Do I need training to teach English abroad?
So, do you necessarily need to have a qualification or some training in ESL teaching to get a job? In most cases the answer would be yes, but not always. As the demand for English teachers varies greatly from country to country, employer’s expectations of potential staff also differs. As in any other industry, the higher paying jobs tend to go to those with more qualifications and experience. In some countries it is still possible to find teaching jobs that don’t require you to have any prior training. On the other hand, most employers in the Middle East will request a Masters degree and an advanced ESL qualification as a bare minimum. Generally it is increasingly the case that employers actively seek to find staff with at least some form of training behind them. So therefore, whilst it may not be completely compulsory to do a training course beforehand, it will greatly improve your chances of finding a good teaching position.
Why do a training course?
Just about anyone who has taught English as a foreign language will agree that doing some training before you go into the real classroom is incredibly helpful. Whether you choose to do a brief, introductory course or enrol on a more intense and advanced option, there are many reasons why you will benefit. These include;
- Gaining an insight into ESL: Before you begin throwing your resume into the job market, it is vital that you understand why the ESL industry exists and what exactly is involved with this kind of job. For example, everyone involved in teaching English abroad will, at some point, have pondered the ins and outs of teaching a new language to a classroom of children or adults without any/limited use of their native language. Attending a training course will give you an understanding of how ESL teaching works and what it entails.
- Developing your teaching methodology: Everyone develops and enhances their approach to teaching when they get into the classroom, but having a framework of ideas and methods beforehand will give you a far better start than going in blind. Any training course should equip you with at least a basic knowledge of how to structure a lesson, how to successfully fulfil your aims and a range of activities to use in the classroom. By learning how to plan lessons, use materials and get your message across clearly, you will give yourself a good set of tools to work with when you actually get to the job.
- Boost your confidence: You would have to be a very brave person to go into a classroom for the first time without even a slight feeling of anxiety. Most training courses will give you the opportunity to do some short mock lessons and give you a feel for what it is like to teach. You can develop your existing strengths and work on your weaknesses. This is not to say you won’t be nervous when it comes to the real thing, but it will certainly make a big difference.
- Enhance your understanding of English: We use our language every single day and most of us rarely think about the processes, structures and functions of what we are producing. Almost anyone can describe the difference between present, past and future tense, but how many people can say they know how to explain the grammatical complexities of the English language (and there are more than enough of them!) to a group of foreign learners? Not all courses will go into great depth about how to teach grammar but they should at least give you an appreciation of the need to enhance your own understanding before you try teaching others.
- See the difference between theory and practice: You don’t have to look very hard to find reading material about how to teach English as a foreign language. There are literally thousands of books and articles out there- some more useful than others. But even after spending weeks and months reading about how teaching English should work in theory, you still haven’t seen how it happens in reality. It’s much easier to talk about how to teach than to demonstrate it in a real life situation. During your training course you will get a taste of what actually happens during an ESL class and get a feel for how the theory can work, and not work, when put into practice.
- You get the certificate: Don’t just say you have the ability to teach, prove that you have undergone the necessary training to give you the skills you need. In an increasingly competitive job market, it always helps to have documentary evidence of your achievements when trying to impress potential employers.
What courses are out there and how can I decide which is most suitable?
For many people, the process of finding and choosing the most suitable training course is almost as time-consuming as job hunting. With the range of options available it is increasingly difficult to decide on the course which offers the best value for money. The value of a training course largely depends on the circumstances of the individual taking it. Factors such as ability and willingness to pay higher prices, availability of spare time, ability to travel and preference for personal interaction over online tutoring, will all play a part in determining which course is the best for you.
Generally speaking, the majority of ESL training courses can be categorised as one of the following types:
- Short courses: Given that many people who are seeking a job in TEFL have work and study commitments prior to starting their new lives, weekend and 3 day courses are becoming increasingly popular in the all over the world. These courses can be a great way to give you a brief insight into teaching methodology and help you to develop some good practical skills to take into your new job. They are more affordable and although they are not valued as highly as some longer courses, it shows your employer that you have made an effort to improve your understanding.
- Distance learning and online course: Doing a course like this has its obvious pros and cons. Those who learn much better through personal interaction with their tutor would be advised to find an equivalent classroom based course. Likewise for those who want an opportunity to practice their new found techniques in a semi realistic setting. However, for people who can learn effectively in their own company and are constrained by time or transportation costs to the nearest training centre, distance programs are often a great way to gain some training in TEFL.
- Placement based programs: there are many language schools, in Asia and Europe particularly, which offer reasonably priced one or two week long training placements whereby students go out and learn on the job. To enrol on one of these programs you will need to have time available not just to travel abroad but to make the necessary arrangements and prepare any relevant documentation. There are obvious advantages to this kind of scheme. Above all else you get to see what the job entails firsthand and gain authentic classroom experience.
- CELTA: The CELTA program is still regarded by many as the crème de la crème of ESL training courses. It was created by Cambridge University and is available to learners all over the world. The courses are usually based on an intensive 4 week schedule whereby participants learn the job inside-out. Unlike other courses, CELTA involves assessments of your progress in order to gain the certificate. The program also requires a great deal of dedication and attention with participants having to give all their time to the course in order to succeed. Therefore, whilst it is undoubtedly the most valuable qualification you can have in terms of finding a job, it is better suited to highly dedicated learners with plenty of free time than those who want a more relaxed and informal training program.
How can you tell if a course is legitimate and worth the money?
A potential downside to ESL training is that there isn’t an official body which regulates training providers. Therefore there are an abundance of independent companies providing courses with no guidelines to follow in terms of their course content and standards. That is not to say that these training providers are a rip off or a waste of time and money. It just means that before you sign up to a course you may wish to consider:
- Is the qualification recognised within the industry?
- Is the qualification accredited by any outside agencies?
- What qualifications and experience has the course tutor got?
- Does the course have a good mixture of theoretical and practical components?
- Has the course been running for many years or is it a brand new trainer (and therefore doesn’t have a reputation in the industry)?
Essentially it is the person who pays and does the course who can assess whether or not it has been valuable to them. You should, however, take a bit of time to look at whether your qualification will put you in a good position to handle the job.
Finding a training program
You may have already noticed by now that a Google search for ESL courses in your country produces thousands upon thousands of potential training providers. To save you the time of trawling through the exhaustive lists, here are some links to a few of the more reputable training providers.