English is the international language
... every country needs English teachers ...
How to teach your way abroad with TEFL. Written By James Jenkin.
What James Has To Say
James Jenkin has been teaching English as a foreign language since 1994, having managed English language programmes in Vietnam, China and Australia. His classroom career has included teaching Sudanese refugees, Vietnamese government ministers and Chinese airline pilots. As well as developing English language programmes and training teachers, James is also the proud author of Lonely Planet’s Russian Phrasebook! Needless to say, he has had invaluable experiences in the TEFL and travel world and can offer you a whole world of TEFL-Travel advice. With his extensive teaching experience, as well as ten years experience as a teacher-trainer on Cambridge CELTA Courses and i-to-i’s Classroom TEFL Courses, he truly understands the needs, fears and hopes of people entering the TEFL world.
How and why did you get into teaching English overseas?
“I’d studied languages and I thought I’d be a good teacher because I knew about grammar. I used to stand in the front and lecture. I wish I’d done some worthwhile teacher training before I started – it took me a couple of years to realize that being a good teacher is about helping ‘learners’ get involved and practise with each other and develop their skills.”
What do you most enjoy about TEFL training on the Classroom TEFL Course?
“It’s a thrill to see people develop such confidence in such a short period of time.”
Any tips for first time TEFL/TESOL teachers?
“Get the students talking! The less time you’re up in the front talking, the better. They need the practice, not you!”
English is the international language of business, politics, science and communications.
The British Council estimates there are over a billion people learning English worldwide. About three quarters of these people live in non-English-speaking countries. In other words, every country needs English teachers (there are even foreign TEFL teachers in North Korea).
Most language schools advertise on the internet and many like to arrange a contract in advance. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to TEFL jobs. It’s estimated that there are over 20,000 new TEFL jobs listed each month.
The demand for TEFL is so huge that many schools will employ teachers with no teaching qualification or degree. This does depend on the country – you may need to be qualified to get a work visa in some countries (we will see which ones later). Also, the question of whether you want to teach without some training needs serious consideration.
Most English language schools are English language environments. You will use English for all interactions at work. However, knowing some basic phrases in the local language shows respect for people and will add considerably to your cultural experience.
You could actually be teaching in one of many countries tomorrow. You will need to decide whether you want to simply arrive in a country and approach schools or arrange a job before you go. We will look at the pros and cons of each later.
Recent research into ‘happiness’ suggests that the key components in pursuit of it are:
- being involved in activities that have ‘meaning’ for us
- having opportunities to use our skills to make a difference
The research also suggests that we become happier by promoting the well-being and happiness of others. Surely, therefore, the world of TEFL offers huge opportunities for the pursuit and promotion of happiness.
The material that follows opens up to us a world in which bright, committed people are making a contribution to the concept of ‘one world’ by reducing barriers, engaging respectfully with different cultures and passing on learning that expands the horizons of its recipients. These ‘TEFL people’ are taking part in life-changing experiences themselves and are inviting millions of their students to do the same.
We all remember how hard it was to stay awake in a class, sitting in the same seat for hours.
Plan a range of activities with different skills and different interactive patterns. Encourage physical activity. For example, students first mingle and survey each other; they then work in groups; they then form two teams and race to the whiteboard to write something relevant to
- Stop talking! Get students to do activities, not sit and listen to you.
- Get students talking in pairs and small groups.
- This can come from nerves (remember the students are more nervous than you are). Get to know the students before class and in the breaks. Change the class dynamic, so it’s not just you out in the front talking. As students do activities, move around the classroom and don’t
forget to smile!
- Treat all students fairly and spread your attention and interaction evenly. Don’t have any classroom favourites.
- Don’t ever single out students and make them lose face.
- Keep instructions really short and clear. Demonstrate an activity rather than explaining it (for example, it would be crazy to explain to someone how to play chess without showing them the board and how the pieces move).
- Have a clear aim for your lesson. You can write it on the whiteboard.
- Prepare your lesson! Course books generally explain language really well, but make sure you’ve read the unit beforehand and understand it.
- Somehow get good equipment. There is nothing more demoralising for a language student than hearing a recording and not understanding a word.
- Try to supplement a course book with interactive activities and with authentic materials
Almost all of the above are issues you can control in the classroom.
DID YOU KNOW?
If you were an English student, which beginning lesson would you enjoy most? Why?
- You need to plan activities to get students to talk to each other – students won’t usually talk without a purpose
- Whole-class discussions often don’t work – try smaller groups instead
- The teacher asks one student at a time ‘How are you today?’
- The teacher says ‘Today we’re going to learn about the past tense. In English usually it is formed by adding –ed …’
- Students stand up, mingle, and greet all the other students in English.
You can guess we suggest the third option. But is it just about enjoyment, or is there a serious purpose as well? What sort of atmosphere is created when the class begins with a student-to-student speaking activity?
Why do you think many students have had little speaking practice when they’ve learnt English?
Select true or false (point by mouse) for the below statements.
a. Students don’t want to speak.
TRUE / FALSE
b. Speaking isn’t in their final exam at school.
TRUE / FALSE
c. They’ve had teachers who were non-native English speakers. Non-native-speakers can’t teach speaking as well as native speakers.
TRUE / FALSE
d. Many teachers aren’t sure how to maximise speaking practice.
TRUE / FALSE
Simple principles to maximise speaking practice.
See what TEFL-Travellers have to say!
- Start any class with a student-to-student ice-breaker
- Maximise student-to-student practice throughout the lesson
- Minimise teacher talking time
- Correct students when they are speaking for accuracy, but not fluency
Sheila McAllister from Australia.
I taught English in the National High School, Galapagos. I had been learning Spanish for some months previously but my Spanish was not good enough to communicate effectively and the people in Galapagos did not speak much English.
Apart from the communication problem, it was a wonderful experience and I found living and working in the local community to be vastly different from being there as a tourist. I think my greatest contribution was working with the English teachers in Galapagos who were very keen to better their English and bombarded me with questions, some of which were very challenging. I felt they would be able to pass their increased knowledge of the language on to future generations.
Glossary. The TEFL Profi.
A person or company who arranges teaching work.
A letter sent to an employer to apply for a job together with a resume.
The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, run by Cambridge University.
The entry level of qualification for the TEFL industry.
A school with a number of branches in different cities or countries.
A higher level of qualification than a certificate; only required for positions of responsibility in a school.
English as a Foreign Language; generally used to mean English for work or study.
English as a Second Language; generally used to mean migrant English.
English as a Second or Other Language (used mainly in the UK); any English teaching to non-native speakers.
Making contacts in the industry.
A document showing your qualifications and employment history; used interchangeably with CV.
The skills and attributes an employer looks for to choose someone for a job.
A work schedule with a long break in the middle (e.g. 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening).
A page on a website where teachers post comments.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (used mainly in the UK); generally used to mean English for work or study.
Teaching English as a Second or Other Language (used mainly in the US, Australia and New Zealand); any English teaching to non-native speakers.
:-) The Certificate in TESOL, run by Trinity College, London.
If you fell that you are ready to play your role as a TEFL teacher...
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So, ahead of embarking on a TEFL adventure:
- Ensure you have all the information you need
- Ensure you have reflected thoroughly on what you are seeking and hoping for and have also considered the challenges that could be involved
- Be clear about what you will be taking on and what you might be leaving behind
- Be confident you have talked through the contract and are clear what support is available and from whom
- Be ready for a life-changing experience and hopefully one which will enhance your happiness beyond expectations
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