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Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) refers to teaching English to students whose first language is not English. TEFL usually occurs in the student's own country, either within the state school system, or privately, e.g., in an after-hours language school or with a tutor. TEFL teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English.

Teaching techniques


TEFL, that uses literature aimed at children and teenagers, is rising in popularity. Youth-oriented literature offers simpler material ("simplified readers" are produced by major publishers), and often provides a more conversational style than literature for adults. Children's literature in particular sometimes provides subtle cues to pronunciation, through rhyming and other word play. One method for using these books is the multiple-pass technique. The instructor reads the book, pausing often to explain certain words and concepts. On the second pass, the instructor reads the book completely through without stopping.

Communicative language teaching

Communicative language teaching (CLT) emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. Despite a number of criticisms,[1] it continues to be popular, particularly in Japan, Taiwan,[2] and Europe.

The task-based language learning (TBLL) approach to CLT has gained ground in recent years. Proponents believe CLT is important for developing and improving speaking, writing, listening, and reading skills, and that it prevents students' merely listening passively to the teacher without interaction. Dogme[3] is a similar communicative approach that encourages teaching without published textbooks, instead focusing on conversational communication among the learners and the teacher.[4]

Blended learning

Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face teaching and online interactions (also known as CALL or computer-assisted language learning), achieved through a virtual learning environment (VLE).

VLEs have been a major growth point in the ELT industry over the last five years. There are two types:

  • Externally hosted platforms that a school or institution exports content to (e.g., the proprietary Web Course Tools, or the open source Moodle)
  • Content-supplied, course-managed learning platforms (e.g. the Macmillan English Campus)

The former provides pre-designed structures and tools, while the latter supports course-building by the language school—teachers can blend existing courses with games, activities, listening exercises, and grammar reference units contained online. This supports classroom, self-study or remote practice (for example in an internet café).

Online classroom

Advances in technology made getting a TEFL online possible. Students can enroll into online classes that are accredited by organizations such as Accreditat. Study materials are divided into modules. Students usually take one test per study module. Support is handled by tutors, who can be reached via email. After successfully finishing the last module student is granted a certificate. It comes in digital form or can be shipped to student address. Getting such a certificate can be beneficial in many ways. Student can get a bigger paycheck or teach English in foreign countries.

Qualifications for TEFL teachers

Qualification requirements vary considerably, from country to country and among employers within the same country. For many institutions it is possible to teach without a degree or teaching certificate. Some institutions will consider it necessary to be a native speaker with an MA TESOL. A university degree in English language and literature can also be of value, as indeed can any specialist degree. Other institutions consider a proof of English proficiency, a University degree and a basic teaching qualification to be more than sufficient. The level of academic qualification need not be the most important qualification however as many schools will be more interested in your interpersonal skills. For trainers wishing to enter the academic field publications can be as important as qualifications, especially if they relate to English use in your field. Where there is a high demand for teachers and no statutory requirements, employers may accept otherwise unqualified candidates. Each country is different, and acceptance depends on demand for English teachers and the teacher's previous teaching and life experiences.

As a general rule schools will tend to prefer qualifications that involve a significant amount of assessed teaching: it is often said that "Learning to teach without classroom practice is like learning to drive without ever encountering traffic".[5] Shorter courses, or online often lack assessed teaching practice. Course makers having recognized this and have begun introducing combined TEFL courses which have an element of assessed teaching.[6] Private language schools are likely to require at least a certificate based on successful completion of a course consisting of a minimum of 100 hours, usually including about 6 hours of observed teaching practice.Some educational facilities are now offering two or three well defined certificates instead of one general certificate. For example ILT (Introduction to Language Teaching) - 40 hours, PLT (Practice of Language Training) - 30 hours, and Literacy - 30 hours.

Age/gender requirements might also be encountered. In some countries outside Europe and America, for example the Middle East, schools might hire men over women or vice versa. And they might hire only teachers in a certain age range; usually between 20 and 40 years of age. Anyone under 19 may be able to teach TEFL, but usually only in a volunteer situation, such as a refugee camp.

Internet-based TEFL courses can vary in quality, but most are accepted worldwide and particularly in Asia where the largest jobs markets exist in China, Korea and Japan.

Pay and conditions worldwide

As in most fields, the pay depends greatly on education, training, experience, seniority, and expertise. As with much expatriate work, employment conditions vary among countries, depending on the level of economic development and how much people want to live there. In relatively poor countries, even a low wage may equate to a comfortable middle class lifestyle.[7]

There is a danger of exploitation by employers. Spain in particular has encountered widespread criticism[by whom?] given the overwhelming number of small to medium businesses (including TEFL schools) which routinely dodge the teachers' social security contributions as a means of maximising profits. The result is that most teachers are entitled to less unemployment or sick pay than they would be entitled to if their salaries and contributions were declared in accordance with the law. Similar situations increase in countries with labor laws that may not apply to foreign employees, or which may be unenforced. An employer might ignore contract provisions, especially regarding working hours, working days, and end-of-contract payments. Difficulties faced by foreign teachers regarding language, culture, or simply limited time can make it difficult to demand pay and conditions that their contracts stipulate. Some disputes arise from cross-cultural misunderstandings. Teachers who can't adapt to living and working in a foreign country often leave after a few months.

TEFL region and country locations


Major European cities have established language schools on-site or operated as agencies sending teachers to various locations. September is the peak recruiting month, and many annual contracts last October through June. Employers prefer graduates, experienced in teaching Business English or young learners.

Instructors from the United Kingdom and Ireland, countries within the European Union, do not need any visas to work within the EU, which reduces demand for non-EU teachers. Immigration laws require that non-EU job applicants submit documents from their home countries in person after the European employer files an officially documented job offer. If the worker has travelled to Europe to find the job, this means they must return home and wait for some time. Following the process correctly does not guarantee getting a visa. Many private-sector employers do not subsidise them at all, because they are able to hire the staff easily from the EU countries.

International schools hire some experienced and well-qualified non-EU teachers. Education ministries, i.e. France and Spain, offer opportunities for assistant language instructors in public schools. Part-time employment is usually allowed under an education visa, but this visa also requires proper attendance at an accredited EU college or university, institute, or other educational program. Other teachers work illegally under tourist visas, since the "don't ask, don't tell" method is the only viable solution to avoiding impossible bureaucracy and eventual job rejection.[dubious ]

Public schools often do not accept brief TEFL courses as a substitute for a university degree in English education, despite claims from websites that sell courses.[8]

Demand for TEFL tends to be stronger in countries which joined the European Union recently. They also tend to have lower costs of living. Non-EU teachers usually find legal work there with less difficulty. The Balkan former Yugoslav countries have seen recent growth in TEFL—private schools have recruited Anglophone teachers there for several years.

Very few foreign instructors work in Scandinavia, where stricter immigration laws and a policy of relying on bilingual local teachers apply.



Demand for English teachers in Cambodia has grown over the past decade, though the country has a small population and is dependent on foreign aid for much of its economic development, limiting growth.


Many opportunities exist within the People's Republic of China, including preschool, university, private schools and institutes, companies, and tutoring. NGOs, such as Teach For China, are an opportunity as well. The provinces and the Ministry of Education in Beijing tightly govern public schools, while private schools have more freedom to set work schedules, pay, and requirements. Outside of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, salaries range between 3800 to 6000 yuan per month with an average of 4500 yuan.[9] Public schools tend to offer fewer hours per week (12 to 18) with low pay but free on-campus housing, while private schools usually require more than 22 hours a week and may offer higher pay without free housing. Preschool and elementary schools may ask the teacher to work more hours, just as the Chinese teacher would do.

Many schools pay for some travel expenses to and from Asia, and typically reimburse teachers at the end of a one-year contract. Public schools usually pay during vacations, but not for summer break unless the teacher renews the contract,[10] while many private schools have shortened vacation schedules and may pay for whatever short number of days is allowed for vacation. Private schools may also require that teachers work weekends and evenings, which public schools seldom do. Both may have off-campus classes that require extra transportation time. Public schools provide an apartment with some extras. Most, but not all, private schools outside Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou also provide housing.

Company jobs vary, depending on the number of employees they want to train. They may employ a teacher for one or two classes, or a complete set of 14 to 16 hours a week. Tutoring also varies, as in some cases a whole family of students or just one family member.

Some teachers work successfully on an independent basis with several contracts for tutoring, individual college classes, and some company work. The majority of teachers accept contracts with schools. Public school contracts are fairly standard, while private schools set their own requirements. Schools try to hire teachers from Anglophone countries, but because of demand, others with good English language skills can find positions.

Hong Kong

Once a British Crown colony, English-language education in Hong Kong is taken seriously, as demonstrated by recent government-funded research.[11]

Teaching English in Hong Kong has become quite a business. Many language centers have since opened. Foreign Native English Speakers may quickly find a job teaching English, although foreigners should be aware of shady companies who often pull tricks on the employees.


In Japan, the JET Programme employs assistant language teachers and teaching assistants to work in Japanese high schools and elementary schools. Other teachers work in eikaiwa (private language schools). The largest of these chains are Aeon and ECC. The sector is not well regulated. Nova, one of the largest chains with over 900 branches, collapsed in October 2007, leaving thousands of foreign teachers without income or for some, a place to live. Other teachers work in universities. Agencies are increasingly used to send English speakers into kindergartens, primary schools, and private companies whose employees need to improve their Business English. Agencies, known in Japan as haken, or dispatch companies, have recently been competing among themselves to get contracts from various Boards of Education for Elementary, Junior and Senior High Schools and wages have decreased steadily. JALT (the Japan Association for Language Teaching) is the largest NPO for language teachers (mainly English native speakers), with nearly 3,000 members.[12]


English language has been increasingly important in education, international trade and cooperation in Laos since the 1990s. The government started to promote foreign direct investment, and the introduction of Laos as an observer at ASEAN in 1992 also increased the necessity of English. Laos was considered as a full member of ASEAN in 1997. From 1992-97, the government had to improve the knowledge of and ability to use English.

More recently high-ranking officials, business people, and shareholders have started to upgrade their English. The trend will increase as English is considered and developed in the field of education too.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main locations for instructors to work in this region. Many positions here offer higher salaries, ample vacation time, and paid airfare to and from the instructor's home country, but also tend to require more qualifications and experience. Private academies and university programs are the main venues of instruction. Some public primary and secondary schools, such as those in Abu Dhabi, have begun to recruit foreign English instructors.


The Peace Corps has 136 volunteers in Mongolia, many of whom are English teachers[13] mostly teaching in the vast rural areas, where the population density is low. In Ulaanbaatar, a modest number of professional NETs teach at private institutes and some schools. In addition to foreign instructors from the major English-speaking countries, there are Filipinos teaching in Mongolian schools, institutes and large industrial or mining companies.

South Korea

There is great demand for native English speakers willing to teach in South Korea, though it is dropping. In 2013, the number of native English speakers teaching in public schools dropped 7.7% in one year to 7,011.[14] As with Japan, Korea is also nurturing a government-run program for teacher placement called English Program in Korea (EPIK). EPIK reported that it recruited 6,831 foreign teachers to work in Korean public schools. There are a number of associations for English teachers in Korea, the largest one with a significant number of native speakers is KOTESOL.

Institutions commonly provide round-trip airfare and a rent-free apartment for a one-year contract. Note that since March 15, 2008, visa rules have changed. Prospective teachers must now undergo a medical examination and a criminal background check, produce an original degree certificate, and provide sealed transcripts. On arriving in South Korea, teachers must undergo a further medical check before they receive an ARC (Alien Registration Card) card.

Korean labor law provides all workers with a severance pay equivalent to one month's salary is paid at the end of a contract. Most job contracts are for 1 year and include entrance and exit plane tickets. Citizens of the USA, Canada and Australia[15] also receive back their pension contributions and their employers' part of the pension contributions on leaving the country. The average starting pay for those with no previous teaching experience and no degree in the English language is usually between USD $1,800 to USD $2,200.

There are four main places to work in South Korea: universities, private schools, public schools (EPIK), and private language academies (known in South Korea as hagwons). Private language academies (in 2005 there were over thirty thousand such academies teaching English[16]), the most common teaching location in Korea, can be for classes of school children, housewives, university students (often at the university itself), or businesspeople. There are numerous, usually small independent hagwons but also numerous large chains.


In Taiwan, most teachers work in cram schools, known locally as bushibans or buxibans. Some are part of chains, like Hess and Kojen. Others operate independently. Such schools pay around US$2,000 per month. End-of-contract bonuses equivalent to an extra month's pay are not mandated by law as in South Korea, and are uncommon in Taiwan. Also, under current law it is illegal for foreigners to teach English in pre-schools or kindergartens, though it is almost always overlooked by both the schools and the government, thereby making the practice common and accepted.


Thailand has a great demand for native English speakers, and has a ready-made workforce in the form of travelers and expatriates attracted by the local lifestyle despite relatively low salaries. Teachers can expect to earn a starting salary of around 25,000 Baht.[17] Because Thailand prohibits foreigners from most non-skilled and skilled occupations, a high percentage of foreign residents teach English for a living, and are able to stay in the country. There is also a growing demand for Filipino English teachers, as they are often hired for about half the salary of a native-speaker. Qualifications for EFL teachers in Thailand have become stricter in the last couple of years, with most schools now requiring a Bachelor's degree plus a 120-hour TEFL course . It is possible to find work without a degree in Thailand. However, as a degree makes getting a work permit far easier, to work without a degree is often to work illegally, opening teachers up to exploitation by employers.[18]


There has been significant growth in TEFL within the wealthier non-Anglophone countries of North, Central, and South America as well as the Caribbean. In particular, many teachers work in Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. Chile has even made it a national goal to become a bilingual nation within the coming years. As proof of its commitment to this goal the Chilean Ministry of Education sponsors English Opens Doors, a program that recruits English speakers to work in Chilean Public High Schools.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a popular choice among EFL teachers in light of the high market demand for English instructors, the stable economic and political atmosphere, and the vibrant culture. Teaching positions are available through public and private schools, language schools, universities and colleges, and through private tutoring. Language schools typically hire year-round and teaching Business English is also in high demand. There are quality Costa Rica TEFL training courses that offer certification and job placement assistance following the course.


TEFL in Africa has historically been linked to aid programs such as the US Peace Corps or the multinational Voluntary Service Overseas organization, as well as other aid programs. Most African countries employ bilingual local teachers. Poverty and instability in some African countries has made it difficult to attract foreign teachers. There has been increasing government investment in education and a growing private sector.

See also


Further reading

  • Brandt, C. (2006). Success on your certificate course in English language teaching: A guide to becoming a teacher in ELT/TESOL. London: Sage. ISBN 1-4129-2059-0, ISBN 978-1-4129-2059-9
  • Paul Z. Jambor "The 'Foreign English Teacher' A Necessary 'Danger' in South Korea", United States of America; Department of Education - Education Resources Information Center, 2010
  • Teaching English Abroad, Susan Griffith, Vacation Work Press, Oxford. Many editions. ISBN 1-85458-352-2, ISBN 978-1-85458-352-9
  • Teach English in Italy, Frank Adamo,, Second Edition. ISBN 978-1-4461-9318-1
  • English Teacher X Guide to Teaching English Abroad, English Teacher X, and, 2010 ASIN: B004SOYD70 ISBN 1-4663-3005-8 ISBN 978-1466330054

External links

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