Teaching English Abroad in Africa

10 Tips For Teaching English Abroad

So you want to teach English as a foreign language? Great idea – it’s a popular and relatively inexpensive way of seeing the world, a very rewarding experience for many people, and you’ll develop some useful new skills.

But as any teacher will tell you, there can be hazards along the way.

Here are some useful guidelines for all first time teachers:

  • Make sure you have a solid qualification from a reputable company. So many businesses and schools now offer TEFL or CELTA certificates that it’s worth spending some time checking how long you will spend in a live teaching environment, how much assistance they give you finding a job, what their former students think about the course etc.

  • Think about who you want to teach – children, teenagers, or adults. It can make a huge difference to your experience and workload, as well as your pay in some cases.

  • There are hundreds of ESL jobs available at any time. When you find one that suits you, thoroughly research the country you’re going to be spending the next few weeks or months. Learn about the cultural traditions you will need to respect while there, the food they eat, the activities available to you in your free time – is this somewhere you would like to stay for a long period?

  • Research the institution you will be teaching also – just as they need to make sure you’re the right person for the job, you also need to know about them – what level of support they’ll give you, the standard of accommodation provided (if any), what the students you’ll be teaching are like, and of course whether you’re likely to get paid on time.

  • Get to know the local people. Seriously, there’s no point visiting a country if you only socialise with your other teacher friends the whole time. For example teachers in Arabic countries will often find themselves invited into people’s homes for tea as a gesture of hospitality. Accept invitations wherever possible, whether it’s to visit someone’s home, go to a party, or out for a meal. Obviously never put yourself in a situation where you’re unsure of your safety of course, but the same applies back in the UK.

  • Remember it’s not a holiday. Bring flip-flops and a Frisbee if you wish, but don’t forget to pack appropriate clothing and teaching materials along with them…

  • …But do be ready to let your hair down too. You should still have plenty of free time to enjoy the place you’re staying, and because teaching can often be quite a stressful occupation, it’s essential to let loose now and again.

  • If you’re not enjoying your experience, or you feel it’s not working out, talk to someone, be it your colleagues or management. Don’t let it weigh on your mind because being in a foreign country, isolated from friends and family can be tough enough without going through a difficult patch alone.

  • Every year thousands of ESL teachers graduate, and many of them will go on to have successful, fulfilling careers teaching English abroad. Some will even go on to start up their own schools once they have built up enough contacts and experience. But remember that not everyone enjoys ESL, or can develop it into a lifelong vocation. It’s always good have a back-up plan in case things don’t work out, which is why ESL contracts through companies such as Real Gap are so good, they provide a useful taster so you can find out if this is for you.

  • Sorry don’t have a number 10. Well we are teaching English after all, not maths!

    Rob is contemplating becoming a TEFL teacher but just needs to save up the beans.

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  • The Villain Says

    Is it me or does it seem like people teach english when they cant get a real job?

  • Rassling Fundamentals Says

    I am job hunting and I really want to work as an ESL teacher, but here in the United States. I live near Atlanta which has a lot of ESL schools and non-English speakers. I have a TEFL certificate and abroad experience. Any tips?

    Is it appropriate to call the school after sending your resume (to a posted job, from CareerBuilder or Craigslist etc.) and ask if they received it. Is that annoying or do you think it helps you stand out as a candidate?

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