Why would I want to become an ESL teacher? This is a question you’ve probably asked yourself if you are looking at this page. It was the same question I had over 20 years ago.
So what happened all those 20 years ago? I did it! I took the plunge, and I started a journey that I have not regretted since. I’ve been thinking about this recently after providing resources for teachers already in the field. And for those of you who are still on the fence, here are 5 reasons to become an ESL teacher.
Travel the World and Get Paid to Do It!
Did you know that a lot of schools overseas will buy you a ticket to get you there? Not only that, once you arrive in the country, you will probably have a place to stay as well. Of course, conditions and living arrangements all differ, but you can travel the world without having to ever buy a plane ticket if you work it right.
Just remember to be careful and check out the school that is hiring you. There are plenty of school blacklists online that list bad places to work. A lot of times, you can just Google a school’s name and the word review after it, and you can find all sorts of useful comments. I have found a school online at myTEFL that will actually help you get a job after you get your certification.
If a school gives you a list of teachers to talk to, it’s a pretty good sign that they are on the up and up. My last school was actually for the Korean military, and they often gave out my contact information for prospective teachers to use.
Just remember that not everybody will be happy. I loved my time in Korea, but I also worked with plenty of people who complained non-stop every day. If you meet people like that in your travels, do yourself a favor and stay away from them. Too much negativity can be contagious.
Remember the title of this site, “Teaching English is Fun,” and enjoy yourself. Learn new cultures and my next point. Learn new skills.
Learn a Lot About Yourself and Gain New Skills
There are a lot of different kinds of people teaching abroad. Some do it for cash, some do it for adventure and believe it or not some do it to find themselves. I myself went to Korea to teach for what was going to be 2 years. Twenty years later and I finally came back home.
My first thought was to go and see a new country while I figured out what I was going to do with my life after the military. I discovered that I really loved teaching and had quite a knack for it. I actually had a student tell me I was the best teacher she ever had!
I was hooked! I found that the more difficult the students, the harder I tried to show them that I was worth the tuition they were paying. I also started to improve my public speaking ability. I got rid of all the umm’s and ahh’s that plague so many people because the students were not shy about commenting about speaking mistakes.
And I learned a new language! I can now stumble though a conversation in Korean, and if I have time, I can also find my way around Japan.
So, what new skills will you gain? Maybe you can take up snowboarding in the winter, learn a language, find out you can really rock a singing room, or countless other skills and abilities that you don’t even know you have.
Meet Interesting New People and Gain Friends from All Over the World
There will be people you meet who you hope you never see again, but by and by, you will make some great friendships with people from all over the world. I, for one, have friends in Canada, New Zealand, Korea, Australia, Japan, and countless other acquaintances I have learned valuable lessons from.
Open your mind to new cultures, thoughts, ideas, and ways of life! Sometimes the most valuable things that you will bring back won’t be material goods, but what is in your heart and mind.
I now know things about countries I’ve never even been to. A shout out to “Candle Guy” from New Zealand! I miss seeing and arguing about American politics with my British and Canadian friends, as well. We all had wildly different backgrounds, but we all got along and were able to enrich each other’s lives.
Have Adventures in Lands Most People Only Dream About
Climb a mountain top in Korea to visit a Buddhist temple. Visit the Great Wall of China. Feed Koi in one of the many gardens in Japan. These are all things that you can do if you travel overseas.
Go rock climbing over the ocean in Thailand. Have live octopus or eat the deadly puffer fish. Be on a Korean TV or radio show. I’m listing out things that I have done, and many other people have experienced all because they took that leap of faith and got on a plane to another country.
Learn an Exotic Foreign Language
Odds are you will have to learn at least a little of the language. Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean are just some of the languages you can learn much faster than if you were sitting in a classroom reading from a book.
You may or may not become fluent, but now that I am back in America, it is nice to see the look of surprise on someone’s face when I greet them in their native tongue.
If you are worried about having the skills to teach or you would like to improve your chances at a good job before you go, I suggest getting some kind of special training. I’ve done some hunting, and I’ve found a really great deal at myTEFL. They offer three different types of classes, all at very competitive prices. Check them out and see what you think.
So what are you waiting for? I have mainly mentioned Asian countries here, but there are places all over that have people willing to pay you to come teach. Oh, and I think I forgot that one. You can save a lot of money if you live right. You usually don’t have to pay for a house. Your ticket is taken care of, and in Korea, they pay you a bonus at the end of your contract.
The choice is yours, but if you have questions, I will be adding more information for the prospective teachers out there in the weeks to come.
Until next time remember, Teaching English is Fun!
12 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Teach English as a Second Language”
Hello Jim, thanks for this amazing post. Generally, english language have been one of the widely requested language to be learned by non speaker and with that large demand comes scarcity (simple commerce). I believe this os one of the reason why traveling to teach people in other places would be a really great idea as they would want to pay your desired amount. A very clever choice you have made here. I believe this is indeed a cool way to live.
Hi Dane, Thank you again for the great comment. There are indeed people all over the world who are willing to pay to learn English. While some countries have started getting a little stricter on what you need to teach, most places will let you start with just a bachelor’s degree. I am currently looking through some different companies to find one that I can recommend for further certification. Stay tuned for more recommendations and ideas and activities for ESL classes.
All the best,
This is a really interesting post I must say. Teaching English as a second language is a very good thing to consider. A friend of mine is into it and he has been traveling all around the world because there are many people who needs his service as a second language teacher and he does this with no stress. All the 5 reasons are great and I think teaching English as a second language comes with more benefits than we can ever imagine. I’ll man sure i share this post with some of my friends, Its informative and I like it.
Thank you for the nice comments, Jones. It sometimes depends on the country you are teaching in as to how beneficial it is. I think that Korea is a great country and a fun place to work for either a short or extended period of time. China is getting better, as its economy increases, so does the amount of money you can make. Japan is another exotic place that I have visited but have not worked. I know some people who have worked in Europe, South America and Africa although I am not that familiar with the prospects in those places.
There are more and more people getting into this field so getting certified can help to make yourself competitive. If you are in between jobs and you have a mind to travel then I think this is a great option for anybody to explore. I’ll post more information for prospective teachers as well as current teachers.
All the best,
You always amaze me with your exciting experiences as an ESL teacher. I envy you for living your life in different interesting countries anyone could dreamed of. One thing you forgot in your list is that you can show how passionate you are in teaching english to non native speakers. I have read some of your blogs about grammar and pronunciation problems of students and how you discovered some strategies to fix it.
While teaching abroad is interesting, it poses a different situation with teachers who are non American or non native english speakers. Often times, they are under paid and most schools are selective and partial to Americans, British, Canadians and Australian. Don’t get me wrong, I understand their reason. But it gives less opportunity for us even if we pass interviews, exams and demos. Most would prefer certification which is very costly and half the price of the salary that would be given to us. Plane tickets aren’t shouldered by the company especially if you’re applying for Japan. I was given the chance to be hired in China but i declined due to personal reason, salary negotiation and working condition.
As a teacher, I am glad that you keep on inspiring our tribe and encourage them to teach ESL. Those kids need teachers like you to educate them and make them globally competitive. Good luck on your future endeavors and thank you for sharing your stories.
Thank You, Missus B. You are right about the problems of traveling to teach if you aren’t a native speaker. Even if you are a native English speaker and you are of an Asian ethnic background you might find schools that will give you a hard time in teaching over there.
You have inspired me to write another list of perhaps things to be careful of when traveling abroad to teach English. Teaching English is Fun but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t times when I had difficulty. I am sorry to hear that you had problems as well. I also looked at teaching in China but the pay was not adequate to keep me going. I found that Korea had the best pay to cost of living ratio. Japanese companies tend to pay more, but the cost of living is much higher.
Thank you for sharing your experience and for giving me inspiration for another article.
All the best,
I never had the opportunity to travel abroad, but it would be such a cool thing to do. I have heard of people having such a wonderful experience teaching ESL in other countries and getting to experience completely different cultures as a result. My sister-in-law is doing something similar, only it is teaching children in China online. I forget the name of the company she does it through, but even though she isn’t actually traveling to the country, she has talked about how interesting and rewarding the experience has been.
Thanks for this really interesting post!
Thanks for the interesting story, Steve. Actually, I began teaching here in the states at a Chinese restaurant. The experience was so rewarding it led me to look into teaching overseas. It is a really cool adventure. These days I am working in America, but I often miss my adventures abroad.
All the best,
One thing you didn’t mention is that your family may also benefit from the fact that you are living around the world. We have had many great experiences due to the fact that we have been able to visit some gorgeous countries because I had both a brother and a son who were ESL teachers.
Good point, maybe I’ll have to do another article of “More reasons why…” The time I had with my family overseas was unforgettable. There are things that you will see and memories that you will make that will last a lifetime. I can truly say that my choice to teach English as a Second Language overseas was a turning point in my life. All the Best – Jim
Great post! The decision to teach abroad ten years ago led me on an adventure spanning Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesian and Australia. Its also led me to my career back in the states as a high school teacher. Ive made lifelong friends along the way on nearly every continent. You are spot on in your post with everything. Thank you for sharing!
Wow! So many countries! I’m happy to hear that you were able to make a successful transition once you got back home. There are so many opportunities not only for adventure but to learn and grow. Thank YOU for sharing^^ If you know of any teachers who are looking for ideas for class, tell them I’ll be posting around 5 times a week.
Have a great time with your class – Jim