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How to Earn While You Travel by Teaching English Overseas

Beth is a qualified teacher and university lecturer. She believes that education and learning will help you make the most of life.

Here, an American instructor teaches English to children in Thailand.

Here, an American instructor teaches English to children in Thailand.

Are you looking for a change or maybe a better life-work balance? If your mother tongue is English, you can travel overseas and help others at the same time by teaching English to non-native speakers. You help them to improve their written and spoken English language skills, and in return, you’ll usually receive a small payment and basic accommodation. It’s a good way to experience other cultures for virtually no outlay.

Your 3 Main Teaching Options

  1. Travel overseas and teach English in a foreign country where you are a stranger. Or you can give lessons in your own country to non-native speakers who may want to become fluent in English for family or job reasons.
  2. Teach online as you travel the world (or stay at home).
  3. Participate in a home-stay program; this involves having a stranger stay at your home and including them in family activities.

English language skills are valued in the international business world, and so there is a big demand for courses taught by native speakers. You may be asked to teach English to children or adults who may be beginners or may already be at an advanced level.

Acronyms in English Language Teaching

AcronymMeaning

TEFL

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TESOL

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

CELTA

Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

DELTA

Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults

IELTS

International English Language Testing System

Where Can You Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages?

Once you have your CELTA, DELTA, TEFL, or TESOL qualification, the world is your oyster. You could teach in a conventional school or classroom, tutor students online, or do homestay total immersion teaching.

1. In Person (at Home or Away)

There are many reputable companies that recruit native English speakers to work in schools overseas and at home. The jobs are advertised in the same way as any other vacancy. Check out the job boards online and the vacancy listings in newspapers, and listen for personal word-of-mouth recommendations of places to teach English.

Before you get excited and book your flight, read your work contract carefully. Does it include a legal work visa? What are your contracted working hours, and are you expected to do "voluntary" extra out-of-hours sessions like sports or accompanying children on away days? What costs are you liable for if you leave your contract early? Be cautious and make sure you understand what you are signing. Once you’re in a foreign country, it can be exhausting and difficult to leave before your contact ends if you are in a job that you hate.

2. The Internet (Travel or Stay Local)

Some students don’t have the time or money to join a physical class, so they prefer to take ad hoc lessons online. There are many English language tutor websites that offer online job boards where you can advertise your availability and teaching skills. In exchange for allowing you to post, they take a cut of any fees you earn. Or, you could create your own website and use social networks to find work. Online lessons are given using Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts, or similar programs. International payment can be taken via PayPal if you don’t want to give out your bank details.

3. Homestay Total Immersion Learning

You can also teach English by having someone stay with you. A foreign student stays in a tutor’s home in order to experience both the language and culture of their host's country. A homestay student should be treated like one of the family; they eat and socialize with you. You take them on family outings in addition to giving them formal grammar lessons. This type of teaching can be financially rewarding, but it’s also time consuming and exhausting.

Should You Study for the CELTA Certification?

Very few teaching jobs at any level are open to unqualified candidates. If this type of career appeals, you should study (and pass) an intensive four-week TEFL or TESOL course. The most widely accepted qualification is the CELTA. This is an initial teacher training qualification for teaching English as a second or foreign language.

Courses leading to the qualification are run under the supervision of Cambridge University, England, but they can be studied in many locations around the world. The fees vary depending on where you enroll, but expect to pay around US $2,500 for four weeks' tuition. Your accommodation, transport, and food costs will be in addition to this amount.

Online courses may seem cheap compared to an in-person course, but they are unlikely to give you the knowledge and confidence to become an effective teacher. In addition, low-cost online TEFL qualifications are rarely accepted by legitimate schools either overseas or at home.

To give you an idea of what the course involves, I recommend you read The Foundations of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It’s a comprehensive reference book that covers all you need to know about teaching English overseas to adult students.

What Does English Language Teaching Involve?

English language teaching covers the skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing, usually using American or British spellings and syntax. An effective teacher plans each lesson to include some practice of each of these four skills. The internet can help you with lesson planning. For example, on YouTube, you can find videos produced by the International English Language Training Scheme (IELTS) from the British Council.

The IELTS is a qualification that many of your students will be working towards. It is a globally recognized measure of fluency in the English language. When someone applies to work in the UK or US, they may be asked to show language skills to a specified IELTS level. To be accepted onto a university undergraduate degree course, a student would be expected to have achieved IELTS level 6 or 7.

A Day in the Life Teaching English in Osaka, Japan

5 Things to Know About Teaching English

  1. To be a great teacher you must want to teach. It helps if you enjoy learning about new things and different cultures.
  2. Successful teachers are enthusiastic. Teaching can be hard work, and you need to spend many hours preparing lessons, but your reward is to see students gain confidence in speaking English.
  3. Teaching English can help you travel overseas. You can take the opportunity to homestay with local people, and some of your students may become lifelong friends.
  4. The pay is not great. Unless you study at a higher level for the DELTA and become a senior teacher or director of studies, you probably won't make that much. So, money shouldn't your prime motivator if you are going to teach English to non-native speakers. If you want to travel and work on the cheap, however, teaching English can definitely pay off.
  5. It’s a bonus if you have a sociable and outgoing personality. As a profession, teaching has been compared to the acting. You need to put a lot of energy and effort into your lessons, no matter how tired or hungover you are.

Study Your Job Contract Before You Travel

Whichever kind of TEFL teaching you choose, make sure the fees are agreed upon in advance. Discuss with your student or other fee-payer the type of English (American or British) they wish to learn, as spellings, pronunciations, and word meanings differ.

Agreeing to these kinds of things up front helps to avoid misunderstandings that could result in a student refusing to pay after you've delivered their lesson. Despite these potential pitfalls, teaching English to speakers of other languages is rewarding and can take you all over the world.

Further Information

If you live or want to train as an English teacher for speakers of other languages in the UK or US, take a look at the Cambridge English Language Assessment website. For an international organization that covers English language tests recognized worldwide, go to the IELTS website.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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