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How to Teach English as a Second Language

Updated on July 19, 2014
Public Domain Images from
Public Domain Images from

Teaching English as a Second Language

Today, teaching English as a second language in foreign countries is a popular job because in some ways it is more like a vacation than work. You get to travel abroad; you get a place to stay and you are getting paid. It can also be pretty easy to get a job teaching English in a foreign country—you are guaranteed employment in some programs if you simply graduated from a university considered prestigious, and you don’t even need any teaching experience.

But before you enroll yourself in an English teaching program and jump on the next flight, you should understand what the job really entails.

First of all, if you are going to teach English abroad, you have to be committed. Most programs will require you to stay for a minimum of 1 year, so you have to be willing to devote a considerable amount of time to the position. Also, you might be getting paid, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting paid a lot. Teaching English as a second language isn’t a job you go for if you’re looking to earn a lot of money, but earning some money is better than earning none, and some programs are said to pay up to $75,000 a year. However, there’s usually a price to pay for a big salary—the program might be located somewhere undesirable, like a secluded area without any nightlife, or the cost of living might be expensive. Of course, you’re likely to be paid much less in places where the cost of living is cheap.

Photo Credit Image by MisterParks
Photo Credit Image by MisterParks

One of the benefits of teaching English as a second language is that it can be an extremely rewarding cultural experience. It’s a chance to see what life is like outside of your home country, to see new and exciting places and learn foreign languages and customs. You might also meet a lot of great people in and out of your program who all come from different walks of life. Most people who come back from teaching English abroad describe having a positive experience, and often find themselves being longing to return to that country afterward.

But English teaching programs also receive their fair share of criticism. Certain programs have been accused of racist employment—for example, some programs in Asian countries will automatically hire teachers who are white on the sole basis of their race, even over other Asians. Others question how educational these programs really are. Rather than teaching English to foreigners, teachers might be learning more about foreign culture.

The truth is that overall, the experience of teaching English as a second language varies from country to country, and what teachers get out of the experience will largely depend on which program they choose. Thus it remains a viable option for individuals who are looking for a cultural experience with some pay on the side.

Teaching English as a Second Language

Teaching English as a Second Language - Your Comments

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    Acquisition of English 7 years ago

    You have noted some very nice points. Both teaching and learning English are rewarding in terms of cultural integration and personal development. Thanks for the nice hub.

  • infoguider profile image

    infoguider 7 years ago

    I'm actually very interested in doing this in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One of my good friends did this for half a year in Chile and he said it was one of the best experiences of his life.

  • travelespresso profile image

    travelespresso 7 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

    Thanks for this informative hub. Your wealth of experience shines through. Armed with a CELTA qualification (the ink barely dry!)and a couple of degrees, I've accepted a contract to teach English as a second language at a University in Malaysia beginning next month. Teaching ESL allows me to travel and work in countries otherwise unaccessible for me for an extended timeframe. I do note your important points though. Thank you.

  • gramarye profile image

    gramarye 7 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

    This represents a very balanced view of the industry. Personally, I started out in Singapore on a very good salary before returning to Australia where that experience was highly valued for working with Migrants.

  • Helen Straw profile image

    Helen Straw 8 years ago from Tasmania

    I'm teaching English part time right now, and you're right it can be a great way to see a new country, learn about a new culture and make some money but it does have it's downside too. Some people find it hard to make friends as work requirements are high, and they end up being lonely and over-worked. Often you have juggle between living near your school, or living somewhere nice and spending a lot of time traveling. You also do not get regular holidays, like Christmas or Easter holidays if you're teaching in a non-Christian country. Most teachers only make it for a year or two before moving on, unless they marry someone from the country they are living in that is!