Well here’s everything you need to know to get started, courtesy of Richard Davie – head of teacher training at TEFL Iberia – who let me bombard him with questions
There seem to be several teaching English as a foreign language courses (TEFL, TESOL, Cambridge CELTA etc.) what are the differences between them?
There is often a lot of confusion surrounding this so it’s good that you ask. TEFL is a generic term, it just means Teaching English as Foreign Language. CELTA is the Cambridge English Language Teaching Award, and the Trinity TESOL is Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Basically, they are all TEFL courses and all train you to do the same thing – teach English to people. They are all about 80% identical but can vary slightly from course provider to course provider. CELTA only offer 6 hours of teaching practice for example, whereas at TEFL Iberia you get 10. Some offer great careers advice and job contacts, others don’t. The style and presentation might change from course to course but the content is basically the same.
TEFL offers various training methods – Intensive weekend courses/distance learning courses/internships – Do you get a different level of experience from each method? Is any one method better for future TEFL job prospects?
The best course to complete is the 120-hour intensive month training, as you will cover all the theory, get plenty of teaching practice, observe lots of other teachers in action and, if the course is good, they’ll have a reliable careers service to help you find a job afterwards. It is the standard course that employers look for.
Different courses exist for different budgets. The weekend courses are good for a very general overview of what to expect on a month course and what it’s like as a teacher. The 120-hour course requires a month of full-time commitment so people want to be sure they are going to like it. Other courses, such as a week-long 30-hour course also exist for smaller budgets. They are also designed for people who may already have a little experience and they want to brush up on their skills and get some new ideas for the classroom.
Face-to-face courses always trump online courses. Online courses are good for theory and grammar which are important but a very large part of teaching is classroom management (organising students, giving instructions, setting tasks, correcting, encouraging participation, interacting with students, etc) which are hard to cover adequately in an online course. A good analogy is like learning to drive without getting in a car!
I’d advise against a TEFL internship you’d be abandoned in a classroom of 30 Chinese children with little support. I’ve heard a few bad stories from people who did internships, they were basically teaching for free and having to learn on their feet without much real guidance.
I personally wouldn’t waste my money on a 40€ Groupon online TEFL course, as you can’t expect to be a qualified teacher after a small fee and a few hours in front of your computer! If you want quality you’d have to pay upwards of £200 for an online course. A standard 120-hour month course will cost you around £1200 – 1400 depending on where in the world you do it.
What is the salary like for TEFL?
In China rates of pay are about £15 an hour, in south east Asia it’s about half of that, Europe is anything from £12-20 depending on experience and who you’re teaching (less for kids, more for adults / business) In south American it can vary a lot but in a large city like Buenos Aires you can expect about £12-15 an hour.
Most of my experience is in Barcelona so I can give you a more detailed insight into the cost of living there. For example the average rent for a double room in a shared flat in the city centre is 350-400€/month. You’ll also need about 100€/week for food, entertainment, etc. Most teachers do a combination of academy and private class work, teach about 18-25 hours per week and take home 1300-1400€ a month.
How easy is it to get TEFL jobs?
It is generally very easy to pick up a TEFL job anywhere in the world that doesn’t speak English. The conditions can vary from country to country, for example in China it’s extremely easy to find a teaching job if you look western and have a basic command of English. They’ll literally approach you in the street and offer you a job in their school. This is bad in the long run though as there are many hopelessly under-qualified teachers managing large groups of children without much learning taking place.
With TEFL you can teach English as a foreign language without knowing the language of your student – can this cause problems?
The idea is that you learn to teach English to anyone without a word in common between you and your students, so no, you can travel and teach anywhere. However, it’s always good to learn the language of the country you’re in as it will help with administration things, such as getting the correct working papers from the local council, opening a bank account, getting a phone number, etc. Don’t worry if you get there without any knowledge of the language though as you’ll find that regardless of where you go there’s a sizeable English speaking community so you’ll always have some type of support.
If you get a TEFL job do you work alone or with other EFL teachers?
As a student are TEFL job opportunities easy to fit around your studies?
Yes, but it depends on your personal timetable. Most general English classes take place from 5pm-10pm, as that’s when kids / adults finish school / work and can go to private academies to study English. Business English classes normally take place around working hours, so typically early in the morning (8am-10am) or lunchtime (1pm-4pm)
No! The worst situation would be a disorganised course with little real teaching practice, unqualified / unprofessional tutors, no facilities and no guidance for finding a job.
The most important things to look for are plenty of teaching practice hours, reliable careers advice and genuine support in the foreign country. I’d also recommend checking out reviews from previous graduates on http://www.teflcoursereview.com. This website is very good as it ranks courses according to reviews (you’ll see we’re the second best in the world!)
Social media is very important to get a good feel for the school too – you’ll see the people, facilities, comments from others, etc.
If you want to know more about TEFL Iberia in particular check out the YouTube video below for an introduction to the school, courses, facilities and Barcelona.
So if this article has made you want to give TEFL a shot, remember the best course to complete is the 120-hour intensive month training, and the most important things to look for in a TEFL course are plenty of teaching practice hours, reliable careers advice and genuine support in whichever country you choose to work in.