Teaching English as a foreign language

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Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) refers to teaching English to students whose first language is not English. TEFL usually occurs in the student's own country, either within the state school system, or privately, e.g., in an after-hours language school or with a tutor. TEFL teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English.

This article describes English teaching by native Anglophones working outside their own country, a small subset of English taught worldwide. To learn about other aspects of English teaching, see English language learning and teaching, which explains methodology and context, and explains abbreviations (e.g., the difference between ESL and EFL, or TESOL as a subject and an organization). For information on foreign language teaching in general, see language education and second language acquisition.

[edit] Teaching techniques

See also: Language education

[edit] Reading

TEFL that using literature aimed at children and teenagers is rising in popularity. These literature types offer simpler material ("simplified readers" are produced by major publishers), and often provide a more conversational style than literature for adults. Children's literature in particular sometimes provides subtle cues to pronunciation, through rhyming and other wordplay. One method for using these books is the multiple-pass technique. The instructor reads the book, pausing often to explain certain words and concepts. On the second pass, the instructor reads the book completely through without stopping.

[edit] Communicative language teaching

Communicative language teaching (CLT) emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. Despite a number of criticisms,[1] it continues to be popular, particularly in Japan, Taiwan,[2] and Europe.

The task-based language learning (TBLL) approach to CLT has gained ground in recent years. Proponents believe CLT is important for developing and improving speaking, writing, listening, and reading skills, and that it prevents students merely listen passively to the teacher without interaction.

[edit] Blended learning

Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face teaching and online interactions (also known as CALL or Computer-Assisted Language Learning), achieved through a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

VLEs have been a major growth point in the ELT industry over the last five years. There are two types:

  • Externally-hosted platforms that a school or institution exports content to (e.g., the proprietary Web Course Tools, or the open source Moodle)
  • Content-supplied, course-managed learning platforms (e.g. the Macmillan English Campus)

The former provides pre-designed structures and tools, while the latter supports course-building by the language school—teachers can blend existing courses with games, activities, listening exercises, and grammar reference units contained online. This supports both classroom, and self-study or remote practice (for example in an internet café).

[edit] Qualifications for TEFL teachers

Teachers can earn English teaching certifications through an intensive 4-week program, or a longer part-time program, either of which provide an internationally-recognized qualification. CertTESOL and CELTA certifications are internationally-recognized and accredited in the UK on the National Qualifications Framework. Both qualifications are externally assessed and accepted by the British Council in their accredited teaching organizations worldwide in over a 100 countries. Internet-based TEFL courses often claim to be internationally recognized, but recognition varies along wtih price and content of the programs. Private institutions often desire that course be face-to-face, or at least include an element of observed teaching.[3]

Schools around the world run international certificate programs. Qualification requirements vary considerably, from country to country and among employers within the same country. In some cases, it's possible to teach without a BA degree or without a teaching certificate. However, private language schools in some countries are likely to require a certificate based on successful completion of a course consisting of a minimum of 100 hours, usually including about 6 hours of observed teaching practice.

Many language schools accept any certificate that fulfills these criteria, while others look for teachers with specific certificates. It's also possible to gain certificates by completing shorter courses, or online courses, but these certificates do not always satisfy employer requirements due to lack of teaching practice. Also, some private language schools require teachers to complete in-house training programs even if they have a certification from elsewhere. Where there is a high demand for teachers and no statutory requirements, employers may accept otherwise unqualified candidates. Each country is different, and acceptance depends on demand for English teachers and the teacher's previous teaching and life experiences.

[edit] Pay and conditions worldwide

As in most fields, the pay depends greatly on education, training, experience, seniority, and expertise. As with much expatriate work, employment conditions vary between countries, depending on the level of economic development and how much people want to live there. In relatively poor countries, even a low wage may equate to a comfortable middle class lifestyle.

There is a danger of exploitation by employers. This increases in countries with labor laws that may not apply to foreign employees, or which may be unenforced. An employer might ignore contract provisions, especially regarding working hours, working days, and end-of-contract payments. Difficulties faced by foreign teachers regarding language, culture, or simply limited time can make it difficult to demand pay and conditions that their contracts stipulate. Some disputes arise from cross-cultural misunderstandings. Teachers who can't adapt to living and working in a foreign country leave after a few months. Discussion forums tend to avoid the controversy because they lack complete information and fear potential liability issues.

[edit] Problems

Whether teaching to travel or traveling to teach, an ELT lifestyle is not without difficulties. New English language teachers face cultural integration issues. Even with mental preparation, culture shock can take a toll on one's ability to work effectively. Language barriers, cultural and religious differences, financial infrastructure, climate, administration, access to medical care, and food all represent potential problems. Even learning the native language and researching the culture don't fully prepare international travelers, and many are caught off guard when they first arrive. There is a great amount of literature on the subject from universities and their overseas study offices, and online.

[edit] TEFL Country Locations

[edit] Europe

Opportunities vary considerably across Europe. Most cities in Western Europe have established language schools. These can be on-site, or operated as agencies that send teachers to various locations. September is the peak recruiting month, and many annual contracts last October through June. Employers prefer those with graduate-level academic qualifications, experience in Business English, or experience with younger learners.

The British Council is a key TEFL provider and schools typically use British English materials. Instructors from Great Britain and Ireland, countries within the European Union, do not need work visas to work in the EU, which reduces demand for teachers from outside. Immigration laws require that non-EU job applicants submit documents from their home countries in person after the European employer files an officially documented job offer. If the worker has traveled to Europe to find the job, this means they must return home and wait for some time. Even if they follow the process correctly, visa rejection rates are high. Many private-sector employers don't sponsor them at all, because they can meet staffing needs more easily from nearby countries.

International schools hire some non-EU teachers. These are more desirable positions that require significant experience and qualifications. Various countries' education ministries, such as those of France and Spain, offer opportunities for assistant language instructors in public schools. Part-time employment is usually allowed under an education visa, but this visa also requires proper attendance at an accredited EU college or university, institute, or other educational program. Other teachers work illegally under tourist visas.

Demand for TEFL is stronger in certain Eastern European countries because of the expansion of the European Union. Such locations also tend to have lower costs of living. Non-EU teachers usually find legal work here with less difficulty.

Far fewer instructors work in Scandinavia, which has stricter immigration laws and a policy of relying on bilingual local teachers. The Balkan former Yugoslav countries have seen recent growth in TEFL—private schools have recruited Anglophone teachers there for several years.

[edit] China

Many opportunities exist within China, including preschool, university, private schools and institutes, companies, and tutoring. The provinces and the Ministry of Education in Beijing tightly govern public schools, while private schools have more freedom to set work schedules, pay, and requirements. Outside of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, salaries range between 3800 to 6000 yuan per month with an average of 4500 yuan.[4] Public schools tend to offer fewer hours per week (12 to 18) with low pay but free on-campus housing, while private schools usually require more than 22 hours a week and may offer higher pay without free housing. Preschool and elementary schools may ask the teacher to work more hours, just as the Chinese teacher would do.

Most schools pay for some travel expenses to and from Asia, and typically pay round-trip for a one-year contract (usually 10 months), and one-way for a six-month contract. Public schools usually pay during vacations, but not for summer break unless the teacher renews the contract,[5] while many private schools have shortened vacation schedules and may pay for whatever short number of days is allowed for vacation. Private schools may also require that teachers work weekends and evenings, which public schools seldom do. Both may have off-campus classes that require extra transportation time. Public schools provide an apartment with some extras. Most, but not all, private schools outside Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou also provide housing.

Company jobs vary, depending on the number of employees they want to train. They may employ a teacher for one or two classes, or a complete set of 14 to 16 hours a week. Tutoring also varies, as in some cases a whole family of students or just one family member.

Some teachers work successfully on an independent basis with several contracts for tutoring, individual college classes, and some company work. The majority of teachers accept contracts with schools. Public school contracts are fairly standard, while private schools set their own requirements. Schools try to hire teachers from Anglophone countries, but because of demand, others with good English language skills can find positions.

[edit] Hong Kong

Once a British Crown Colony, English language education in Hong Kong is taken seriously, as demonstrated by recent government-funded research.

[edit] Japan

In Japan, the JET Programme employs assistant language teachers to work in Japanese high schools and elementary schools. Other teachers work in private language schools, eikaiwa. The largest of these chains are Aeon, GEOS, and ECC. The industry is not well regulated. Nova, one of the largest chains with over 900 branches, collapsed in October 2007, leaving thousands of foreign teachers without money or a place to live. Other teachers work in universities. Agencies are increasingly used to send English speakers into kindergartens, primary schools, and private companies whose employees need to improve their Business English. Agencies, known in Japan as haken, or dispatch companies, have recently been competing among themselves to get contracts from various Boards of Education for Elementary, Junior and Senior High Schools, so wages have decreased steadily in the last four years.

[edit] South Korea

While South Korea has a great demand for native English speakers willing to teach. The U.S. Embassy, however, reports that teachers have sometimes come to Korea under contracts that promised generous salaries and benefits, but found actual conditions drastically different, and in some cases ended up with insufficient funds to return home.[6]

Institutions commonly provide round-trip airfare and a rent-free apartment for a one-year contract. Note that since March 15, 2008, visas rules have changed. Prospective teachers must now undergo a medical examination, a criminal background check, an original degree certificate, and provide sealed transcripts. On arriving in South Korea, teachers must undergo a further medical check before they receive an ARC card.

Though contracts usually include return flights, some schools offer cash instead. Severance pay equivalent to one month's salary is paid at the end of a contract as well. Citizens of the USA, Canada and Australia[7] also receive back their pension contributions and their employers' part of the pension contributions on leaving the country.

There are four main places to work in South Korea: universities, public schools, private language academies (known in South Korea as hagwon), and private company Business English classes. Recently, small private schools have been opening after-school programs.

[edit] Taiwan

In the Republic of China (Taiwan), most teachers work in cram schools, known locally as bushibans or buxibans. Some are part of chains, like Hess and Kojen. Others operate independently. Such schools pay around $2,000 USD a month. End-of-contract bonuses equivalent to an extra month's pay are not mandated by law as in South Korea, and are uncommon in Taiwan.

[edit] Thailand

Thailand has a great demand for native English speakers, and has a ready-made workforce in the form of travelers and expatriates attracted by the local lifestyle despite relatively low salaries. Thailand prohibits foreigners from most non-skilled occupations, so a high percentage of foreigners who live there teach English for a living, and as a way to stay in the country.

Until recently, it was relatively easy for native English speakers to find teaching jobs in Thailand, and recruitment was poorly regulated. However, the recent revelations in 2006 that John Mark Karr, the man arrested in connection with the murder of JonBenét Ramsey and subsequently released without charge, had been working as a teacher for a school in Bangkok prior to his deportation to the USA, put the profession in the spotlight. Thai authorities cracked down on schools that employed illegal workers, and tightened visa and work permit regulations. In recent months, however, it has become simpler for legitimate workers to obtain visas in-country.

[edit] United States

There are a large number of private ESL schools in the United States. The majority are in coastal cities that have a high number of foreign students. Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Francisco, and Boston probably have the largest variety of such schools.

Many states fund ESL programs for adults. These are often taught in the evenings at public schools, and most large colleges and universities have ESL programs. School districts with high numbers of non-native English speaking students (LAUSD for example) often offer special bonuses and incentives for primary school teachers with ESL qualifications.

It's very difficult for a non-US citizens to obtain a work visa for a private ESL school. Highly qualified teachers may be able to get a visa through a state-funded program or a university.

Private ESL schools typically pay from $12 to $25 an hour. Most schools offer only part-time employment and no benefits. Adult programs tend to pay a bit more—adult ESL in Los Angeles pays around $30-$40 per hour. Colleges also usually only offer part-time employment, though pay can exceed $70 an hour, and tenure track positions sometimes become available.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading

Teaching English Abroad, Susan Griffith, Vacation Work Press, Oxford. Many editions.

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