Published 5th September 2021

This might sound like a dumb question, but it actually isn’t.

Many people know about teaching English in Thailand or Spain or Brazil, but they don’t consider that you might be able to teach English in England or the United States or Australia. After all, English is the official language of those countries, isn’t it?

Well, you might be surprised to find out that teaching English in an English-speaking country is possible. In fact, it’s a massive market. In the UK alone, over 550 000 people come to study English every year. Confused? Let’s look at what teaching English as a Foreign Language really is to help us answer this question properly. 

Read more: TEFL Teaching in the UK

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL teachers teach English as a Foreign Language. This means they teach English to learners who speak another language as their first language. English is their second language or often even their third or fourth language. Teaching English makes sense then in a country where English is not spoken by the majority of the population, such as Asian, African, European or South American countries.

In these countries, TEFL teachers are in high demand to teach in schools, universities and private language schools. Though these countries have many local teachers who are able to speak and teach English, there are not enough to satisfy the high demand for English tuition. Plus, many schools, students and parents prefer to bring in TEFL teachers, in addition to their local English teachers, to teach English.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language in an English-speaking country

However, when you think about it, you realise that there is also a demand for English language lessons in countries in which English is an official language. Countries like England and the United States are home to many foreigners and immigrants. They need to learn English in order to live or work or study in the society they are living in.

Of course, in these countries, there is already an abundance of people who can speak English. However, speaking the language is not the same as teaching the language. A high number of English speakers does not equate to a high number of English teachers. Besides the fact that not everyone wants to be a TEFL teacher, not everyone can be a TEFL teacher.

This is why even in countries like England, the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, there is a need for TEFL teachers. In these countries, TEFL teachers don’t teach in mainstream schools, but they teach in private language schools. They can also teach in universities, to prepare foreign students to study an English-medium course.

Teaching in a private language school

Private language schools which teach English as a Foreign Language are very different to state or private mainstream schools. In English-speaking countries, for the most part, the students of language schools are adults. Adults from all over the world come to these countries to spend a few weeks, months or years learning English while living in an English-speaking environment. At the same time, some students are already living and working in these countries and need to attend English lessons to improve their English. 

Read more: 6 Differences between Teaching Adults and Young Learners

Some students will attend the school full-time and have lessons for a few hours a day. These students attend the school for a few weeks, months or even a year. They might be self-funded or they could be being sponsored by their company or government. Others, who already live in the country permanently, might be working at the same time so they will attend lessons a few times a week in the evenings or on weekends. 

Teachers in language schools typically work 20 to 25 hours a week. Your classes are generally small, usually not more than 12 students. There are a range of English lessons you might teach, such as General English, Academic English, English for Exams, or English for Specific Purposes. You are paid hourly, so the more you work, the more you earn. 

However, the number of lessons you teach depends on the number of classes available to you. Language schools offer weekly enrolment, so new students will arrive at the beginning of every week and students will leave at the end of every week. This means that during certain times of the year, these schools are busier than at others – usually during the summer months. This means that you might work harder during some months (the peak months) than others – which also means your salary is not always the same. 

Read more: Top Language Schools in the UK

Teaching student in class
Young adult smiling Asian teacher helping elementary student boy with laptop in computer classroom. Information Technology class in primary school concept.

Teaching on summer camps

During school holidays, many of these language schools run summer camps for schoolchildren. Learners from all over the world will spend a few weeks living at these summer camps. They attend lessons in the mornings and have sports or social activities in the afternoons. On certain days they will go on excursions and go to the various tourist sites in the local area. 

Teachers on summer camps will teach the English lessons, but they are also required to take part in the other activities. Teachers will take turns accompanying the students on their excursions. For many teachers this is the big bonus of teaching on a summer camp – you get to explore the country as a tourist for free while getting paid to do it! 

Some teachers opt to be residential teachers, meaning they stay in the same accommodation as the students. These teachers get to know the students even better, as they eat their meals with them and maintain law and order at bedtime. 

Because summer camps are usually in small towns or holiday destinations, teachers can choose to stay in their own accommodation or they can choose to stay at the camp location. If this is the case, your pay rate might be a bit lower but you will not need to worry about food or board for the duration of the summer camp. This is not the same as being a residential or pastoral teacher, as you will have no extra duties besides teaching, but you will stay at the camp.

As you can imagine, pay rates for summer camps vary depending on your responsibilities and your experience. The great thing is if you return to the same camp for the next holiday, you are generally given a raise or a returning bonus.

Read more: 5 Characteristics of Summer Camp Teachers

Teaching in a university

If you are an experienced TEFL teacher or hold a teaching certificate as well as a TEFL certificate or hold a Master’s degree, you have the option of teaching in a university. In English-speaking countries, foreign students come from all over the world to study for their degree in an English-medium institution. 

However, surviving and thriving in an English-speaking university can be challenging for English language learners. They not only have to have strong conversational English skills to get by in their everyday lives, but they need the specific skills needed to be able to listen to lectures, take notes, give presentations, read academic texts and write academic papers.

Because of this, many universities offer a year of preparation courses for foreign students. During this year, the students attend lessons on Academic English to brush up on their English and prepare them for their degree ahead. Teaching in a university can be a fun challenge, but it is also a more serious environment.

So as you can see, there is more to TEFL than teaching kindergarten in Bangkok! Even in English-speaking countries, there are loads of opportunities available for TEFL teachers.

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