How to Teach English As a Foreign Language and Travel the World

After some planning, you can teach English as a foreigner in a distant and exciting country.


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    Decide where you want to live and what your goals are. Costs of living are different in each country.
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    Do your homework and decide if the country is right for you. What degrees do you need, if any, Certifications, immunizations, etc. Also, if you will be able to practice your religion there.
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    Search the web for job listings and openings. But keep in mind that many listings are still located in English newspapers within each country. You may also find the best jobs are not well advertised but posted at Foreign Language schools, but do not rely exclusively on the possibility of a "walk in" job -- line something up before you leave home.
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    Speak to as many people as you can who have had experience teaching abroad. If you don't know anyone, find forums online and join in the discussions.
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    It's possible to be a private tutor of English. You will need to comply with local self-employment laws. you can advertise your services on a website, in free Internet classifieds, local newspapers, and social networking sites. be sure to have your advertising professionally translated into the local language if you aren't confident of your own second language skills.
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    If you become a private tutor you should have a ready supply of teaching materials. At the very least, have an English Only dictionary, a picture dictionary, an MP3 recorder, and a quality grammar book. Having Internet access, a laptop, and access to free media helps even more.


  • Encourage the use of English-only dictionaries, not translation dictionaries. Show the students how to study vocabulary. When they find a word or idiom they don't know during reading or listening practice, ask the student to highlight the word in the dictionary, copy the word and definition into their personal notebook, and copy the example sentences. Then ask them to practice and study their personal vocabulary notebook.
  • Each country has different pronunciation difficulties, because their language doesn't use the same sounds as English.
  • Notice how infants learn English. Babies listen for about a year before they begin talking. Then they learn speaking and pronunciation by imitation. They don't even begin reading and writing until age 4 or later. Thus, The foundation of learning a language is LISTENING. Although it's easier just to be a robot and slavishly follow reading and grammar texts, focusing on building listening skills will actually help your students more.
  • Practice one-on-one conversation with each of your students, even if it's only for a few minutes per week. Record the conversation with an mp3 recorder, play it back, and correct the students mistakes.
  • Teach your students to think in English, not just translate.
  • The needs of English as a Second Language Learners are very different than the needs of native language learners. Take time to find out what your students need to learn. One-size-fits-all instruction doesn't work.
  • It may seem obvious, but being a foreigner is not a free pass to contravene local customs and/or dress codes. This basic rule applies doubly for people in "authority roles" like that of teacher. Be prepared to conform to local norms.
  • Many schools are looking for specific accents. The "fashionable" accents vary over time, and from region to region. Schools may also want all their foreign teachers to have a common accent.
  • Adult learners have different needs than children. Some adults are learning for travel and pleasure, and others are learning so they can get a much needed promotion at their job. Some need to communicate only by email, and others will need to conduct complex negotiations. The type of vocabulary they want depends on individual needs.
  • Having a basic "Teaching English as a Second Language" certification will, in most cases, substantially increase your chances and/or wages.
  • Private schools offer more money, but also may require a lot more "out of hours" interaction with students.
  • Use real-life examples, not just school text books. Magazines, radio broadcasts, and videos are great tools.
  • It's possible to be a private tutor and teach one-on-one classes without the aid of a school.
  • You will most likely need to go above and beyond the resources of your school to really help your students.
  • Investigate the company you are about to work for thoroughly! There have been incidents of people going overseas to teach only to find the company or school bankrupt when they get there!
  • Be sure you really know English grammar well. Can you quickly explain the formation and application of the present perfect? Can you quickly identify and explain idioms and phrasal verbs in a random article from a newspaper? If not, brush up on those topics now.
  • Students from different countries have different challenges in learning the language. In some cases, English shares both the alphabet and an approximate root vocabulary with other Germanic and Romance languages. In other cases, such as Korean, there is little relationship between the languages.
  • Use inexpensive technology to teach. For example, use the Internet or try listening to free radio broadcasts, watching videos, and reading the newspaper. No cost, copyright-free books are available on the web. Use diverse reading to challenge: popular journalism, humor, poetry, science texts, advertising, recipes, short fiction, and drama.
  • Each city in each country has different rates and costs of living. Schools in large cities typically offer higher wages, but the cost of living must be taken into account. In most developing countries, the cost of living in a rural area is substantially less than the cost of living in a big city.
  • Practice dialogues using excerpts from plays and screenplays.
  • You should actually like to teach and like help people, and not look at teaching English as an easy way to pay for travel.
  • Having a tertiary degree is useful but not imperative.
  • Do you need to speak the local language? In most cases, it can be helpful but is rarely a requirement.


  • Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to fall into an intimate relationship with any of your students, despite what you may be told about the relative acceptability of such relationships in your host culture.
  • Some schools require you to sign a contract. The benefits of doing so may include a once-a-year fly-home airfare, medical benefits, etc. If you break the contract, however, don't expect the school to fly you home!
  • Scan images of your work permits, identification, and passport. Save copies of the images in your email account just in case anything gets lost or stolen.
  • Have at least a small amount of emergency savings.
  • Inform your closest consulate where you are.
  • Don't expect your school to have the best materials or the best method. Some schools give the teachers more freedom to construct their own learning plan or syllabus.
  • In private schools where learning English is extra curricular, happy students are happy customers. Happy customers take more classes, and you make more money by ensuring a steady stream of customers. Do what you can to increase customer satisfaction. This doesn't mean being an "easy" teacher who doesn't challenge students; but rather, one who tries to understand students needs and serves them.
  • Although the policy might seem somewhat racist, many schools in Asia will only recruit "western looking" teachers. This generally means white. This is, unfortunately, a result of stereotypes reinforced through popular culture.
  • Many schools will hire teachers without a work visa, even if they say its PREFERABLE to have one in your initial interview. Don't let this scare you off, but if you want to get a work visa before you begin working for them, indicate this to them early on. Otherwise, you may end up working "under the table" the entire time you're there.
  • Don't be surprised to receive a last-minute notices, like filling in for a delinquent teacher's shift.

Things You'll Need

  • Passport
  • Plane ticket home
  • Positive attitude
  • Commitment
  • English-only dictionary
  • Picture dictionary
  • Voice recorder
  • Internet access and free media

Article Info

Categories: Summarization | English as a Second Language (ESL) | Teaching