Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL): Resources for Educators

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English remains the world’s most spoken language. For many speakers, however, it is not their native language. Countries throughout the world recognize that English is commonly used in business and encourage their citizens to learn it to help prepare them for a globalized world. For this reason, native English speakers have some unique opportunities to teach their own language, either domestically or internationally.

Who Can Teach English as a Second Language?

Technically, anyone with a solid grasp of written and spoken English could teach English as a second language (ESL), but some people are better suited than others.

Recent graduates can make excellent teaching candidates because they are open to traveling and gaining experience. ESL teaching programs usually don’t have any specific degree requirements, but having at least a bachelor’s degree is a common prerequisite, and graduates with English degrees are often especially set up for success.

Prospective teachers should be patient, as learning a second language can be difficult for even the brightest students. Additionally, if ESL instructors are looking to travel abroad, they should be able to travel far from home for long periods of time.

There are different levels of ESL teaching in accordance with the complexity of the material. Teachers instructing teenagers on the finer points of grammar are on a different level than those focusing on the basics. Advanced lessons require not only a native familiarity with the language but also a mastery of English grammar, spelling, and pronunciation.

Popular Countries for Teaching English as a Second Language

Many candidates use ESL teaching positions as a way to visit a specific country. The following are some of the more popular locations for ESL teachers, but there are more programs available.

Teach English in Japan

Teaching English in Japan gives candidates the opportunity to experience a unique culture with plenty of modern conveniences and a rich history. Generally, to teach ESL in Japan, candidates will want to meet the following requirements:

  • To be less than 60 years old (that is Japan’s mandatory retirement age)
  • Have a clean criminal record
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification

While TEFL certification is not mandatory, it is recommended, since these positions are usually competitive.

Here are some resources to help find an ideal program in Japan:

Teach English in Spain

Spain has a high standard of living, plenty of beaches, great food, and generally pleasant weather. ESL candidates will want to have a valid teaching certificate. A bachelor’s degree is not mandatory, but having some educational experience or a certification is necessary.

Here are some resources to help find an ideal program in Spain:

Teach English in China

China is a large country and offers many diverse opportunities for potential ESL teachers. However, there have been some reports of various scams targeting ESL teachers, so keep your guard up during the application process.

Here is what you’ll need to teach ESL in China:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Two years of work experience OR TEFL certification
  • Clean criminal background check

Because the experience can differ so widely depending on where in China you decide to teach, be especially thorough when weighing potential programs.

Here is where you can start your search:

Teach English in South Korea

South Korea is a popular place for ESL teachers, as it offers a variety of unique cultural experiences.  South Korea has plenty of positions available to prospective individuals in a variety of cities.

Here is what you’ll need to teach ESL in South Korea:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Clean criminal record check
  • Teaching experience or TEFL certification if you want to be considered for some of the more advanced positions

There are both public and private school programs for ESL teachers. Private schools generally offer less vacation time, but they usually have smaller class sizes. Ultimately, candidates should weigh the pros and cons individually.

To begin searching for an ESL teaching position in South Korea, look here:

Teach English in France

France has a lot of history and culture to offer, no matter your interest. It’s typically seen as home to the height of fashion, cuisine, and art. An easy way to spend time in France and get paid is to teach ESL there.

Most programs require both a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certification. It can be quite competitive, and some programs will look for prior teaching experience.

To find the right program in France, search through these databases:

Teach English in Brazil

Brazil has a warm climates and plenty of sandy beaches. Though the pay is not as high as some other parts of the world, there are considerably fewer requirements.

Demand for English teachers has outstripped supply in Brazil, so just being a native English speaker might be enough. In Rio de Janeiro, it is a little more competitive, so having a certification is encouraged, though it is not strictly necessary.

For more information about Brazil-specific programs, start here:

Teach English Online

While all of these locations represent great places to teach ESL, they aren’t going to be the right fit for everyone. Some people want to bounce from place to place; others are more comfortable staying where they are. In either case, teaching ESL online is a great option.

Online ESL teachers generally make between $14 and $23 per hour of instruction, but that will depend on your previous experience, how you negotiate, and the resources of the company. On the plus side, online ESL teachers often have more freedom to set their own schedules than traditional instructors.

To teach ESL online, you’ll need:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A teaching certification
  • A reliable internet connection
  • Reliable sound equipment

It can be challenging to teach a language online. Reading facial expressions and other contextual clues can be difficult over a computer screen, but they are often vital to teaching a language. Online ESL instructors need to be willing to go the extra mile to meet their students’ needs.

If this flexible lifestyle sounds like the right fit, here are some programs for online ESL teaching:

Tips for Teaching English as a Second Language

Teaching ESL requires more than just a familiarity with the language. To improve job prospects and your overall experience, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Get an ESL Certification

Most programs require an ESL certification, but even if your ideal program doesn’t, having the certification will help prepare you for the challenges of teaching. There are a few different certifications to choose from.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 

TEFL is a common ESL certification, and there are many companies that offer TEFL education and certification. It is not governed by one institution or company; instead, TEFL is used to refer to many different certification programs. To become certified, you will have to complete at least 100 hours of coursework and 6-20 hours of practice teaching with non-native speakers.

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

TESOL is often used to refer to the same sort of certification as TEFL, although it more commonly refers to teaching English to non-native speakers within an English-speaking country (like immigrants, or families of immigrants). Because of this, TESOL focuses more on how to use English in daily life.

In addition, there is an organization named TESOL that offers some membership perks to ESL teachers, like lessons and teaching videos. However, be aware that it is not the only TESOL-certifying body.

Certification in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA)

CELTA is a specific certification issued by a nonprofit under the University of Cambridge. It is considered more prestigious than other TEFL programs, and it requires 120 hours of intensive coursework.

You do not need to acquire a CELTA for most ESL programs, but it could give you a competitive edge.

Learn Teaching Skills

A job as an ESL teacher isn’t just about knowing the material. Adapting to the individual needs of different students, and balancing them against each other, takes careful consideration. These sort of skills aren’t picked up overnight, and a degree in education is an excellent way to help prepare for the impending realities of teaching.

Explore Your Host Country

Remember to take a break every once in a while and enjoy a new country. No matter where you go, there will be plenty of interesting sites to explore. Learning about the history and culture of your host country can also help you be a better teacher, since you’ll have an improved understanding of where students are coming from.

This is also a great way to learn the language if you don’t already know it. Being able to communicate in your students’ native tongue can help you bridge gaps in understanding and make your daily life much easier.

ESL Resources for Teachers

Becoming an ESL teacher can be intimidating, but there are plenty of substantial resources on the web to help you feel better prepared.

ESL Lesson Plans

One of the more stressful parts of teaching can be creating a lesson plan. Fortunately, the ESL community has created a few hubs with lesson plans that you can glean for inspiration, or even print directly:

ESL Teaching Communities

The ESL community also has several online collaboration centers:

Vocabulary Building

The following resources can help students broaden their vocabulary:

  • Memrise is an online platform that tests students with flashcards
  • ESL Games World has a plethora of games to test students’ vocabulary
  • ESL Games Plus offers dozens of games that test all aspects of English
  • TEFL Tones teaches English songs for auditory learners

Conversation Practice

Many students don’t feel comfortable engaging in conversation in English. To help them develop a familiarity with written or spoken conversation, use these resources:

Recommended Reading:

Tips and Resources for Studying Abroad

Digital Literacy Apps and Tools for Students

Making Plans for Life After Graduation