Gap year? Try teaching English

Planning a gap year is an exciting business – and there are so many different things you can do. If you’ve been honing your language skills by acquiring a fluent level of English, then there are a range of great opportunities open to you – such as working at a kids’ summer camp, offering sports lessons and teaching English abroad.

It’s possible to travel the world teaching English. Popular locations include Costa Rica, Thailand, Chile, Laos, Japan and China as well as much of Latin America and the Caribbean. If using your English language skills to help you explore the world appeals to you, take a look at our guide to getting started.

Fluency matters

If you’re keen to make teaching English the basis of your travels, you need to be fluent. Most English teaching opportunities will require a high-level of fluency and may also ask for a qualification such as TEFL, ESOL or CELTA. If you don’t have one of these qualifications already, you may find obtaining paid teaching work difficult as a non-native speaker. Having an appropriate teaching qualification is a great way of convincing prospective employers that you have the necessary language skills. You can even combine getting your certificate with some travel – English teaching courses are widely offered in countries all around the world, making it easy to obtain your qualification while you’re abroad.

Paid work vs. Voluntary

A lot of paid English teaching work – particularly in schools or at universities – is reserved for native speakers, but depending on the country, there are plenty of opportunities out there for teachers who speak English as a second language. Some employers even prefer it. If you’re looking for an environment that’s more fun than the classroom, kids’ holiday camps often need guides and facilitators with English language skills, as do summer schools and educational centres. Many of these schemes start looking for new staff towards the end of the school year, so keep an eye out.

If you’re less interested in a regular wage and more keen on a great experience, there is plenty of voluntary English teaching work available in countries throughout Africa, Asia and South America, often through schemes run by charities or international volunteering programmes. These projects often focus on helping children and young people to acquire language skills they wouldn’t learn at school. Some of them are combined with other skills and projects, such as building schools, teaching practical skills or providing art therapy.

Know your market

Before you set your heart on a particular country or region, make sure you do some research into the market for English language teachers. Dubai, for example, has a high demand for teachers, but also requires higher qualifications than most other places and many employers ask for a minimum of 1-2 years’ experience. Some regions, such as Scandinavia, for example, are more likely to hire local bilingual teachers. If you’re looking for paid work rather than volunteering opportunities, it’s worth noting that in many African countries, paid teaching jobs are more likely to be filled by local bilingual teachers while teachers from abroad tend to perform voluntary roles. In Taiwan, there are regulations about where foreigners are allowed to teach.

Be careful

Some countries with a high demand for English teachers – Japan and Thailand, for example – also have a number of disreputable teacher recruitment schemes. If you are considering a job, do some research on the agency you’ve applied to and the school where you’ll be working to see whether they have a good reputation and a well-established track record. Try to find out whether there have been any issues over teacher salaries or fulfilling their contractual agreements (such as paying for flights home) – and make sure there are no restrictions on foreigners teaching children. If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it may well be the case – so take care and keep yourself well informed.

Consider local opportunities

Of course, you can always choose to teach children in your own country – but there’s no need to stay at home! You can try teaching in another region, or an area you’ve enjoyed visiting before. The advantage of teaching somewhere relatively local is that you don’t have to restrict yourself to teaching languages – you can choose to teach your specialist subject of choice. Offering private tuition to children who need to improve in particular subject areas is another option and can be a very rewarding experience as you see your students improve over time. Try your local education authority to find out what qualifications they look for.

Teach for us!

If you’re interested in pursuing excellence in English teaching, there are always opportunities to teach for us here at EF English Live. We pride ourselves on offering a rewarding and innovative experience for both teachers and students. Over 30 nationalities are represented among our staff and we have offices in the US, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, China, Japan, Korea, and many other locations. We’re committed to academic excellence and innovative language learning and over the course of our 45-year history, we’ve already helped more than 20 million people across the world successfully develop their English skills. Visit the Teachers Careers section to find out how you could become one of them.

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