Articles for Teachers

Teaching English As a Foreign Language - Frequently Asked Questions
By:Rosana Hart

If you are thinking of teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in a non-English-speaking country, no doubt you have questions. What's it really like to do this? Here are some of the common questions would-be teachers have, with answers.

[1] What will my students be like?

They are unlikely to be children, as whatever English the children learn is usually done within the country's public school system. More likely, you will be teaching teenagers or adults. The adults will likely be very motivated, as they see English as a key to a better life. Some of the teenagers will have the same attitude, but some may be more casual.

[2] I only speak English. How will I communicate with the students?

Many methods of language instruction are based on using just the language the students are learning. So you will be fine. Once you get beyond the most basic levels of English, you can use English to explain things and most of the students will understand.

[3] I don't remember much of the grammar I studied in school. Do I have to know it?

You do need to know some grammar, but you do not have to be a genius at it. This is one reason it is a good idea for you to take a TEFL class that gives you certification. Not only will it help you find work, it will also go over English grammar, from the point of view of what you will need to explain to your students.

[4] I speak fluent English, but it is my second language and I do have a slight accent. Can I still teach English as a Foreign Language?

It depends. Most language schools are understandably looking for people with native pronunciation of English. If you are looking for work in a country where there aren't that many native English speakers who want to teach English, you are likely to be more successful. By the same token, people who are native speakers of English but have a strong regional accent may find it more difficult to get work than people who speak a more standard English. By the way, both American English and British English are acceptable.

[5] I graduated from high school but I don't have a college degree. Can I still do this?

You may have fewer choices of positions, but you should be able to find work. Since you don't have a formal degree, it would be a good idea for you to take one of the many TEFL courses that are available all over the world and online. Take one that provides at least 100 hours of instruction and gives you TEFL certification.

If you are traveling in foreign countries, particularly outside the US and Europe, you may be able to find work simply because you are there. The schools may be more lax in their requirements because they can talk to you on the spot, and you may also find smaller, more informal schools.

[6] I wonder if I would be good at this.

If you are friendly, outgoing, flexible, and genuinely interested in helping other people, it's well worth a try! It also helps if you prepare your class lessons with care.

Rosana Hart writes about how to learn Chinese through Chinese language software and audio programs such as Pimsleur Mandarin

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