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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a tried and tested way for people to see the world while earning a living. If you're interested in doing TEFL, here's what you need to know.

TEFL qualifications

A TEFL qualification gives you a knowledge of English grammar and the classroom skills you need to teach effectively. Look for courses that lead to a recognised qualification. A known qualification is the Cambridge/RSA Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA). Or there's the Trinity CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

To get a qualification, the quickest option is a one-month full-time course. Private language schools across the UK offer courses at a cost of £800 to £1,000. You may want to look for a school that is a member of the Association for Accredited English Language Centres.

There are also distance learning or part-time options. Remember to check whether you will get teaching practice or not - experience in the classroom makes all the difference.

Looking for a TEFL job

You can look for a job in the Education Guardian, Times Educational Supplement, EL Gazette or on TEFL websites. Jobs are typically in private language schools or state schools.

As speaking English is key to career progression in many countries, you will find jobs across the globe, including Europe, Asia and Latin America. Big recruiters include the Japanese government which advertises its Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) scheme every autumn.

If you're feeling adventurous, you could look for a job in your chosen country while there. If you do this outside Europe, you will need to check the visa situation beforehand.

Most contracts are for a minimum of a year. Some jobs include free flights or subsidised accommodation. Salaries vary greatly, depending on the cost of living in each country. You may be teaching children or adults and the job may involve early morning or evening work. Check your contract for the total weekly teaching hours and annual holiday entitlement.

TEFL and your career

Employers look favourably on graduates who have spent a year teaching abroad. You will have gained valuable skills, experienced a different culture and you may have learnt a foreign language.

However, living abroad can affect what financial support you're entitled to if you want to continue studying when you return to the UK. If you are planning to study upon your return to the UK you should check how you might be affected, before you move abroad.

If you want to make a career out of TEFL, you will need to take further qualifications after several years teaching. You can take either a diploma or MA in TEFL.

Is TEFL right for you?

Ask yourself whether you would enjoy teaching.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • are you sociable?
  • can you imagine standing in front of a class of children or business people?
  • will you enjoy doing lesson preparation?
  • are you a good listener?
  • are you looking to gain confidence and classroom technique by doing a TEFL course?

Spending a whole year far from home is not for everybody. Try to find out as much as you can about the location and culture you'll be living in. For example, whether you'll be based in a village or city, and how easy it will be to meet people.

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