Published 8th September 2021

Teaching English abroad is an exciting adventure for anyone. It’s probably like nothing you’ve ever done before in your life! And while it might be a scary and unknown adventure, it is an adventure nonetheless. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared. The more you know about what you are walking into, the better you’ll be able to deal with whatever is thrown your way. Here we thought we’d tell you a few things you should know about teaching English abroad.

1. Not everyone can be a teacher

Being able to speak a language does not necessarily mean that you are qualified to teach it. Teaching is a skill that takes time (and studying) to develop. If you are outgoing, positive, hard-working and charismatic, you are halfway to being a great teacher! Then you need to do a TEFL course (from a reputable and internationally recognised TEFL course provider) which will give you the skills and knowledge you need to be able to teach effectively.

2. You don’t need to speak the local language

Teaching English as a Foreign Language is usually done through immersion learning. This means that the teacher only speaks in English. When giving instructions, making announcements or explaining a concept, English is used. When asking questions or asking for clarity, the students need to speak English too. This is regardless of their level. The translation is rarely used. This is why it’s not necessary to be able to speak, for example, Spanish if you are teaching in Spain. In fact, many schools prefer it if you don’t!

Read more: The Top 3 Myths about TEFL

3. You might not teach English

Say what?! Yes, that’s right. As a TEFL teacher, you could teach English, but you could also teach another subject. Many schools ask their TEFL teachers to teach a subject using English if they have experience in that field. For example, you might teach History or Geography. Schools might also ask you to teach English as well as an extra-mural, such as Physical Education or Sewing.

4. It might not make you rich

There are many TEFL jobs out there that won’t make you rich. You might decide to volunteer to teach or do a teaching internship. These kinds of jobs may not pay you at all. Instead, they will offer you room and board and possibly a small stipend for your living expenses. 

Read more: 7 Amazing Reasons You Should Do a TEFL Internship

Even some full-time teaching jobs won’t pay very well. In a lot of schools, you are paid by the hour. The more you work, the more you earn. The problem comes in when you don’t have a lot of students or lessons because then you don’t earn very much money!

But when it comes to judging your salary, bear in mind the cost of living wherever you are, as well as the number of hours you are working. Find a job that suits you and your needs – and that’ll be different for everyone.

5. …but it might

Having said that, there are loads of TEFL jobs with very generous paycheques. Some countries have low costs of living and high teaching salaries, so you are guaranteed to be able to live a comfortable lifestyle. Other countries, like South Korea, offer their teachers packages which include accommodation, which is a huge saving. 

One of the first decisions you will make as a TEFL teacher is deciding where you want to live and teach. You need to consider your financial needs to make this decision. For example, if you want to pay off your student loan back home then you will want to choose a country that offers a generous salary.

Read more: Top 5 Countries Where You Can Make the Most Money Teaching Abroad

travelling abroad

6. You can work as hard as you want

Another thing to consider is how hard you want to work. Some countries, like South Africa, are not as popular destinations as others for TEFL students. This means you might only be able to work part-time, while in China you can work all day every day if that’s what you want simply because there are so many students.

7. You can have more than one teaching gig

The majority of TEFL teachers absolutely love what they do. They will happily work as many hours as possible. But there are some who teach as a means to an end – and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want, you can teach in a school and teach private lessons after hours too. Or, if you teach English online, you can sign up with more than one teaching company. 

At the same time, if you want to be a TEFL teacher to enable you to be a digital nomad, then that’s what you should do.

There is no rule that says you only have to have one source of income. In fact, for many people, these days having multiple sources of income is how they live their lives. You can choose to work for just a few hours a day and if you feel you need more income you can put in some time blogging or influence or proofreading or transcribing – the opportunities are endless!

Read more: The Best Side Hustles for Teachers

8. You can work in an English-speaking country

Of course, there are tons of TEFL jobs in countries like Thailand and Spain, where English is not spoken widely. In countries like these, TEFL teachers can teach in schools, universities or language schools. 

But not many people realise that there is also a big demand for TEFL teachers in English-speaking countries like England, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa. Students flock to these countries because they want to learn English but they want to immerse themselves in an English-speaking culture at the same time. 

9. You can teach as a couple

Some TEFL teachers are understandably nervous about packing their bags and relocating to a country across the world. For many of us, that means leaving behind our friends and family, even our partners. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s totally possible to teach as a couple. If you are both qualified TEFL teachers, you can look out for schools that are looking for more than one teacher or you can look for jobs in the same city. This way it is possible to teach and travel the world with the one you love!

Read more: How to Get a TEFL Job in the Same School as a Couple

10. …or a family

By the same token, it can be possible to take your family along with you on the adventure of living abroad. Many countries welcome teachers with their families. Some even go so far as to give living allowances for families, as well as contribute towards schooling for your children. If you are looking at teaching abroad and you have a family, make sure you apply for jobs that suit you and your family.

11. You might never want to stop!

A word of warning: Teaching English as a Foreign Language, whether in a foreign country or online, can be addictive. Once you start teaching you might find you will never want to stop!

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