5 Common Misconceptions About Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English abroad can be an exciting and challenging adventure for young people looking to travel and immerse themselves in a foreign country and culture. But before you head overseas with some starry-eyed notions about living in an exotic land, you should probably get your head out of the clouds and consider that a job is a job, no matter where you go. If you temper your expectations, you stand a much better chance of enjoying the experience, so here are just a few common misconceptions you need to disabuse yourself of.

You don’t need a teaching certificate

While you don’t necessarily have to attend a 4-year college and come out with an English degree or a standard teaching certificate in order to teach ESL, most schools now require that their teachers go through some kind of training program to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills needed to lead a classroom full of students. There are all kinds of courses out there designed to prepare you for certification in this specialized field of teaching, so all you have to do is choose one, complete your required hours, and pass the exams to receive certification. The certifications you’ll want to consider are TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). More and more, however, college degrees are required, so you’ll want to consider this before you start looking for jobs.

You don’t have to speak another language

It is true that most ESL courses are full immersion, so even though you are traveling to another country, the school hiring you may not require you to speak the native language. That said, you will be living in a country that is not populated by English speakers, and your life can become pretty difficult if you don’t speak the language. You’re already an outsider, which means you could be subject to curiosity, wariness, or even hostility just because of your otherness. But if you are so disrespectful as to avoid learning the language of the country you’re living in, you could make your life unnecessarily difficult. If you make an effort here, even if you bungle it in the beginning, you’ll probably find that people are far more willing to help you out.

You create the curriculum

Most schools have a set curriculum that they expect their teaching staff to adhere to, and this includes ESL teachers. Further, you may be expected to teach subjects other than English. Not only that, but you’ll have to teach, say, mathematics in English to a group of children or adults that doesn’t necessarily have a good grasp of the English language. This can be a far more difficult task than you originally anticipated.

You’ll earn more money overseas

For some reason, many people seem to believe that they’ll not only earn more money teaching ESL in a foreign country, but also that they’ll be provided with living accommodations and that their money is tax-free. Generally, this is wrong on all counts. Although you may be lucky enough to nab a good salary, you’ll still have to pay for all of your own living expenses, and this can quickly eat up your salary. Plus, you’ll likely have to pay taxes back home on the money you earn abroad, even if you aren’t required to pay local taxes.

Getting a work Visa is easy

There’s really nothing to stop you from getting a Visa to work in another country, so long as you meet requirements, but the process is far from easy. Most countries like to give jobs to their citizens and they want to know why they should be compelled to give a job to a foreigner instead. In most cases you’ll have to be sponsored by an employer in order to obtain a work Visa and you may have to go through a series of interviews in before you are cleared to work. For more information on how to get the work Visa you need, you’ll have to first decide which country you’re interested in working in. From there you’ll likely have to contact the embassy for instructions to get started.

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