a contribution after 2 years of continued absence. Citizens of the USA and Canada do still need to file a tax return. Wherever you are from, consult your local tax office before you leave to make sure there are no surprises when you return home!

Do I need to take teaching resources with me?

Not usually. Most schools will provide you with resources when you arrive. Having said that, do take some photos of your family and friends, plus anything else you think might be of interest to your students. Your students will love to hear about your life back home, and it will make for many interesting lessons.

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