ESL stands for English as a Second Language. A person’s second language is a language that is not the native language of the speaker, but is used in their country or region. It’s also called English as a Foreign Language (EFL). There are around 400 million native English speakers and over 1 billion ESL and EFL speakers. That’s a huge market for teaching ESL!!
And those numbers are growing rapidly, as many countries are educating their youth to learn English as a means to find jobs and prepare for the future. This has resulted in a boom in worldwide ESL teaching jobs. In ‘exotic’ countries it’s fairly easy to find work teaching ESL.
Many job openings require you to be a native speaker of English. Which I am not, I’m an L2 speaker myself. It’s still possible to become an ESL teacher as long as you speak English (near) fluently. Usually, a bachelor degree is required, but it does not have to be in education. For me, I have a bachelor in business administration. A TEFL diploma is usually required and this is no big deal; it’s possible to do the TEFL course online. It’s very helpful if you have some prior teaching experience, but if you don’t have any, this website will help you to get a kick start to becoming a great teacher.
Most important is that you have excellent communication skills, patience, the ability to relate to different students, flexibility, creativity and a passion for teaching.
But I don’t speak the local language
You do not need to be able to speak a foreign language to teach English to speakers of other languages. Spoken language accounts only for 8% of face-to-face communication. Tone of voice accounts for 37% and body language for 55%. In ESL, we teach mostly by showing pictures, using gestures, acting, speaking, drawing and writing down words and sentences. There are many tools that can help the student to understand your message. It’s up to the teacher to get creative or dramatic in how he or she communicates. Use different tones of voice. Be silly.
I always taught my classes entirely in English. This helped my students a lot as they were forced to communicate in English. For very difficult words I would ask my assistant to write down the meaning in their language or sometimes she would translate my question. If the assistant is not there, you can prepare the translation before class and have a student write it down during class. Or use Google Translate, ha. Like I said, be creative!
Advantages of teaching ESL abroad
As an ESL teacher you get to live in an ‘exotic’ country and you get paid for it! This is every traveler’s dream. It sure was mine! You learn about the local culture and learn to interact with people from different backgrounds. Living and teaching abroad is still an ongoing journey as you’re not just teaching, you’re also learning every day. Every day is different. You gain confidence as you’re improving so many skills daily. You’re learning to speak in front of a crowd on a daily basis. I have given open classes at kindergartens with over fifty parents watching per class. At training centers I have organized and lead writing contests with over a hundred parents watching. At a kindergarten I was chosen as one of the presenter’s trio for the graduation ceremony with around 700 parents attending. I have given teacher training’s to local teachers. These are just a few of my many experiences teaching ESL.
It’s so rewarding to see your students enjoy your classes, having fun and paying attention at the same time and making progress. Let them show their parents their newly acquired English skills and make their parents proud. I’ve seen the shyest kids turn into the best students. As a teacher you have the possibility to touch the lives of so many students. Believe in them, inspire them and be a great example for your students.
What does it take to be an ESL teacher?
Teaching kids English is very rewarding, but it can be challenging, too. It requires patience and a sense of fun and playfulness. If you feel like you can’t teach kids, don’t worry. I learned and you will, too.
One skill that will serve you well as a teacher is to learn to be flexible and understanding with young children. If a child is unwilling to participate, try to figure out what is upsetting them. Learning won’t happen if a child is overtired, hungry, upset or worried. Other times a child just needs to be left alone for a bit. Move on to the other students and the child will see how much fun it’s missing and come around. If an activity is not working, just change to a new one. Motivate the children with your enthusiasm and arouse their curiosity.
Your job is to make English class fun and interesting. Teaching really is a performance art. With all the information here, you will have all you need to become a great kids teacher. Most important is just to relax and have fun with the students! If you make a mistake, then just make a joke of it, be a silly teacher. Kids won’t care, they love it!
The greatest asset you bring to the classroom each day is your own unique personality. You must use your individual gifts to lead, inspire and motivate your students. You have to adopt a creative mindset. Teachers are lifelong learners. The innocent enthusiasm of your students will keep you young and make you smile. You will learn to smile through even the most frustrating moments. Keep on smiling! It puts your students at ease and give your class a fun feeling.
Don’t be part of the 80% of teachers that are just getting by. Follow my instructions and you will be way ahead of anyone just coming to teach abroad and trying to figure things out alone.
How much can I earn teaching ESL?
Alright, the big ‘how much’ question. Teaching ESL will not make you a billionaire, but it comes with very reasonable salary. How much totally depends on your experience and the country. Typically, the average monthly salary is around $2,000. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia pay much more ($2,000-$5,000). In Asia the best paying countries are Japan, Korea and China ($2,000-$3,000), but in China I was making much more than this, working part-time at two different schools. A great way to earn a lot of extra income is by getting private students. This could easily double your salary. However, the salary is just one of the many benefits teaching ESL overseas, which include the opportunity and experience of living in an exotic country and expanding your boundaries. Like what I was talking about before.