English language teachers overseas primarily teach people who plan to use
English for business purposes in a country where English is not commonly used.
Japan is a good example. Many teachers move to Japan and teach English to
English language teachers who travel overseas to work are also known as
English foreign language teachers (EFL) because they are teaching English
in a foreign country.
People around the world want to learn to speak English. Many need it for
business, while others just want to be able to speak with visitors or friends.
This desire to learn the language has created a demand for English language
These teachers are different from English as a second language teachers
(ESL). ESL teachers concentrate on teaching English to immigrants in an English-speaking
Many people who work in this field started because they love to travel.
They traveled to another country and found themselves staying to teach English.
Others plan on this career while still at home.
Many recent college graduates gravitate to the work. That's because it
offers a way to make money and see the world at the same time. Some even pay
off student loans with the money they make.
While the demand is strong, most foreign schools want well-trained teachers
with some experience. It's a misconception that you can easily get a job teaching
English in a foreign country without any qualifications -- especially when
you're competing for jobs with people who do.
"It's a myth that any native speaker can go to another country and teach
English," says EFL teacher John Trollope. "It just isn't true."
Trollope taught English in France for three years before returning to England
to get his master's degree in TEFL -- teaching English as a foreign language.
"I feel training is really important," agrees Celleste Scholz. She is an
EFL teacher currently teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia. "You need to have a
certificate or a master's degree to know how to do the job right. Being a
native speaker alone isn't enough."
The reason for the constant demand for teachers, say experts in the field,
is that English is clearly becoming the international language of business
In coming years, demand for teachers will be strongest in Southeast Asia,
Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, says Susan Mankin. She
runs a course for students thinking about teaching overseas. "This is not
something that's going away," she says.
EFL teachers may work in the public or private sector. They're most often
employed in commercial language schools, which are run more like businesses
than schools. They also find themselves teaching to a wide variety of students
and explaining things that, at times, might seem a little odd.
"A woman in my class was attending a meeting in Sweden on the weekend and
was planning to attend a hockey game there. Explaining the rules of hockey
to her was a blast," says Edward Tanguay. He is an EFL teacher in Hanover,
Speaking the language of the country you plan to teach in is not required
for EFL teachers, but it can come in handy.
"Speaking the language of the country you're in definitely doesn't hurt,"
says Scholz. "It's best not to use it in the classroom, but what if you need
Tanguay agrees. "It's a myth that you don't need to speak the local language,"
he says. "Many times it's really necessary, and it always helps. The statement
'Everybody speaks English in Europe' was made up by someone who didn't get
In addition to the challenge of learning the local language, experts say
getting used to a different culture can be a challenge, although many admit
this is an exciting challenge.
"Adapting to a new culture can be stressful," says Scholz. She is enjoying
watching her children grow up in an international culture. "I thoroughly enjoy
Indonesia, but my first year here I had difficulty adjusting. I'm glad I hung
in, though, because now I like it very much. You have to persevere [and have]
an open mind."
People with physical disabilities or limitations should be able to do this
job, as long as they're able to deal with traveling and living away from home.
Teach English in a foreign country
Watch a one-minute video showing what it's like to work in this career or related careers
Adult Literacy, Remedial Education, and GED Teachers and Instructors
Note: This movie requires QuickTime.