Teaching English As A Foreign Language

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This piece on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) was written for us by Celia Jenkins, and first appeared in “The People’s Friend” in Special 179.

While some people view retirement as a time to take it easy, others relish the idea of a new challenge.

If this sounds like you, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) could be just the adventure you’re looking for.

Whereas once it may have been regarded as a gap-year experience for students, many people now decide to make a career out of it in later years.

With the chance to volunteer or be paid for your efforts, as well as the opportunity to travel all over the world, getting into TEFL can be the perfect way to enhance your retirement years.

You can teach from home, in your local area, or visit places you never dreamed you would go to.

Life isn’t over once you retire from your job. In fact, it can be the ideal time to set off on a new adventure when you have fewer commitments, both financially and from the demands of family.

Teaching English can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, and for most voluntary positions the only qualification you’ll need is to speak English fluently.

Home or away?

So should you go for paid or voluntary, home or away?

While many people decide to teach English abroad, as this affords them the opportunity to travel and experience new places, it isn’t compulsory. If you’d like to teach but don’t want to spend time away from home, there are ways to do this, too.

Skype teaching is becoming increasingly popular. All you need is your own computer and a reliable internet connection.

Some schools ask you to have a microphone headset for best sound quality, and these online lessons can be delivered to students anywhere in the world.

Away from home, there are opportunities for both paid and voluntary work in the TEFL sector across the globe.

Depending on the regulations of the places you are applying to, there may be more opportunity for part-time teaching work, and voluntary positions are certainly a lot more flexible.

The School Inside organises links between Skype TEFL teachers and needy students.

Many of their students are children who come from refugee or low-income families in places like Syria, India and Afghanistan among others.

The School Inside will arrange for you to teach the same students every week, so you can build a bond and see them improve. The lessons are 20 to 45 minutes long, and the website offers help for first-time teachers.

Teaching refugees

There are also opportunities across the UK for teaching refugees.

Many people come to our country hoping to start a new life, and the first step to achieving that is communication. Teaching English to a refugee family can be a hugely rewarding experience.

The charity Refugee Action runs a number of projects in Bradford and Manchester where volunteers help support refugees.

This involves helping to support English language classes, as well as mentoring refugees, helping them practise for job interviews and to apply for jobs.

Volunteers can help run basic, intermediate and advanced English language courses which go a long way to helping combat isolation and loneliness.

It enables refugees to volunteer, work and make friends with their neighbours.

For current volunteering opportunities, click here.

Do your homework

Do your homework first. While most voluntary positions will be happy to take on anyone who can speak English, you’ll feel much more confident as a teacher if you’ve got a TEFL certificate.

You can study either online or with face-to-face courses. Top-of-the-range courses are called a CELTA – they’re geared towards teaching adults and can be quite expensive.

However, TEFL certificates are much more affordable and cover all the basics.

The website i-to-i has a great range of courses as well as internships, or you can look at Cactus TEFL to browse different types of courses.

There might be a further education centre near to you that offers TEFL training.

For an online or combined course, make sure there are at least 120 hours of content. Anything less than this won’t give you a good introduction to the basics.

If you’re interested in teaching but have never taught before, don’t worry – all teachers have to start somewhere.

Here are a few handy tips:

  • Try to observe an experienced teacher in the classroom, either online or in person. This will give you some hints on how a class should run
  • Invest in a TEFL certificate and read up on activities you can do with the students
  • Smile, be positive, and accept that things might not go to plan
  • Have back-up ideas for games and activities
  • Speak in a clear voice, and be mindful if you have an unusual accent

Further afield

Deciding to teach abroad isn’t a choice you should make impulsively.

It’s important to talk to your family and friends and give it careful consideration before going ahead.

If you’re sure that this is the right choice for you, there are a few other things that should be taken into account. The question of where to go will probably be your most important decision.

Choosing to live in a foreign country, even if it’s only for a few months, can be a life-changing experience.

From time to time there are some places in the world where it isn’t recommended you travel. Avoid countries facing political upheaval. Check up-to-date government advice on travelling to countries at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Also, some locations might have regulations about who can teach there. Rules might be different for a voluntary position, but paid positions will be stricter about hiring.

For example, Mexico and the Czech Republic have no age limit for teachers. A number of Asian countries, however, require teachers to be sixty-five or younger.

Wherever you go, you’ll need the correct paperwork, including visas and, of course, an up-to-date passport.

Another consideration is the culture, cuisine and climate of your new home. If you don’t do well in adverse weather, check the average temperatures in the country you’re going to.

Dressing appropriately is important, too. For instance, if you’re going to a Muslim country you might be required to wear certain types of clothes.

For more fantastic features from “The People’s Friend”, click here.

Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.