Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know

How to Qualify

There are essentially two "tracks" for qualifying as an English as a Foreign Language teaching professional (ELT). One is the Certification track, which requires you to study and pass a series of certification program in conjunction with observed, critiqued teaching. There are three levels to this track - I have all three. Each of the “levels” is higher and more difficult than the previous one. The CELTA or TEFL certificates are the first and lowest levels of this route. Next is an INSET or practicing CELTA often conducted in conjunction with your employment at a school or language institute. It could also be a Business English teaching certification frequently called a “Cert. TBE”. Finally there is the Trinity College Licentiate Diploma (LTCL Diploma in TESOL) or DELTA for those who aspire to the higher levels of knowledge and English language teaching application – and are also a bit suicidal. CELTA is an acronym for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TESOL is an acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Get used to the jargon, you’re going to need it.

The Academic Track

The second track is an academic one. That is the person gets a teaching or language / linguistics - related degree, then proceeds to an MA or MS degree and perhaps finally to a PhD or other terminal studies degree. This track can be done with little and sometimes no actual in-class teaching. This used to be favored but now is in more of a decline due to its impracticality in North America and Europe. You could have an advanced teaching degree without workable teaching and class room management skills, you see. So it's very difficult now to get a teaching position without actual class room teaching experience. This is one of the reasons you should attend a TEFL program in person, intensive or not.

My Strongest Piece of Advice

My strongest piece of advice is this: You MUST get a CELTA or a TEFL teaching certificate. Without it - with no teaching degree and no experience you can't work. A CELTA intensive program will take only about 5 weeks full time but will pay for itself in less than a semester. Look around in your state or local area, there should be an available program. Be sure to get your English language teaching certification in the USA, the UK or Canada, etc., not in a non-English-speaking country if you can help it. Some countries “frown on” TEFL certificates from programs in non-English speaking countries.

Online TEFL Programs

First, many online TEFL programs are not internationally accredited so you may have problems in many countries if this will be your only teaching credential. An online program may also not have as stringent requisite for observed and graded teaching. As a matter of fact, some may not even have an observed class room teaching requirement at all. You simply won’t be prepared to walk into a class room to teach a group of learners whom you can’t talk to in their native language. Not only will you be (rightfully) scared to death, but may fall completely flat on your whatchamacallit. Any good CELTA or TEFL certificate program will provide you with immediate "hands on" experience in working directly with EFL learners.

Second, online TEFL certifications are NOT accepted in several Latin American, Asian and European countries. For example, the Colombian Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and most high-level schools, institutes and universities WILL check this out thoroughly. You very likely won't be able to work legally with only an online TEFL certificate. Be sure to inquire about this first, before you plunk down hundreds, or thousands, of your hard-won dollars.

Think carefully on this. Otherwise you may well be wasting your time and money.

You MUST Be Properly Certified

If you're going to teach English as a Foreign Language, you MUST be properly certified to get a decent job with a good salary. Without proper certification, you will be exploited by unscrupulous school and institute owners who know you can`t do better than their $2 or $3 per hour salary offers. You can't live off of this unless you work 50 to 60 hours per week in many countries, likely working six days a week too.

Your standard of living will be the lowest.

Forget any travel, you’ll be more worried about eating everyday.

And please, don’t you dare get sick.

Benefits? Are you kidding?

Want More No-Nonsense Information?

In this article I can barely scratch the surface. You can get some additional information by going to www.ezinearticles.com and doing a search there for my name, “Larry M. Lynch”. You will then be taken to my free article postings on English teaching. Finally, don’t get me wrong, I’m not “knocking” any organization’s TEFL program. You just need to scrupulously check and compare what you’ll be getting and if it’ll be accepted where you’re planning to teach. With more than 17 years in the field working on both sides of the interview table, I’ve seen far too many things go wrong which could have been avoided by a more careful scrutiny of TEFL training programs. Yes, most internationally certified CELTA or TEFL certificate programs cost more and are far more difficult to successfully complete to boot, but, as the saying goes, you usually get what you pay for.

Most good CELTA and TEFL programs also provide job
placement assistance.

But that’s a topic for another article.

Let me know if there's anything else I can help you with. Good luck.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. For more information on entering into or advancing in the fascinating field of ELT send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need To Know” send an e-mail to the author with "free ELT Ebook" in the heading. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail: lynchlarrym@gmail.com

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