A Guide for TEFL Students
New to the world of TEFL? Or maybe you’re even further to the term “TEFL?”. Not to worry, all will be explained here! You’ll be an expert in no time and be ready to tackle it head-on!
What is TEFL?
TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This means you will teach English as a second language to people whose native language is not English. This typically means that the teacher moves abroad to teach students in their own country, but, as we’ll see, there are now many different ways of doing this!
How do I get TEFL certified?
With online courses, becoming a certified TEFL teacher has never been simpler. You can now study from the comfort of your own home and complete your system as you continue with other studies or your job. As long as you are a native speaker or have a good level of English and are over 18, you can obtain a TEFL certificate and look for work. Some countries or companies may require you to have a university degree, but there are plenty of opportunities for those without a degree.
Why do I need a TEFL qualification to teach?
Like any other teaching, you must be qualified to teach TEFL. Your course will explain the fundamentals of TEFL to give you the knowledge and the techniques you need to go into the classroom. It will also show your potential employers that you have undertaken the appropriate training for this job and have acquired the necessary knowledge. The minimal industry standard is to complete a 120-hour TEFL certificate. Still, there are also many advantages to taking a higher-level course, such as the 180-hour Diploma, depending on your experience and profile.
How is TEFL different from primary or secondary teaching?
Although many skills are transferable here, teaching TEFL slightly differs from how you might have been trained in school. TEFL often involves teaching private students who pay to learn English, so there is a greater expectation and motivation for the lessons. It is also expected that the teacher can explain grammar structures and vocabulary and help develop skills (such as reading and writing) in the second language by teaching students techniques to improve these.
Do I have to know everything about grammar?
Our courses will give you an overview of the grammar of the English language, so you don’t need to worry if you’re not sure how to explain this yet. Especially for native speakers, it’s not natural that we know how to explain grammar as we have never learnt English in this way. Non-native speakers can understand how their learners study grammar, just as they have done themselves for many years.
Even during and after the course, it’s not expected that teachers know everything about English grammar; even the most experienced teachers might have to check a thing or two before class! TEFL teachers learn as they go, acquiring more understanding of grammar. It’s not uncommon for teachers to study a grammar point before teaching it to their students.
What sort of work is there for TEFL graduates?
A wide range of jobs are available for TEFL teachers, so you can have flexibility on what you want to do. Different positions have varying requirements, so checking these before applying is essential. If you are a non-native speaker or do not have an undergraduate degree, then some countries cannot grant you a visa. Unfortunately, there is no way around this, but many countries will hire teachers from all backgrounds.
The most common form of TEFL teaching is for the teacher to go to the students’ country and teach them in the classroom. This might be in a local language school or a public school. A typical contract for this type of teaching is 9-10 months, although it might be possible to get extended work for the rest of the year (usually summer). The teacher is often asked back the following academic year if all goes well!
Moving abroad to teach allows you to teach students in their environment, and you also get to live a great adventure! Moving abroad opens up a new world for you – a new culture, language and traditions to get to know! There are TEFL teaching jobs worldwide, so once you get qualified, the TEFL world is your oyster! English is such a dominant language that there are many jobs worldwide!
Since the pandemic, online courses have become more and more popular, and this is especially true for English language teaching. Many big TEFL companies hire teachers from all over the world to teach their international students. Online teaching has facilitated connecting teachers and students, no matter where they are.
You can also work for yourself, teaching your students online. This tends to be more lucrative but will require more effort to find the students. Your teaching skills will have more reach, and you can expand your student list through the power of social media. It might take longer to build up your student list and work for yourself, but the rewards are there in the long term. This might not be something you do right after qualifying, as it is better to gain experience, but it is an excellent long-term goal for TEFL teachers.
English is a powerful language in the world right now. Although other languages are also rising in global importance, English will continue to be spoken and learnt by more than a billion people. Many people learn English (and other languages) for fun, for travel, or because they enjoy learning. However, millions know English to get ahead in their job or advance their studies.
We are also seeing more and more refugees displaced from their countries due to war or natural disasters, many relocating to English-speaking countries. For these people, English becomes a means of survival, helping them to settle in their new home and obtain employment or be able to study.
So, where do you fit in as a TEFL teacher? A TEFL teacher can use their knowledge for the better and volunteer to teach migrants and refugees English, giving them the valuable skills to adapt to a new life.
You can volunteer online for many organisations, often requiring you to teach one to two hours a week, working with one student for a period. You can also find face-to-face opportunities that might offer you free accommodation and meals in return for teaching. Ensure you are ready to commit and face education challenges in this context (technical issues are typical). If you can deal with these, you can make a difference.
If you’re eager to dip your toe into the world of TEFL, but unsure how to go about it or worried about taking the plunge, then an internship can be a great idea, it removes a lot of the stress of finding work and moving abroad for you. You will also get more assistance during the programme and help with paperwork, visas etc.
Internships can be a good way of seeing if something fits you, as they are often shorter (3-6 months). You can spend a shorter period abroad and then understand what life is like as a TEFL teacher abroad. If you like it, you might stay longer and make some vital connections! If not, you won’t have long before you can return home and think of the plan B!
All of these contexts can also involve you taking on more specialist teaching. This might be Business English, English for Exams, teaching Young Learners or Academic English. You can take additional specialist courses that give you the extra knowledge you need to teach these courses.
If you can niche area of TEFL, you will generally find it more profitable as there are fewer teachers able to teach these lessons. Teaching English in companies and different professional fields (law, real estate, etc.) can help you to be very successful, as companies will pay more for lessons.
If you have previously worked in another field before becoming a TEFL convert, you might even be able to combine this knowledge to teach this area of expertise. For example, if you were previously in sales, you might think about teaching English to sales teams in companies, as you will be an expert in the vocabulary!
Whatever path you choose with TEFL, many different opportunities will open up for you when you obtain your online TEFL qualification. TEFL can be a rewarding choice that will take you on many adventures! The first step is to get qualified and get thinking about where you want to go and what you’d like to do. Why are you thinking about TEFL? To make money? To travel? Or maybe to earn an extra income,, consider this and see where your TEFL qualification will lead you!