Tag Archives: what does it take to teach English as a foreign language

Zeitguest: 'Should College Students Go Teach English?' by Marina Salsbury

Well, something’s going right at the moment. Here I am, blessed with another fantastic guest post, this time from Marina Salsbury, who broaches a subject that I think is pertinent to all who make a career in this marvelous profession.

College students today have more opportunities to broaden their university experience than ever before. One of the classic options that presents itself to students is travel, studying abroad, seeing the sights, or even taking online college courses while and teaching English as a foreign language. While this can be an excellent chance to travel and learn about another culture, students should honestly evaluate whether or not the teaching part is the best choice for them before committing to this type of adventure.

Evaluating and Setting Goals

The idea of traveling overseas and teaching English as a way to justify your travel can be enticing. So often, college students from the United States have a romantic idea of what it would be like to stand before a group of eager students and teach them about American culture and American English. However, it’s not as easy as it might appear on the surface. If you’re seriously considering traveling abroad and teaching English as a foreign language, there are several things you should consider before making a commitment.

While it’s possible to be accepted into a teaching program simply because you’re a native English speaker, more and more programs are requiring formal credentials. Many colleges and universities offer specialized coursework in teaching English as a second language, which would be ideal preparation for teaching English overseas. Some EFL positions include requirements of demonstrated knowledge and course work in specialized fields such as math, science, health, or business, and unless one of these happens to be your specialty, you can’t count on being a native speaker alone to get a teaching job.

If you choose to teach in a country with a strong economy such as Japan, Taiwan, or South Korea, the pay can be quite lucrative. However, in Russia, China, and Eastern Europe the pay may be high by local standards but is not usually very much to an American. Some countries provide English language programs through charity organizations and the pay is virtually non-existent, or even completely nil in the case of volunteer positions.

Before you commit to a program, have a clear understanding of what your goals are in the experience. Are you looking for cultural understanding, a career-building, or an expansion of what you’ve learned in your degree program? Also ask yourself what regions of the world you prefer to travel to and evaluate how well you travel for long periods of time. Going to a foreign country can be challenging for many American students and it can be quite the culture shock to find yourself in front of a classroom of learners with whom communicating may be difficult at best.

Teaching is Challenging

Teaching English as a foreign language is demanding. It requires you have a great deal of patience. Teaching students who may speak with difficult accents or broken phrases can be frustrating at times. Also, cultural differences about learning and methods of learning can become obstacles if you’re not cognizant of them. Teaching also requires understanding the curriculum and the goals of the course. As an instructor you are responsible for tending to the needs of your students and helping them understand the course materials.

While despite all this teaching EFL abroad can be hugely enjoyable, it shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Taking on a class of EFL learners is a major commitment, and in all likelihood won’t be a breeze just because you speak English natively. College students risk doing a great disservice to their EFL students and themselves if they sign on to teach without being really committed and qualified, or at least willing to make the effort to work through the challenges of the job. In a word, if you’re not sure whether you might find yourself just wanting to brush off teaching during your travels, it may not be a wise choice.

EFL Programs

There are many, many EFL programs in existence today. As a result, it’s not uncommon to find they open and close within a short period of time. There is a great deal of money to be made teaching people to speak and understand English, particularly in places of rising economic power such as China and India. If you’re considering embarking on a teaching adventure, be sure to thoroughly investigate the program before making a commitment to it. Signing on with a sketchy school could prove a losing proposition for you as well as your students.

If you’re considering teaching English as a foreign language overseas, have a clear idea of the reasons for participating in the program and what your goals are. Understand what the requirements are to participate and investigate before making a commitment to a program. Teaching English overseas can be an excellent way to travel and experience other cultures and have an adventure of a lifetime, but it isn’t something every native English speaker is cut out to do as a matter of course.


About the author

Marina Salsbury planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She writes around the Web about everything from education to exercise.

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