A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What if I don't speak
the local language?

Can I still get hired to teach English?

**  You won't be required to know the local language **


Most EFL teachers don't know the local language when they first arrive.  Typically, native speaker EFL teachers are not given true beginners.  Usually, your students will have some English basics.  Often not much, but enough for you to take them to higher levels and for you to be able to do some basic instruction in English.

How can I do that?

Your students will usually know enough language - often about that of a two- or three-year-old native speaker.  Really quite a lot - though they don't usually feel very confident about their skills. 

 Your Native Speaker Language Skills . . .

are why you are hired: Your accent, Your native ability to know what grammar is wrong or right, your ability know what sounds right or wrong in common usage.  Time and experience (or a good TEFL certification course) will give you the ability to explain these things - but in the beginning, even if you can't explain it - you will still know what is wrong and what is right. 

Should I use the local language when I teach English?

No!  Your native ability with English is why you are hired.  If you start teaching in the local language - you will not be much different from the local teachers of English, who are often paid much less than you will be.  It is your native talent with English that makes you valuable.

 How will I find my way around and/or buy the things I need?

No problem.  Most schools will assign another teacher or assistant to you, to help you do the things you need to do - until you learn the basics.  After you live and work in a few countries, you will find yourself quite skilled at finding what you need, using either very basic language or even just gestures.  After all, you will most likely NOT be their first foreign teacher - and they will likely be familiar with most of your wants and needs - from finding food you are familiar with, to cold remedies, Internet cafes, or even good restaurants.


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