Are you a native English speaker? If so, you can make a living teaching your own language nearly anywhere in the world. English is in great demand and that means there’s a terrific opportunity to make a living from it.
The British Council estimates that around 1 billion people are working on learning English right now, all around the world.
Where can you teach English? Anywhere you like. While you will be able to teach in person in non-English speaking countries, there are still opportunities anywhere you want to live in the world. People immigrate from other countries and need help with language, or they can learn online, so even if you’re in a country with English as its native language, you can teach.
Why Teach English?
Living in a foreign country can make supporting yourself a little difficult, particularly if you don’t have the necessary skills to take on a job there. Teaching is something that nearly anyone can do.
Since English is so popular, it’s easy to find students and you can make some pretty decent cash. If the area you’re in doesn’t have any well-paying students, you can always teach online.
In addition to the monetary compensation, it is very rewarding to see someone go from not understanding a word you’re saying to carrying on full conversations in their new language. It’s fun to meet others and hear their stories, as well, making this an excellent job choice for anyone who is good with people and outgoing.What You Need to Start
Teaching English is something you can do with minimal resources and training in some cases. However, you will find it a little easier if you have access to some basic tools.
First, it’s important that you are fluent in English, at the very least. Native speakers will find it much easier to land jobs, but if you can speak extremely well and have a good grasp of grammar and vocabulary; you will already be ahead of some native speakers.
With a good, solid foundation in the language, it’s not difficult to start teaching someone else. In fact, it’s possible to teach with nothing more as a reference, though you can’t expect to get the higher level jobs.
ESL or TOEFL Training
You may want to consider taking some training courses if you want to increase your rates.
ESL (English as a Second Language) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) training will give you the training you need to take students to the next level in their English. You’ll also have certification, which can be useful when you apply for a position at a school, online or off.
Keep in mind that it is certainly not necessary to take these types of classes. While they’re helpful for landing a good job, you should be able to get by without if you can’t manage it.
Brushing Up on Grammar
You learned all the necessary grammar in school, but unless you’ve been using it regularly, you may not know the difference between “who” and “whom.” Take some time to relearn the basics in grammar so you’re ready when students start asking questions.
There are a number of websites that you can use to learn more about grammar, but you should also have a good grammar reference book on hand. Practical English Usage by Michael Swan or The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage are two excellent references to look into. Keeping a book with you makes it simple to look things up when a student stumps you.
Books and Resources
As mentioned, you’ll probably want a grammar book, but there are plenty of other handy resources available to teachers, as well. For example, English grammar workbooks. You can find dozens of these on any online bookstore and can often buy them used from other teachers.
Look for well-done English books that begin with the very basics and work their way up to more complicated concepts. If you purchase or copy workbooks, you can have students write on their own paper or do the assignments verbally so you can use the same book over and over.
It’s usually a good idea to buy these books before you leave your home country, since they may be difficult to find elsewhere.
Clips and Articles for Teaching
One of the biggest advantages you have as an English teacher is the sheer quantity of teaching materials available to you. Television, YouTube and blogs are all available for your use.
Clips from television shows are an excellent way to help students practice their listening skills. You can usually grab these off of YouTube or simply record a piece of your favorite show in English. Save them in a specific folder on your computer for easy access or keep a list of URLs that you can show students in class.
Articles can be copied from newspapers and magazines or printed off from websites, as needed. Every ESL teacher should have a collection of simple, easy-to-read stories that gradually increase in difficulty. These are perfect for having students practice reading and writing. You can also test their reading comprehension this way.
Any time you see an appropriate piece of text, copy or print it and add it to your teaching folder. Separate the clippings by English level and you can quickly grab the appropriate page during any class.
Where to Teach
Now that you’ve taken the time to go over your grammar and have a couple of books on hand, it’s time to start teaching. Where should you begin? You have several options, depending on where you’re located at the moment.
Perhaps the simplest way to get started with teaching English is to teach individuals on your own. This method requires some advertising and you won’t have anyone else to back you up if you get sick, but it can also be done under the table and without any special equipment.
First, you’ll need to find those students. Try putting up posters with your phone number or email address (phone number is easiest, but requires you speak the local language well enough to communicate) in popular areas. You might try:
- College bulletin boards
- Community bulletin boards
- Flyers on cars
- Posters in store windows or hotel desks
- Classifieds (online and print)
Get creative, but make sure you know the rules. You don’t want to get in trouble, so post your publicity to areas that allow it only.
Your publicity should include prices, contact information and the fact that you’re a native speaker. If you have specific hours available, specify these, as well. This eliminates most of the more common questions and ensures that most of the people who call will actually want to hire you, since they already know the prices, etc.
The next step is to meet with your new students. It’s usually recommended that you stick to public areas, for safety. That being said, some people do prefer to teach in their own home or in that of their student. Exercise caution if you choose this route.
Public places that work well for English classes include coffee shops, libraries and parks. Ask the student to bring along paper and a pen for note taking.
Your initial meet-up will usually be an introduction of sorts and checking out your new student’s English level. You’ll also be interviewing each other to see if it is a good fit. Coming across as professional and personal is the best way to get hired.
Pricing is one of the things you’ll want to discuss in this first meeting, if not before. Before you set your price, it’s a good idea to find out what others are charging and what a language school charges. Since you are offering more personalized service than a language school, you can charge more than they do. However, it’s best not to be the most expensive in the area, particularly when starting out.
Prices for language classes vary drastically, depending on where you live. For example, an English tutor in Germany will find they can ask higher prices than someone teaching in Brazil. Cost of living should also be factored in. Can you actually make a living from the classes you teach?
Prefer something a little more stable? In any country, there are language schools that hire English teachers. Often, they will hire foreigners who are native speakers, so it’s a great opportunity for you to land a job.
Before you apply for a position, remember that you technically need a work visa in most countries if you plan to work. That being said, there are certainly schools that hire under the table, so it is your decision in the end.
English schools are fairly easy to find and will usually hire year round. Since these schools often have foreigners teaching, the turnaround can be quite high. If they aren’t hiring the first time you check, leave your name and contact information and keep checking back.
Word of mouth is probably the best way to find language schools that are hiring. Ask around hostels and on expat groups to find out where the jobs are. You should also check classifieds to see if any schools are advertising a position.
If a school is hiring under the table, they may not be very obvious that they are hiring. You’ll need to visit the school in person in many cases, though you can also try calling. An inside contact can be invaluable, so if you meet someone who is teaching English in a school, ask them if they know of any positions open. They can even recommend you.
This type of school may offer individual classes or group classes. They’ll provide you with teaching materials and should give you a good idea of what they expect from you. In some cases, schools may even offer training sessions to help new teachers find their feet.
Language schools often have limited hours available, so you shouldn’t expect a full-time job. You may work only a couple of hours a day and you should be flexible if you want to earn more. Evening classes are essential for business people, but not everyone is willing to teach a class at 7 pm. If you are open to late hours (or early ones!), you can usually get more work.
Keep very close track of your schedule. In schools where you’re teaching individuals, class schedules may change on a weekly basis. Don’t show up late or miss a class . . . you could lose your job. There are plenty of people interested in teaching English, so the competition can be fierce, particularly in popular tourist areas.
In private schools, you will usually be in charge of teaching English to a range of ages. These are children who will have one class in English per day or a couple of times a week. Rarely, schools will hire a native English teacher to teach all classes to an entire grade. If you do decide to work in a private school, you will probably need to commit to the full school year. This tends to be a longer term job than most, but it will also provide you with steady pay.
Schools usually provide the learning materials that you’ll need, but you may be asked to come up with a lesson plan. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to other teachers to find out what your responsibilities are. Some directors will assume you know what to do and may forget to tell you vital information, so always ask.
Prepare a simple resume to use for any school you plan to apply to. This should be in the local language, so you may need someone to help translate if you aren’t fluent. If you have a teaching degree or any university degree, be sure to add this to your education section. In many cases, schools request that you have a higher education, but they’re not particularly picky about what you’ve studied.
Find out when the school year starts in your area. This varies, depending on the country you’re in. For example, in Central America, schools begin the year in January. This means they are hiring in November and December, so this is when you would need to apply.
Classified ads may provide you with some clues as to which schools are hiring, but in general, word of mouth is the best option. Again, if the school is hiring under the table, they’re not likely to advertise the fact. Sometimes, schools can help you get a work visa, however, so it may be worth asking. With a work visa, you can not only work, but often stay in the country longer without renewing the visa.
You will need to interview for the position and this may require a translator if you aren’t already able to speak the local language well enough. This shouldn’t affect your chances, since you’re being hired to teach English, after all.
When you are hired, there are a few things to ask:
- When do I start? Teachers will need to begin the school year before the students.
- Do you have books for the students? You’ll want to look through one before you begin teaching, to get a better idea of what is expected of you and how much you need to get done each day.
- Is there a school calendar available? It’s very helpful to know when you will have days off and how many holidays are included in the school year. Not only can you help your students celebrate, you’ll also be able to plan around days when students won’t be learning anything. You can also check on exam dates.
As you plan your classes, be sure to leave some extra time for unexpected delays. There may be a storm day that no one knew was coming, which will throw your teaching off. Since parents will still expect their children to complete the course, plan to have a few extra days in your schedule, just in case.
You may not have much luck finding a job in a school or even private students, particularly if you are living or traveling in an English speaking area. Don’t give up yet, though! There’s always online teaching.
To teach online, you need access to a computer with an Internet connection and Skype or Google Hangouts. You’ll also need a way to get paid. For most people, Paypal works well for this.
As an online teacher, you can either find your own students or work with an online school. Each has its pros and cons.
Working on your own allows you to set your prices and earn all the money. You can choose your hours, working around student schedules, as well. The downside is that it can be tough to find students on your own. You might try the following marketing methods:
Classified ads: You can post these anywhere in the world, but aim for areas where few people speak English. It can be helpful to post in the native language.
Website: Build your own website or blog to help attract new students. This can be a rather slow method, but it can work over time. Just keep it professional.
Social media: Don’t forget Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest in your quest for new students. In fact, you can even make use of YouTube, by putting up instructional videos.
Ads: Facebook ads can actually be helpful in getting new clients, but you’ll want to read up on them beforehand to avoid losing money. Ads placed on blogs and websites in your target market may also be useful.
Word of mouth: Make sure your students know that you are looking to fill more spaces. They can tell their friends.
Cold-calling: Call or write companies that you feel could benefit from having more staff speaking English and offer them a special for training their employees.
As you build up your roster of students, you’ll want to make sure you have a system in place to remember who has learned what. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet with a page for each student. Just note what you taught each lesson. Since your students will be quite varied in their levels, you will find the notes to be very helpful.
The alternative to finding your own students is to work for an online school. There are quite a few of them out there, but the competition can be tough. Sites like italki, OpenEnglish and similar online schools tend to be quite picky and may not always accept English teachers.
Once you find a site that is actively looking for teachers, check the prices and any restrictions that may be applied. For example, you may need a degree or some form of training before you can begin, or you may have to be online at specific times. It’s best to know the rules before you jump in.
In order to teach online, you’ll probably have to use a webcam and Skype to talk to your students. Skype allows you to share your screen, so you can watch videos with your students or work on a document while they watch. You need to be fairly comfortable with chatting online, face to face.
Your classes online will be much like those you would teach to individual students in real life. The only adaptations you may have to make is doing the writing work on the screen instead of on paper.
Try to be positive and upbeat. It can be dull to sit and talk into the computer screen, but if you are animated, it will add to your student’s interest levels.
No matter where or how you choose to teach English, you’ll find that it is an occupation that can be done anywhere in the world. This makes ESL the perfect way to make money and support your lifestyle in a foreign country.
Ages and Stages
As you get into teaching English as a Second Language, you’ll find that there are distinct levels of students, as well as different ages. Since teaching a five year old is far different from teaching a grown business person, you’ll need to have a few different techniques.
Depending on the ages of the children you’re teaching, you will find yourself entertaining as much as you teach. Children learn by example, so you’ll need to create plenty of these.
For example, if you’re working with toddlers, you’ll want to use actual objects for teaching, rather than just translating words. Hold up a ball and say, “Ball!” instead of writing it on a chalkboard.
You’ll also need plenty of songs and fun games. There are hundreds of ideas on ESL sites, but you can often adapt simple games like hopscotch and other childhood games to work with English vocabulary.
Practicing vocabulary and listening skills is an important part of learning a language. For children, choose appropriate cartoons and kids’ shows to get clips from. They can watch these and answer questions about what they’ve seen.
For reading, comics and simple children’s books are an excellent option. It can be helpful to keep a few books for beginner readers on hand if you are teaching school-age children. Dr. Seuss books are ideal for this stage of learning and will entertain even older students.
Since children tend to be more active than adults, make sure you include physical activity in your teaching. You might have colored circles placed around the room and have children run to the color you call out, or you can get them to throw a ball to each other, with the person catching saying a word in English (set a theme so they have to come up with action words or food words, etc.). Above all, keep it fun and entertaining!
While children can certainly have homework, keep in mind that they probably have some from school already. Also, younger children will need help from their parents to complete their assignments, which may be difficult if the parents don’t already know English.
Teaching Teens and Adults
Once students hit the teen years, they’re usually beyond the songs stage, but they will still enjoy a good game from time to time.
It can be a little tricky to teach beginner English speakers while still talking to them like adults. You’ll need to simplify your language. Go over stories and articles that you plan to use ahead of time and simplify any of the verb tenses, etc. before presenting to the class.
Activities are important in any English class, since it can be pretty dull to simply sit and listen to a teacher. Getting your students to move around while they learn will help them cement the concepts and vocabulary in their minds, making it easier to recall later. You may want to use some of the games in the next chapter to spice up your classes a little.
When it comes to teaching vocabulary, adults usually need more than the standard list of words. You’ll find that most adult students have a specific purpose in learning English, usually to advance their career.
To help your students in the areas they need most, you may need to provide more specific vocabulary. For example, business English will be needed and if your students are in a particular industry, such as medicine or construction, there are words they will need to know. Some of the more common areas you’ll find include:
If you can help your students not only learn English, but learn the English that will help them move forward in their careers, you’ll have satisfied customers.
Teens and adults are well equipped to handle homework that younger children may not be able to do. This is a great way to extend the lessons you teach and have your students improve their English.
Homework should obviously be related to the lessons you’re teaching, but don’t just have them write out sentences, though. Get creative with the assignments and have your students watch television programs at home, translate articles or find items on a scavenger list that is written in English. You can also ask them to talk to an English speaker if you live in an area where there are quite a few tourists.
Remember that homework is meant to help students understand the lessons better and to give them practice in the lessons taught. When they practice at home, this leaves more class time to focus on learning, so use assignments wisely.
ESL Games to Play
Games make learning fun, so try to use them on a regular basis in your classes. Mix things up by surprising your students once in a while with a more exciting way to practice vocabulary. Choosing a day of the week to be Game Day is also a fun tradition. For classes that finish their lesson early, a quick game will use up the remaining time and serve as a reward for a job well done.
This game is ideal for small spaces and rainy days when your students can’t get up and move. You will have to prepare bingo cards ahead of time, with four columns and four rows.
To play, have students place coins or mark the words they have on their card. You can either call out the words and let them find the words or you can show a flashcard with a picture on it and have the students look for the written word. A more advanced version could involve using verbs. You call out the present tense and the students must find the past tense on their cards.
A fun chalkboard game, you can play Basta with no pre-planning and only a couple of students.
To play, draw five columns on the chalkboard and label each one. You can use labels like Food, Animal, City, Verb, Place, Furniture, etc.
Pick a random letter and give students a time limit to write down a word for each column that begins with the letter you’ve selected. For example, for the letter M, they might write “mushroom, monkey, Montreal, mulch and market.”
Students who complete the five columns within the time limit get a point and the student with the most points gets a prize.
When your students get restless, you’ll want to pull out this game. You do need a ball for it, however.
Have the students stand in a circle and toss the ball to each other randomly. Pick a theme, like food or sports. Each student must call out a word that fits the theme before throwing the ball to someone else. You can have a three second rule, so no one is holding onto the ball and thinking. If they can’t come up with a word, the student is out. Continue until only one student is left.
Giant Crossword Puzzle
This game works best if you design it ahead of time or copy an existing puzzle. Draw out the boxes on your whiteboard and then read out the clues. Try dividing the students into teams, with one team working on the horizontal parts and the other team on the vertical puzzle sections.
Mix and Match Charades
Give your students some laughs with this game that helps them practice emotions. You’ll need to prepare for this game, but it can be used over and over once you have the cards.
First, fill one envelope with cards that have emotions on them. Things like sad, angry, excited, etc. can be used. In the other envelope, put cards with verbs like swimming, jumping, typing, cycling, etc.
To play, students draw a card from each envelope and act the action out. This could be sad cycling or angry typing, for example. The rest of the students need to guess the correct combination of emotion and verb.
Running out of ideas to keep your students occupied and happy? Try using some classic games that you’ve adapted for ESL.
Pictionary is a great option when you divide a class into teams and give them each half the board to draw a picture on. They’ll practice vocabulary and get some great laughs.
Boggle and Scrabble work well just as they are, in small groups or for individual classes, so you should try to get your hands on some of these games.
Use games to make things a little more exciting in your classroom and you’ll find that your students will love coming to class. Further Resources
It’s completely possible to take what you have learned in this book and start teaching immediately. However, you may find it useful to check out some other resources. In this chapter, you’ll find several helpful sections that will enable you to teach better.
Already on the road, but want to take some classes to increase your chances of landing a job teaching English? These courses can be taken anywhere in the world.
TOEFL Online – This course is offered in several different levels to help you take your teaching to the next level.
Teaching English as a Second Language – A smaller company that teaches ESL certification.
Make Money Teaching ESL– Take this course on Udemy to learn more about teaching.
Often, books are the simplest way to learn when you’re traveling. If you want to teach English, the following books are all excellent resources.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language for Dummies– If you want a full examination of teaching ESL, this book will give you all the information you need.
The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide – A book full of activities and ideas on how to teach your students at any level.
ESL Games – Nearly 200 fun games to help kids learn English . . . and many work for adults, too!
How to Teach Speaking – This book will give you the tools necessary to get your students to actually speak once they’ve learned English. Part of a series.
50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners – Useful strategies for professional teachers who are serious about their teaching.
Teaching English One to One – Tips for teaching individual ESL classes.
Any and all of the Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers should be considered useful, as well.
Blogs and Websites
Prefer to pick up your tips on websites and blogs, from people who are actually doing what they teach? The following sites are all good places to begin.
FluentU English Educator Blog – Get great tips and ideas for activities, games and teaching strategies here.
El Gazette – An online newspaper for English teachers.
LanternFish – This site offers lesson plans, worksheets and games for those teaching ESL to use in their classrooms.
Total ESL – You’ll find everything from job listings to lesson plans on this site. It’s packed with resources.
Ielanguages – Grab free ESL lesson plans on this simple site.
Teaching English in a Foreign Land – A humorous blog that offers tips and strategies for teaching ESL abroad.
Fun to Teach ESL – This blog is packed with tips and ideas for ESL teachers, from one who is in the trenches herself.
ESL Job Boards
Ready to start looking for jobs? These job boards will help you find the perfect position, no matter which country you want to visit.
Dave’s ESL Café – One of the best known job boards for English teaching jobs, this is the place to start.
GoOverseas – Another excellent place to find high quality teaching jobs, often as a head teacher.
TeachAwayInc. – This site is actually a recruiter for English teaching jobs abroad.
ESL Job Feed – Find tutoring jobs, schools and recruiters on this site for English teachers.
TEFL.net – Find international TEFL jobs here, as well as tips and tricks for teaching.
TEFL.com – Similar to the listing above, this site including plenty of jobs around the world.
TEFL Search – Find teaching positions around the globe with this website, where community is all part of the job search.
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