Rethinking Teaching English Overseas

Rethinking Teaching English Overseas

Maybe you’ve just completed your TEFL certification or else you’re thinking of becoming TEFL-certified and heading off on a new adventure. One thing is for sure: if you’ve done any digging around online for answers to the questions you have, you’ve probably turned up all sorts of conflicting information about teaching overseas. But don’t get overwhelmed by doubts – read on as we debunk some of these common misconceptions about TEFL.

I’ve read that employers won’t look favourably upon my overseas teaching experience or won’t see the value in my experience.

This one is easy to deflate because it couldn’t be further from the truth. Applicants who have overseas teaching experience are often considered more independent and flexible candidates, who have likely been tasked with handling difficult situations in a foreign environment. These things are all valuable in any employer’s eyes, so being able to use real-life examples to easily demonstrate your abilities is always advantageous.

If you decide to spend enough time abroad, you’ll likely also pick up some new language skills. Any secondary language acquisition can be useful in other professional settings, and it’s common knowledge that learning a second language has many benefits.

Finally, your teaching abroad experience will better prepare you for interviews since answering unexpected questions will now be your forte! Your TEFL experience can also provide you with many useful examples of how you’ve had to think quickly on your feet, refine your organizational skills, handle unexpected challenges, and be self-sufficient.

What about safety? Many people have told me teaching overseas isn’t safe.

You might encounter some alarmists when you tell family and friends about your interest in teaching English overseas. But don’t let this get to you—although it’s important to exercise common sense regardless of where you’re living, many international ESL placements are in countries with very low crime rates and you might even find some of the laws more stringent than North America!

After looking around online, I’m worried that I won’t make enough money to sustain my life abroad.

A TEFL job can be very lucrative, and depending on the region, many teachers are able to save money to pay off student debt or to do further travelling. Teaching in the UAE, for example, often provides many extra benefits including housing allowances, tax-free opportunities, and even return flights home. We encourage you to review our job board and see the positions available right now.

Why should I take an official TEFL certification when I’ve read that I don’t need one to teach abroad?

While it’s true that you may find the occasional start-up language school that will hire native English speakers with no TEFL qualifications, most reputable institutions choose to hire teachers with the appropriate TEFL qualifications. Not only does this make their job of recruiting students since their school will generally have a better reputation, but the certification also positions you to provide these students with the best possible language education and will give you more confidence in your role.

Jobs that require TEFL certification are also almost always the ones that offer better salaries and benefits. And as teaching English overseas gains popularity, having the TEFL qualification will set you ahead of your competition.

I can’t speak any foreign languages—does this mean I won’t be as well-placed as other teachers?

While knowing some basics in a country will help make your day-to-day life easier, there is all sorts of research that shows that as a TEFL teacher, speaking your students’ native language can be a hindrance to language acquisition, because students begin to rely on translation rather than explanation or immersion. “Direct Method” strategies, or methods where teachers refrain from using the learner’s native language, are taught in the University of Toronto TEFL course.

But if you’re worried about your day-to-day interactions, don’t. It’s surprising how much of a language you can pick up quickly just through your daily activities. So while you may arrive with little to no native language knowledge, you’ll likely learn some essentials really quickly.

For more information about the University of Toronto’s TEFL course, read through the website and check out our FAQs.

1 comment

I would have some of the same worries about teaching abroad. This article helps with some of these concerns like how safe it is, but like the article says to use common sense, and I would say travel with friends. It sounds like a lot of fun and a great experience.
Luke Smith

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