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TEFL Explained

We've been in the TEFL industry for over 20 years and it's easy for us to forget that some people haven't even heard of TEFL! So here we are, ready to give you a little insight in to our world!

So what does TEFL mean?

TEFL literally means Teaching English as a Foreign Language and a TEFL qualification will allow you to teach English all over the world! No teaching experience? No problem – if you can speak English you can teach English!

What is a TEFL course?

In a nutshell, a TEFL course is a training program which gives you the skills and confidence you need to teach English as a foreign language. The length and depth of the course may vary, but all i-to-i courses cover the skills needed to teach English to foreign learners. You'll be taught how to make lessons interesting, how to teach different student levels and how to motivate your class so they really want to learn.

i-to-i TEFL courses take many forms, from intensive weekend courses to flexible online courses and four-week overseas courses (so you can train on the job)! The course you choose will largely depend on your learning style, your confidence levels and the position which you're going to be looking for. For example, if you're going to be applying for work in a competitive TEFL market you may want to consider a more extensive TEFL course to put you a step ahead of your rivals.

Where Can I teach?

While TEFL may be taught in an English-speaking country, it is most often taught in countries where English isn't the native language. TEFL is commonly used in schools and language institutes, but you'll also find it being used by private tutors and volunteers.

Who Teaches TEFL?

TEFL tutors don't need to be native English speakers and can come from anywhere in the world. In some countries TEFL tutors are required to have a degree (in any subject) but there are also many countries where you can find a well paid teaching position without one.

How can you ensure that your TEFL qualification is of a high quality and will be recognised by language institutes around the world?

Over the last couple of years we’ve seen loads of TEFL course providers spring up offering a huge array of different TEFL courses. From expensive four-week residential CELTA courses in exotic foreign locations all the way through to bargain-basement online courses being sold for next to nothing on Groupon.

Anyone can set up a TEFL course, pay for some Google advertising and set themselves up as a course provider. But unless they know what they’re doing, the TEFL certificate you get at the end of it is pretty much worthless. The only way you can check that a course provider is kosher is to check their accreditation. For example, there are lots of providers who use words like Oxford and Cambridge to give themselves some added kudos, but they actually have nothing to do with the two famous Universities.

So, the first thing you should do before you even think about taking a TEFL course is check out the provider’s accreditation.

How and where can I find a TEFL position?

There are two options here. You can check out the latest TEFL vacancies around the world on our very own TEFL Jobs Board and apply for as many jobs as your heart desires! Each job is moderated by us before it goes live, so you can be assured that it’s watertight. Plus, it’s totally free to use and really easy to navigate! Research is essential before you start applying and you can find a whole heap of information about TEFL destinations on our website.

If you’d rather go hasslefree, check out our TEFL internships. They include free accommodation, full training and 24/7 in country support.

How much will you be paid as a TEFL Tutor?

Exactly how much you will be paid depends largely upon where you are working, how much experience you have and the type of institute that you're working at. Some TEFL tutors choose to volunteer, others seek merely to cover their travel costs and others seek to start a long-term career with high wages and future prospects. When looking for a teaching position it's important that you bear in mind the cost of living in your chosen country. What looks like a very low wage could turn out to be a fortune in comparison to how much you will be spending while you're away.

The best paid TEFL destinations for TEFL teachers on a short-term contract can be found in the Middle East. TEFL tutors are in high demand in these parts and the average TEFL wage has been steadily rising for years. Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are also gold mines when it comes to teaching TEFL.

You can find out more about exactly what you can expect to earn in our guide to the Top Ten TEFL Destinations.

What are the risks?

Travelling always involves a certain level of risk and teaching abroad is no different. You'll need to be aware that in some countries it is possible to set up a private language school without any restrictions or requirements concerning teaching standards, staff wages or maximum working hours. Unscrupulous language schools will use these loopholes in the law to exploit inexperienced TEFL tutors. It's important that you research both the country and the individual language school before accepting a position to ensure that you won't be taken for a ride. Our Chalkboard forums are a great way to do this and the recommendation of a past TEFL tutor, who has actually worked for the school, can generally be relied upon.

Something else which you will need to consider before you travel is the political situation in your chosen country. Threats such as terrorism, civil war or military disturbances should affect your decision to work in a country. The economic stability of the country may also be something to consider and this may affect your TEFL training decisions. For example if you are going to be teaching in a developing country you may wish to take a Specialist Certificate in Teaching with Limited Resources before you go.

And finally, is it really worth it?

Teaching abroad allows you to completely immerse yourself in a new culture, to explore the world from within. You'll be slipping into the role of a local as you help students to develop their skills and shape their futures. After the initial culture shock has passed, this new and exotic destination will become home - a truly extraordinary experience. When the time to leave finally comes you can rest assured that you'll miss your life, your job and your friends here more than you can ever imagine.

As well as getting some essential work experience, you'll also be developing an understanding of the world - something which will prove invaluable when you return home (assuming of course that you don't decide to follow a permanent career in TEFL). International travel and worldly experience is becoming more and more important in the modern business world making this a great experience to sell to your future employers.