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Teach English Abroad in Western China
By: Troy Peden and Jeff Booth (justin) 2012.07.02

My students looked at me in what I preferred to think was the rapture of learning. It turned out to be the blankness of confusion. I was giving a lecture on American Culture at Chongqing University toTeach English Abroad Western China , a break from my usual classes of Conversation and Writing. I attempted to explain the American Road Trip, Route 66, Kerouac, the vastness of the land stretching from the Golden Gate to Brooklyn's pizza shops. A student tentatively raised his hand,"Excuse me, but what is 'pizza'?" Once again, I was reminded that teaching abroad means more than classrooms and grading, more than a language barrier, more than a cultural gap, it's learning about a whole new world.

As Latin was once the accepted international language of the Western world, English has now become the world-wide standard for business, science, and diplomacy. People from Uruguay to Ulaan-Bataar are eager to learn English, and that means native English speakers have the opportunity to see the world through teaching. Travel the world and earn money, just because you grew up speaking English? Sound too good to be true? Well, it is a real job, with the requisite workload and stresses, but it's one of the most fulfilling jobs you'll ever have.

Can I Teach Abroad?
Though there are teaching opportunities in all disciplines and many languages around the world, the majority of teaching positions available are for native English speakers teaching English as a foreign language

(TEFL, also called ESL, English as a second language). If you are a native speaker you can probably find a job. It's that easy. Now, to get a job you like in a country you want to live in...

Do I need a college degree? What about a TEFL certificate?
The qualifications required by employers vary widely depending upon the demand and availability of teachers. The majority of full time positions require a Bachelors degree in almost any field. Whether or not you'll need an official TEFL certificate depends on many specific factors. You can be sure that any certificate will help you prepare for the classroom experience and develop your skills. It will certainly help your chances of finding work teaching in Barcelona, but is less necessary in order to play word games with Indonesian village children. A TEFL certificate is a must if you are serious about teaching as a career. Most certificate programs also assist with job placement, which can be a huge advantage over those who show up on the streets with a bamboo sign "Will Teach English for Pad Thai."

Where can I teach ESL?
There is a demand for English teachers in virtually every non-English speaking country in the world. You should consider why you are teaching and base your destination upon those objectives. Teaching English is a job, not a vacation, and it would be a mistake to choose your job options based solely on wanderlust. That said, the right environment, the right salary, the right language and the right streetside cafes can make the challenges of the classroom seem like the rewards of the world at your doorstep.

Some quality web sites to search for opportunities include, and our own

Where can I teach ESL? Who will I teach?
You may be teaching children, housewives, college students or corporate executives. It will depend upon your employer. Most language schools enroll students of all ages and backgrounds. You might find work doing private tutoring, or teaching English majors at the university. Look at all the opportunities you can because each type of teaching requires different skills, and offers different rewards.

How much money can I make?
Your income is relative to your position, qualifications and destination. You should consider the cost of living of the country you are heading to. In China, for instance, you may enjoy a high standard of living but probably won't be able to pay a large mortgage payment back home. Many teachers make extra money teaching additional classes or taking on individual students for tutoring. In Korea and Taiwan many teachers make lots of extra money tutoring, but many of their employers forbid this. You should do your research in advance.

Are there placement services?
There are a growing number of teacher placement services around the world. This may seem peculiar that there would be such a service when the demand for teachers is so high, but there is good reason and many services provide a valuable resource. In many countries there is high demand but it is difficult to find the right or reputable school. These organizations charge a fee that may cover things like airport pickup, orientation and a contact in the community as well as actual referrals to your prospective employers.

Should I sign a contract?
In most cases you must sign a contract and stick to the terms. You can research a school in advance by speaking to former teachers. Just remember your experience is individual and just because some else loves or loathes a school doesn't mean you will share their views.

What are the most important qualifications to teach ESL?
Patience and commitment. Remember, you've been a student before, grumbling about your prof, wishing he or she would just make it clear. You know what you wanted in a teacher - now here's your chance to fulfill those dreams.

Photos by Jeff Booth (first) and Cross Cultural Solutions (second)

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