What is TEFL?

TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language is one of the fastest growing education sectors in the world. TEFL, also known as TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), ESL (English as a Second Language) and ELT (English Language Teaching) began in the latter half of the 19th century by the Qing Dynasty in China.   Today, TEFL is happening in almost every country on the planet, and furthermore, the industry is booming online, with growth only accelerated by the Covid pandemic.   

Whatever term is used to refer to TEFL, the goal is the same – to teach English to students whose first language is not English, sometimes referred to as non-native English speakers. Often these English lessons take place in a classroom (both in private and public education systems), online, or both – this is called blended learning. 

Over the years, thousands of techniques and methodologies have been developed to try to teach English in the most effective way possible.  Each student has their own goal; some want to improve their reading, some want to better understand certain grammar rules, but for the most part it’s to speak English like a native English speaker.  

There are two types of TEFL teachers: native and non-native speakers.  

Native English teachers are those whose first language is English and come from The United Kingdom, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Non-native English teachers are those who are not born in a native English-speaking country but have a high enough level of English to teach it to others.  

TEFL demands and needs vary from place to place.  TEFL working conditions also vary drastically.  For example, Europe is a fantastic destination for many TEFL teachers because of its rich history, food and creature comforts that can be found in many teacher’s home countries. However, pay in Europe is not comparable to other parts of the world, especially considering the cost of living isn’t low.   

In Northeast Asia you’ll find the well-paying jobs, along with the Middle East of course. Working hours are much longer and it’s more of a culture shock compared to Europe, but teaching in these parts of the world can be very financially rewarding.  

South America and Southeast Asia are similar destinations because of their tropical locations, but notably low salaries. Many chose to teach English here because of lifestyle over money.  

Well-paid TEFL positions are also not difficult to find in major cities in western countries.  

The location of the TEFL position also determines what qualifications are needed.  

I cover TEFL certificates and the qualifications you need to become a TEFL teacher in part 2. 

Why not check out TEFL for Dummies:


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