Back in the day almost anyone, who was a native English speaker or spoke like a native English speaker, could pick up a job teaching English somewhere in the world. It was widely presumed that just because your spoken English was good you could teach English. Back then it was acceptable, but these days it’s almost unheard of with even the more obscure places requiring minimal qualifications. It is not only schools that are looking for you to be qualified, it’s also immigration in the country that you want to work in – they need to know that you’re certified and they also need to know that you are going to be fulfilling a position that one of their own nationals cannot fill. Just knowing English is not enough. Here are a few tips to start your ESL career.
Firstly, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Do I actually want to become an English teacher?” You need to understand what’s involved and what ESL actually is. ESL involves teaching learners whose mother tongue is not English. While teaching English is really fun and you get to see some exciting places, it can be, at times quite demanding. When teaching English, you’ll need the patience of a saint especially if you’re teaching adult learners as it gets more difficult the older you get. You may be required to travel a bit if you work for an institution that outsources its teachers, this alone can be quite exhausting as well.
Today, the minimum requirement for getting an ESL post is to have a bachelor’s degree. Not any bachelor degree is okay, it preferably needs to be in the Arts, more specifically English. Just because you speak English it doesn’t mean you get an automatic license to teach it. You need to understand the ins and outs of the language and have a good idea how grammar works, which is challenging considering most English speaking countries do not include this in their school curriculum.
Because there’s more competition these days, there’s also a chance that you’ll need an English as a second language qualification. You’re able to take 4 week intensive courses to cover the basics with the most popular courses being a TESOL or a TEFL. It’s a good starting point and many countries will accept this alone. If you’re looking to up the ante and really stand out, you could take a 3-month intensive or a 1-year part-time Diploma in TESOL course. The great thing about a Diploma in TESOL is that it can act as a stepping stone to a Masters in TESOL.
In some countries a teacher requires a special teacher’s license to undergo any kind of teaching practice whether it is regular teaching in a public school or English teaching in a private language school. The requirements vary from country to country – generally what they’re checking for is that you’re fit both mentally and physically to teach. It could involve having to have your official degree/qualifications certified, it could include passing a medical exam, or in some more extreme cases it could mean you have to pass a language exam, however, this is rare. It is however quite common for your future employers to ask for a background check to ensure you’re okay to be working with kids.
While employers and a number of countries want to see the paperwork and the qualifications, to many it’s more important that you gain experience. ESL employers are sympathetic and understand a new teacher has to start somewhere, which is why if you’re ready to prove that you’re committed to the cause and that you’re interested in developing your ESL career more, there are employers who will hire you despite having little experience.
There are a number of different avenues that you can take to get into English teaching, however, the best way to start out is by taking a course of some sort to introduce to L2 acquisition, teaching methodologies and other cool things related to teaching English as a second language.