Why TEFL Newbie?

So you can get the straight scoop from someone who has lived overseas for 20+ years, taught English in four different countries from two to five years in each and can share some real world experience with you.  You can know my name: Ted Tucker.  You can even get my email address.  No one is hiding behind an avatar or a puffed up name.

It’s not all perfect, it’s not all easy.  But you already know that you can’t fully trust the Internet’s forums and bulletin board’s hidden agendas.  Where complaints about a country are often as not sour grapes of someone who got fired; or puffed up wage suggestions might be the result of ego building.   Most of what you find “out there” is pretty good stuff, but TEFL Newbie is here to help you sort the wheat from the chaff.

Life abroad isn’t for everyone, but it can be a real delight for the right people.

The intention of this blog is to help you know if you are the “right people.

I hope you are.  There is a big wonderful world waiting for you out here.

Come on board!

37 thoughts on “Why TEFL Newbie?”

  1. I am not certified YET but am working on that. I am a 45 y/o dad with full custody of my son who is in high school and should graduate next year in may. I am really excited about being certified and going out there and experienc this. As I read through all these blogs from different people throughout the world imparting their knowledge with different “eager” students unlike the “American” students. I say this as I myself am an American. Please don’t get me wrong, we do have some wonderful students that are earnest in learning in school with good english skills. A very good majority of our students do not care to learn anything at all and on top of that their english skills are in the pits. Call me “old school” if you want, but I was raised different. My parents come from old mexico and learned english. My siblings and I were born here(USA), Republic of Texas (I had to throw that in there as I am from San Antonio). Our first language was spanish but we had to learn english and speak it correctly but also NEVER under any circumstance forget our (my parents’)tounge. Also never, ever intermix languages when speaking,it’s either one or the other. Having known a little of my background sir, do you think it might be a good idea for me to take a refresher course in english at the local community college as I have been out of school for so long? Where do you stand on that? I thank you kindly for any ideas or advice if you will. I also thank you for sharing with us your knowledge and experience out in the “field”. Respectfully, Antonio “Tony” Longoria. Remember the Alamo !!!!!

  2. Hi Tony,

    I don’t think that a college English course would help much (wouldn’t hurt either). Most good TEFL Certification (EFL teacher training) programs will have a strong component of grammar. Having grown up with English – even as a second language – you likely have native speaker skills. Most of us, even if English was/is our first and often ONLY language – don’t remember much of the specifics about grammar. Take a good look at the course at http://www.TEFLBootCamp.com/ – it is a TEFL Certification program – but there is also a lot of free information there about teaching English.
    Not ALL students in this part of the world are eager to study English, but you are correct – the attitude towards school, education and teachers is much more positive.

  3. TEFL Schools: Hello Mr Ted …. this is Tony from San Antonio and hoping you had a good Resurrection (easter) weekend. Thanks for the information you provided to me last week. I’ve been probing around for TEFL schools and have found 1)i to i. 2)Oxford and 3)International. Do you know of any others? Somebody mentioned one named “Cactus”, to me it sounds like an odd name for a school, unless it’s from Arizona. Any suggestions Mr. Ted? Many thanks again. Sincerely, Tony

  4. Hi Tony,

    Most TEFL programs are okay. Cactus is just a large referral website that makes a commission from whomever they send you to. So – if you see a school that interests you on their website – just try to figure out who it is and contact them directly and ask for a discount (as they won’t have to pay Cactus).

    For online – TEFL Boot Camp is as good as any and FAR less expensive.

  5. I came across your blog from tefldaddy and I must say that its been one of the best tefl sites yet, almost more so than dave’s esl cafe. I have been looking into doing a tefl course but they are rather expensive and sadly the city that I live in offers a course at a community college far from me and its rather expensive around $1,700 bucks!

    From your other site you mentioned something about volunteering teaching esl and reading the teflbootcamp. I looked up the pro-literacy advocates and to my surprise they had a local branch near my house and I talked to a manager and I signed up for a training class. I have say thanks so much for the idea now this way I can not only get some training but now I will possibility gain some esl teaching experience. On top of that I’m thinking of taking a teaching profession class at the local community college.

    This is definitely something that I think other people should possibility look into as another way of gaining some experience while helping out their local communities.

  6. “That I waited until I was 37 to do it! Had I known, I would have gone as soon as I graduated from university in 1976.
    I don’t dislike America, it’s just that it is all too familiar. I have already spent 37 years there and there is too much to see, too many places to experience and enjoy.”

    What you wrote is exactly how i feel right now today. I am 37 and was thinking these exact same thoughts. Thank you.

    Question – why do you say living overseas is not for everyone?

  7. Hi Marguerite,
    Why do I say living overseas is not for everyone? Because some people can’t handle the uncertainly, the distance from family, the culture differences and much much more. Watch for a post on this topic in the next month or so.

  8. Hi Ted. My wife and I are African Americans 40 and 42 respectively. She has a Bachelors in Elementary Education and a pre-k to 3rd grade certification. I have an Associates in Law Enforcement. Do you see any problem with us landing a job in an Asian country. Have you ran into any African American teaching overseas? Thanks

  9. Hello Mike,
    I think your plan is doable. But the best path may not be via the English teacher path, at least not for your wife. As she is a certified and qualified teacher in the USA – and I assume has some experience teaching those grade levels – you might want to take a very good look at International School Services. A qualified teacher working in an international school will usually earn at least double what a generic English teacher would earn. Add in the super benefits that they get – that generic English teachers don’t get – and all around even if you retired and only your wife worked (don’t you wish!) you would still be better off. The international schools are much more interested in diversity and you will avoid some of the racism that exists in Asia. Do consider that option.
    Your options, without a bachelor’s degree are much more limited: Cambodia and Indonesia are the only two countries in Asia that I am aware of that do NOT require a BA/BS of an English teacher. If you piggy back on to your wife’s placement somewhere – you can easily find part-time work which often can end up paying as much or more than a full time job. The lack of a BA/BS will be a much bigger/more limiting issue than any racism in the region. Also – if you have experience in Law Enforcement – teaching English at a police academy or similar might be a good option for you. Sometimes you can get hired as a “Trainer” rather than as a “Teacher” if you have some special skills and training – as you do. Take a close read of my recent post – TEFL for Older Folks and consider that strategy when looking for employment for yourself.
    There certainly are African-Americans (Afro-Canadians-Brits-Euros-Etc) out here. Don’t let that get in the way. AND – when you apply for a job – don’t label yourself that way as most Asians are not familiar with hyphenated nationality and their first wonder will be if you are really a native speaker or not. Just say you are an American and let them figure the rest of it. Don’t hide it, but my personal opinion would be to avoid the hyphen-ization of your nationality.
    I hope that helps.

  10. Hi Ted-
    I have never taught anything in my life! I am interested in teaching english abroad because I love meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. What would be your recommendation for someone who loves the IDEA of teaching abroad, but isn’t sure about the REALITY of it?

  11. Hi Sarah,
    The perfect question! And very important for many people thinking about teaching. Probably the best way to get a feel for it would be to volunteer locally. Look for an organization such as:
    http://www.proliteracy.org There are numerous organizations that will give you some training and let you teach immigrants or other people who need to work on their English skills. It’s a good way to know if you will enjoy it or hate it. Of course – it is different than actually teaching a classroom full of students but it will give you a good idea. I will use your question for a post as I think lots of people probably have the same question.
    I hope that helps.

  12. Hi Ted–
    I am having a bit of confusion. I am a 62 year old retired teacher. I taught elementary school for a total of 21 years. Many of those years, I was working with second language learners. I have a California credential, as well as a CLAD certificate.
    I want to spend 5 or 6 months in SE Asia and I love to teach part of that time. I would be looking for a part-time job or a short term full-time job.
    I am worried that I might be too old to find employment and do you it’s necessary for me to have TEFL certification?
    Thanks—– looking mostly at Thailand ( not BKK) or Laos.

  13. Hello Paulette,
    EFL is different from ESL and teaching ESL students subject matter is different – in a big way – from teaching them English. Yes, some countries will waive the requirement for a TEFL certification if you have a degree/experience in education. BUT, you still won’t know the best way to reach your students and teach them what they need to know. An online TEFL course is not so expensive and will give you the basics. Try that. It will help you a LOT.

  14. Thanks– I didn’t think about the differences. I know that I have studied Spanish here in the US and in Mexico and there is a big difference. What about the age thing? I have heard that it’s a big issue in Thailand. I really want to teach for fun and don’t care much about the pay.

  15. Hi Paulette,
    I am not sure what you mean by the “age thing”. Older people do sometimes have a more difficult time finding work in EFL especially from abroad. It is often better to seek jobs in person and on the scene if you are much older than 50 or so.
    I hope that helps.

  16. Hi I have my alternative Texas Teaching certification and I was thinking about teaching overseas. Do I need a different certification to teach english over seas? I also have my bachelors degree in mkt. Do I need a different certification?

  17. Hi Carolyn.
    What type of teaching does your alternative Texas Teaching Certification qualify you for? Do you know how to teach EFL or have you had any training in how to do it? If the answer is no – then I think – yes, you need some training. Teaching EFL is a different animal than teaching other topics. It’s not rocket science, but there is a method to the madness.
    I hope that helps.

  18. . . . you are suggesting one go where they want to teach and try to get a job that way. Is that correct?

  19. I’ve had to shorten your comment, but essentially, NO, I would not suggest that you go to Europe in person to seek a job. Europe is a bit of a special case if you are an American. For an EU school to hire you, they need to prove that there is no EU citizen that can fill that teaching job. With high unemployment in Ireland and the UK, that is probably not going to happen. Or is going to be difficult in the least. You are far more likely to be successful in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, China and possibly even Korea.
    I hope that helps.

  20. I’m currently studying at Indiana University and currently I’m a fine arts major, but my question is if I’m interested in teaching english overseas, will my fine arts bachelors be good enough to the schools? Should I double major in something more respected or does any bachelors work?

  21. HI Terin,
    Pretty much any major will do. But if you wish to be at the top of the heap, double major in English or see even if you school has a TEFL program. Then you right to the front of the line. Good question!

  22. Hi Ted,

    I have been looking into teaching English abroad for about a year now and I have decided that I want to go forward with it. I have a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and I am very interested in S. Korea and Japan as I am looking to save money.

    What would be the best route to obtain a TEFL certificate that is recognized by institutions in both countries and least expensive?
    Could I manage to land a job in either country without a TEFL certification? If so, where should I look? I am aware that AEON hires with no experience or TEFL certification but I was wondering if there are other avenues that you are aware of?

  23. Hello Andrew,
    Both Korea and Japan accept just about any TEFL certification as they are not generally required in the first place. TEFL training does tend to move you to the front of the line in terms of competing for the better jobs. Yes, you can land a job in either country without TEFL certification, however, competition is quite a bit greater these days due to high unemployment in the USA, UK, etc. Recent college graduates are having to decide between Walmart, McDonalds or working abroad where they can actually save money, pay off student loans and even see a bit of the world. So – as you can guess – they are heading overseas. Two good reasons to get some training? Increase your competitiveness and it is also nice to know how to do what you have been hired to do.
    You should be aware that second and their tier international/bilingual type schools might be very interested in hiring you to teach science/chemistry courses [in English]. In those settings you would likely earn much more than a generic teacher of English.
    I hope that helps.

  24. Hello Ted
    I would like to ask a question,or maybe some advice
    English is my L2.I learned it at school and now I’m living in the UK since 2007.
    I’m 22 and so I’ve been here since I was almost 19.I really love English language! Funny how I learned most of my vocabulary from playing video games with dictionary in my hand,reading Wikipedia and later by listening to my British friends arguing about such silly stuff as which town is better or who’s nan brews the best tea.
    I had extra English classes where we learned grammar,but it was such heavy stuff for me at the time that I sat there looking blankly at the blackboard.I always preferred to learn new words instead.I am planing to get an extra course to improve it.
    So I do have the compassion for other learners.
    I would love to attend TEFL course and become an ALT in Japan since my primary goal was to earn money in the UK and go there.But then the true life hit me and now I am stuck with my full-time job, afraid to leave and lose my permanent income.
    The second thing is…my accent.I am VERY self conscious about it.
    As much as I have been praised for my acquired fluency and even understanding of many different accents (people are astonished how I am able to understand what Chinese,Japanese,Indian or even Scottish say! haha),me,myself,I cannot get rid of mine (eastern european).
    I have friends who learned to fake the accents at school,they had native speakers as the teachers ,or their teachers provided them good resources for training.I did not had this chance and all I learned was during my stay in the UK.
    Apparently I sound bit different than most eastern european (I have been to southern and northern England) but I still put heavy stress on S and R.
    I understand the pronunciation and if I am asked to read it,I am able to recreate it,but only through words, not in whole sentences.
    I am afraid this could be the point of the discrimination I may face during the recruitment process.
    Can you tell me how big is the role of accent ,and how does the recruiter in Japan would judge me though it?Maybe I would be better off looking in a country that is less expecting of an American or British stereotyped accent?

  25. Hello Kate,
    Some countries are more difficult that others about accepting non-native speakers of English who are fluent in the language. Some countries even have lists of countries from which you passport must originate (Korea and Indonesia are two of those). In Asia, probably Thailand is the most accepting of fluent non-native speakers of English. China also is accepting, though you would likely have difficulty finding work in the more popular cities like Beijing or Shanghai, other major cities will likely be much easier. You ask about recruiters in Japan judging your accent, but first they are going to judge your passport and likely, if you are quite fluent, if you pass the passport stage – then you would do fine. The passport is probably the #1 screening criteria on the way to an interview. As always, you are much more likely to land an interview if you show up in person. But I realize that is not always an option. I don’t have an easy solution for your situation. My guess is that you are likely being a bit overly sensitive about your accent. If your goal is Japan, you might try getting a bit of experience first, perhaps in China or Thailand – to help boost your chances AND your confidence.
    I hope that helps a bit.

  26. Hi Ted,

    Thank you for answering my question. Are you aware of any resources you could direct me to in regarding to teaching science at an overseas school? Is it possible to teach science with no experience? I do have a 4 year chemistry degree but I do not have any teaching certification.

  27. Hello Andrew,
    There are second and third tier international schools just about everywhere that would likely have an interest in having you teach English. The better schools, of course, would prefer that you have some experience, but many won’t care as people who have the knowledge needed to teach science are difficult to come by. No – I am not aware of any one specific resource. When in doubt use Google – try something like “international school COUNTRY” naming the specific country or even city that you might be interested in.
    I hope that helps.

  28. Thanks for the response Ted. Well I did happen to find a posting for a chemistry teacher at the Shanghai World Foreign Language Middle School but saw no indication of pay/accommodations etc. The only stated requirement was having a college degree in chemistry. Does this seem legit?
    To be honest I am a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of positions in S. Korea, China, and Japan. The job market situation appears to be the inverse of what the market for chemists here in the USA (few jobs for chemists, many jobs for foreign teachers in Asia). In the postings for positions in China I am surprised by the sheer volume of listings and by the often times scant requirements (ie no degree w/1yr exp, a degree w/no exp, no TEFL required) and sometimes the offers seem a little to good to be true.
    For instance the ****** Company has a posting in Beijing for 5000-9000RMB/month, housing, airfare, Mandarin lessons, free visa, and free TEFL certification. I have seen several positions with similar promises. Are these too good to be true?

  29. Hi Andrew,
    What you are finding out is that – it is a GREAT jobs market out there for teachers. HUGE. The jobs you are finding sound about right. There is great demand. Realize that when a school advertises they will pay 5000-9000RMB, what they really mean is they will pay 5000! Maybe 5500. Graduate degree and ten years experience then maybe 7000. So – don’t put too much stock in it. It costs nothing to interview and when you interview you can get a feel of the employer and if they seem real or not. My opinion after only 20 years overseas is that the incidence of “scams” is highly overrated. Be careful, of course, and if someone offers you five times what everyone else pays – then you should perhaps wonder, but otherwise it is a pretty solid market.
    I hope that helps.

  30. Hello Ted,

    I just discovered your site as I browsed through teaching opportunities abroad. Just wondering though, what is the prospect of a citizen of a non English speaking country to work as a TEFL teacher? You mentioned in an answer to Kate that some countries based their hiring decision on passport.

    I graduated from an American University, but I am not a citizen of any English speaking country, so I was wondering if this is a field I want to consider.

  31. Hello M Meyer,
    A few countries do require a certain passport to issue legal working papers for an English teacher, but not many (Korea and Indonesia are examples). China, Thailand and Japan don’t require a specific passport and those are three of the four largest employers of EFL teachers. It is an issue, but once you have some experience on your resume it will become less of an issue.
    I hope that helps.

  32. Hi, Ted. I have been browsing ESL sites most of the evening and I am so glad that I stumbled upon yours! I really enjoy your from-the-heart, from-experience, insights. I have an MS in secondary education, over 15 years experience teaching math and social studies at the secondary level, and I have been deployed to Afghanistan where I worked on a literacy project.
    I really have the itch to get back into the classroom, but without question, I want to do it overseas and see more of the world. I am going to get my TESL certificate at a satellite campus of the U of Texas and then start pursuing my dream. My first act of “narrowing down” to appealing locations has me thinking of: Thailand, Vietnam, Poland, and Czech Republic, but open to other considerations as I continue my research.
    Any comments, thoughts, suggestions about those locations as well as how I would fare in the competition for quality jobs, given my credentials?
    Thanks Ted!

  33. Hi Jim,
    You might also want to take a very good look at the first tier international schools where your previous experience (and math skills) will be highly valued. You would earn much more money, work fewer hours, get better vacations and benefits. Take a look at http://www.ISS.edu Put all that experience and education to work!
    If you wish to do only EFL then with a good TEFL cert, you will be valuable anywhere, but you might want to look more at university and college positions where your age will be an advantage as will your previous experience.
    Go get ’em!

  34. Hi Ted,

    I’m a recent college graduate with zero teaching experience, but a passion for international travel. I’m desperately trying to find a way to get my TEFL certification and teach in Thailand. With the courses being so expensive, I’m hesitant to make a choice on any of the programs I’ve found online without advice from other people. Can you recommend any programs, or ways to make sure I don’t get scammed?


  35. Hello B,
    Scams are way over rated and don’t happen as often as most people believe. For Thailand, you are better off getting an in-classroom course. Though they are expensive, it is what most employers in Thailand will be looking for.
    I hope that helps.

  36. Hello Ted,
    I am currently an English teacher in California. I also teach Italian, so I am familiar with teaching a foreign language. As well, I have my masters in education. Do you think it necessary for me to get a TEFL certification for teaching English overseas?

  37. Hello Crystal,
    If you emphasize those three things (M.Ed. & and experience teaching English and Italian) when applying for jobs, no I don’t you need a TEFL certification. However, you might want to read through the free parts of TEFL Boot Camp to be sure you are familiar with the way things are often done in most TEFL jobs and with what methods and lessons plans employers are going to be most familiar.
    I’d say you are ready to go. 🙂

Leave a Reply