As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, the idea of working abroad will probably be a very appealing proposition, but you will meet those who will try to dissuade you with all sorts of wild stories. Here are six myths that you are likely to hear: ignore them all!
- It’s too expensive to work abroad as an ESL teacher. The fallacy of this myth is soon exposed if one considers that in addition to paying your salary, your employer will also pay for your travel costs from your country to the host country, and provide medical insurance – in some cases, accommodation is provided for free.
- You are too old to teach abroad. Most countries accept teachers right up to the ripe old age of sixty; indeed, there are countries where there is no upper age limit, e.g., Croatia, Egypt, and Mexico. Age is not really an issue when it comes to teaching abroad, in fact: “working adults over thirty comprise the larger percentage of those earning TEFL qualifications in English-speaking countries.”
- It’s not safe to teach abroad. This is a typical insular view that is held by those who have never lived or (rarely) travelled abroad. Generally speaking, if you don’t recklessly put yourself at risk, you won’t experience any more danger than you would in your own country. Would you go for a walk alone after midnight through a park or isolated place? If so, you only have yourself to blame if something unfortunate happens to you.
- You must have a college degree to teach abroad. Some overseas educational institutions do require a college degree; however, there are many countries where a non-university TEFL qualification is perfectly acceptable: this is especially true in South America and Africa. In fact: “More than 250,000 Americans and other English speakers are employed as English teachers abroad each year and more than 80% get hired with no prior teaching experience and no degree in education.”
- If you can’t speak a foreign language, you can’t work in a foreign country. This is one of the biggest myths: just make sure that your spoken English is good. Most overseas educational institutions prefer it if you don’t speak the host country’s language, and they also demand that only English is spoken – at all times! In fact: “25,000 Americans and other foreigners are teaching English in Korea alone, and virtually none of them spoke more than a word of Korean prior to their arrival.”
- Coloured people don’t get hired to teach English abroad. Racism and bigotry have no place in the world of TEFL. Thousands of black people, Eurasians, and Latinos obtain overseas posts every year: so don’t believe it.