What Is TEFL and How Can It Help You Travel the World?

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In today’s globalized world, English has cemented its place as a pivotal language of communication.

With over 2 billion eager learners worldwide, teaching English presents an unrivaled opportunity to explore diverse cultures, landscapes, and lifestyles.

Teaching English is one of the best ways to travel the world without having to worry about burning through your savings.

But how does one unlock this door to global exploration? The answer lies in TEFL.

Understanding TEFL: The Cornerstone of English Instruction

tefl landing page

Teaching English as a foreign language can take many shapes and forms.

At its core, TEFL, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language, encapsulates the practice of educating non-native speakers in English.

You could find yourself teaching young learners, teenagers with surprisingly rich vocabularies thanks to online streaming services, or adults in search of the business idioms and phrasal verbs that will get them through international work meetings.

The spectrum of students is vast, ranging from animated children and tech-savvy teenagers expanding their vocabularies through streaming services to professionals eyeing global markets and necessitating command over business English.

What will be expected of you is to know the ins and outs of your language. That starts with grammar and could expand outward to even internet-born phrases someone heard on TikTok.

As a TEFL teacher, while you won’t need to be a walking dictionary, a comprehensive grasp of grammar, pronunciation, and the art of contextualizing vocabulary is essential.

Additionally, the digital age demands an awareness of evolving language trends, ensuring your teachings resonate with the modern student.

Getting TEFL Certified: Your Passport to Teaching English

For those apprehensive about their own grasp of English grammar or teaching skills, a TEFL certification is a reassuring answer.

So long as you’re a fluent English speaker, undertaking a TEFL course will address any blind spots you may have.

This industry-standard qualification, typically a 120-hour course, is accessible both online and offline.

Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to study at your own pace as well as pick the brains of your experienced tutor.

You’ll also have a chance to observe lessons and pick up some tips that could prove helpful in your own classes in the future.

Remember that you don’t need to come from a linguistic background to get TEFL qualified. TEFL is a career path for anyone interested in teaching English abroad.

Embarking on the Job Hunt

tefl jobs centre

Now, with your TEFL certificate in hand, the quest for the perfect job begins.

Networking is paramount. Whether it’s through TEFL conferences, online communities, or casual conversations in staff rooms, fellow teachers are often the richest sources of job leads and insights.

While many turn to their TEFL provider’s job board as a starting point, crafting a tailored resume and cover letter can make you stand out in a competitive market.

Moreover, for those just starting out, seeking volunteer opportunities can provide invaluable experience.

Alternatively, look into teaching programs, like Jet in Japan, that offer yearly, well-paid contracts and do not hold a lack of experience against candidates that apply.

For more information, check out The TEFL Org’s guide to teaching English in Japan salary page.

Teach at Schools

Teaching English at schools across the world is a great way to ensure you have regular working hours, a year-long contract, and the opportunity to learn from your colleagues.

This stability would mean a more slow and steady approach to traveling the world, but that would go hand in hand with enough time to immerse yourself in a new culture.

Things to bear in mind when considering year-long contracts in countries across the world are the cost of living in comparison to the salary you’re offered, so ensure you can save enough.

Also, do your reading when it comes to cultural differences.

You may find living in places like the UAE or Saudi Arabia a big adjustment. It’s better to know in advance than discover it’s not for you and waste an academic year you could have spent teaching and exploring.

Private Language Schools

If you’re more interested in teaching adults, exam preparation, and perhaps even Business English, then teaching at private language schools is a great option for teaching and traveling the world.

While you may find yourself working late into the evening as you work around the 9-5 working days of your students, you’ll have more variety in terms of what you’ll be teaching.

Some things to double-check with potential employers during the interview phase include whether your contract will be year-long or only for the academic year and whether they will sponsor your visa should it be necessary.

Many smaller language institutions don’t always have the financial means to sponsor applicants that require it, so do your research before applying.

Online Teaching

Teaching online is a great way to travel around the world without having to worry about the constraints of a contract.

With an established clientele or a job with an online teaching company such as iTalki or Cambly, you can teach from wherever and whenever you want.

Should you decide to set up your own business to teach your own clients, check out yourlifestylebusiness.com for advice on running your business while traveling.

For teachers who land an online job with a company, check whether you’ll be required to teach a certain number of hours a week so that you can factor that time in when planning your trips.

Be sure to look into visa requirements when choosing where to travel.

While digital nomad visas are now available for various countries like Spain, Italy, and Portugal, each one stipulates different requirements for income.

Networking or Freelance Teaching

Never take for granted those conversations in staff rooms with colleagues who have taught all over the world.

Fellow teachers are your best source of information when it comes to finding out which countries are the best to teach in and, more importantly, which employers will offer you the best teaching side hustle.

Once you’ve been to enough places, you’ll be able to return the favor. In the meantime, foster those relationships.

Regardless of whether they help land you a job, it’s good to have a community of teachers you can turn to when you have questions or doubts while you’re out traveling the world by yourself.

Alternative Careers for TEFL Professionals

tefl recommended jobs

The TEFL qualification is versatile and can open doors to various unique career opportunities beyond conventional classroom settings.

Here are five additional avenues where TEFL can be invaluable:

1. Corporate Language Trainer

Many multinational corporations and businesses require their employees to be proficient in English, especially if they operate on a global scale.

As a corporate language trainer, you would be responsible for teaching business English to employees, helping them enhance their communication skills for tasks such as negotiations, presentations, or emails.

This role is particularly lucrative in non-English speaking countries that house the headquarters or branches of multinational corporations.

The focus here is less on traditional language structure and more on practical, business-related language use.

2. English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Trainer

ESP trainers specialize in teaching English for specific sectors or professions, such as aviation, medicine, law, or hospitality.

The curriculum is tailored to the vocabulary and situations relevant to that particular field.

As industries globalize, there’s an increasing need for professionals to be proficient in English.

By specializing in ESP, TEFL teachers can tap into niche markets and often command higher rates due to the specialized nature of the instruction.

3. Educational Content Developer

With the rise of digital learning platforms, there’s a growing demand for professionals who can create compelling English learning content.

This could range from writing textbooks to developing online courses, apps, or educational games.

The e-learning industry is booming, and with a TEFL background, educators can contribute to content development, ensuring materials are pedagogically sound and tailored to the needs of English learners.

4. Language Camp Coordinator or Facilitator

Language camps, often set in immersive environments, are intensive programs where participants learn English through activities, games, and practical situations.

As a coordinator or facilitator, one would organize, manage, and often participate in these interactive sessions.

Such camps are especially popular in European and Asian countries during school breaks.

They offer a blend of teaching, outdoor activities, and often travel, making it a unique experience for TEFL professionals.

5. English Language Examiner

Various English proficiency tests, such as IELTS, TOEFL, and Cambridge English exams, require trained examiners to assess candidates.

With a TEFL certification and additional training, educators can become examiners, evaluating the speaking, writing, or overall language abilities of test-takers.

As the number of people seeking to study or work in English-speaking countries grows, so does the demand for these exams.

Being an examiner can be a stable and respected position in the TEFL field.

These avenues not only demonstrate the versatility of the TEFL qualification but also highlight the ever-growing importance of English in various sectors and industries worldwide.

Understanding The Benefits of TEFL

1. Personal Development

Teaching TEFL doesn’t just impact students; it also plays a significant role in the personal development of the teacher.

For many, teaching English as a foreign language is their first foray into an educational role. This position requires patience, adaptability, and effective communication.

Over time, as teachers grapple with varied classroom scenarios, they inherently enhance their problem-solving skills.

For instance, addressing different learning styles or handling unexpected classroom disruptions hones resilience and creativity.

Moreover, the continuous interaction with students from diverse cultural backgrounds can broaden one’s perspective, cultivating empathy and a better understanding of global cultures.

2. Boosting Career Prospects in Other Fields

TEFL doesn’t pigeonhole you into a teaching career forever. The skills acquired during a TEFL journey are highly transferable to other sectors.

Organizational skills, public speaking, conflict resolution, and cross-cultural communication are assets in professions beyond education.

Let’s say a TEFL teacher decides to transition into the corporate world.

Their experience managing a classroom, designing lesson plans, or even dealing with educational institutions gives them an edge in areas like project management, HR training, or client relations.

Essentially, TEFL provides a versatile toolkit that enhances employability across various industries.

3. Lifelong Learning and Skills Development

In the world of TEFL, the learning curve never truly plateaus. English, like all languages, evolves, as do teaching methodologies.

Being in the field means that teachers are perpetual students themselves.

For instance, while the initial TEFL course provides foundational training, there are always opportunities to delve deeper into specialized areas like Young Learners, Business English, or English for Specific Purposes.

This continuous learning trajectory ensures that teachers remain engaged, updated, and always have a new subset of skills to acquire, keeping their professional journey dynamic and enriched.

4. Building a Global Network

A unique benefit of TEFL, often understated, is the chance to establish a vast and diverse network.

As TEFL teachers move from one country or school to another, they collaborate with fellow educators, administrators, and even parents from various parts of the world.

This global network can prove invaluable.

Whether it’s sharing resources, getting recommendations for future job opportunities, or simply having contacts across the globe for travel and cultural experiences, this network can be a goldmine.

Furthermore, in an increasingly globalized world, having connections across different continents can open doors to collaborations beyond the realm of education.

Tips and Strategies for a Positive TEFL Journey

  • Continuous Professional Development: Regularly attend workshops, seminars, and online courses to keep updated with the latest in teaching methodologies and English nuances. This not only refines your teaching skills but also makes you more marketable in the TEFL industry.
  • Cultural Immersion: Embrace the local culture of the country you’re teaching in. Understanding local customs and traditions will not only enrich your personal experience but also allow you to make lessons more relatable for your students.
  • Join TEFL Communities: Online forums, social media groups, and local TEFL associations can be invaluable resources. They can provide teaching resources, job leads, and a platform to discuss challenges and share successes.
  • Feedback is Gold: Regularly solicit feedback from your students and peers. Constructive criticism can pinpoint areas for improvement, helping you tailor your teaching style more effectively.
  • Stay Organized: Planning lessons in advance, maintaining a teaching journal, and documenting students’ progress can lead to more structured and effective lessons. This not only benefits the students but also reduces daily stress for the teacher.

By harnessing these benefits and implementing the above strategies, TEFL teachers can ensure a fulfilling and impactful journey in the world of English language teaching.

Continuous Growth in the TEFL Domain

The world of TEFL is dynamic. Pursue advanced qualifications like DELTA or MA TESOL, attend international conferences, and engage in teacher training to remain updated and enriched.

Overall, TEFL lends itself to any fluent English speaker looking to travel the world, no matter how close or far away your destinations of choice may be.

All you need to do to fulfill that dream is get qualified.

TEFL is more than just a teaching qualification; it’s a bridge to a world brimming with experience.

For every fluent English speaker yearning to traverse the globe, the journey begins with a TEFL certification.

Beyond that, your travel plans are up to you.

author bio what is tefl blog post
Guest Author Bio

Gemma Jackson is a London-born poet and freelance writer currently based in Italy. Her publications include Fil/Uh (Salò Press, 2023); Aprire (Broken Sleep Books, 2020); and Delineate (Blurb, 2016). Her work has also appeared in Litmus, DATABLEED, Molly Bloom, Adjacent Pineapple, and most recently, Londnr Magazine.