After speaking with high school students, college students, working professionals and retirees, I’ve come to understand there are a lot of misconceptions about teaching English abroad. Sometimes working in one industry for an extended period of time can make one forget what those who aren’t as familiar with the industry do not already know. Since I firmly believe that teaching English abroad is one of the most meaningful travel experiences one can have, and that there is a program for everybody (as long as you speak fluent English!) I decided to squash those common misconceptions here.
1. You have to speak the local language
Wrong! If we had to learn the language of every country we traveled to, nobody would travel for foreign lands! Teaching English abroad is meant to be an immersive experience for the students who are learning, so English is the only language that should be spoken in the classroom, no matter the level of your students. In most countries taking an interest in the culture and language is a positive during your interview, but they do not expect you to speak it. You will, however, undoubtedly pick up some words and phrases (if not the whole thing) during your time (you can even do a language exchange Au Pair program like ours in China), and it will help you when traveling in parts where English is less commonly spoken.
2. You have to be young
While most countries and programs do have age minimums (you usually have to be at least 18), only a few have an age maximum (often between 50-55). However, even if the country — let’s say China, for example — likes their teachers to be younger than 50, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a school or program there that’s willing to make an exception. You should always ask if you’re set on teaching in a country with an age limitation, or apply to the many countries that don’t: Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Thailand, Cambodia, etc.
But will you be the only “older” teacher in the group? No, probably not. With the growing number of young (yes, young!) retirees, and the ever increasing popularity of teaching English abroad, more and more people of all ages are getting involved.
3. You have to have a university degree
This is true for some countries and programs (most of Europe, for example), but there are many countries where it is not a requirement to have a college/university degree, including most of Latin America, Southeast Asia, and various programs in China.
4. You have to have experience
Not true! Most programs do not require experience (though many say they prefer it, you should apply anyway). Most importantly is for you to be TEFL certified. This shows your sincerity to the work, while also giving you experience (if you choose a quality course with a practicum component) and the necessary skills to teach English as a foreign language.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a one of the best TEFL certification courses today, be it online or in the country of your choosing, and starting living your teach abroad adventure!