How to find an ESL teaching job in a non-English speaking country?

I was surprised at how easy it is to find teaching vacancies, when I decided to step into the unknown and move to one of those countries where English is not their first language. As a native English speaker from the U.K., teaching positions were so profuse that I immediately felt myself to be a much valued resource.

So how do you go about finding teaching vacancies in a country where the first language is not English?

It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak the first language of a country when you’re looking for work. Just follow the steps below:

First, choose a destination

Before setting off on your adventure of a life time, choose your desired country and research which areas in it contain the most English-speaking International schools. Select your preferred city and a district within it based on your findings.

The top 10, most sought after TEFL destinations are:

  • China
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Taiwan
  • UAE
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Russia
  • Germany

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Second, search for vacancies, schools

Phone, or preferably, visit as many International schools as possible as these usually offer the best pay. These are the things you should look out for when choosing a school:

See which one offers the best pay package and other bonuses

  • Some will include extras which include all or some of the following: a free drink, a free meal, medical insurance, paid school holidays and a uniform allowance.
  • If you have children, some will reduce the school fees if you work there. The more highly qualified and experienced you are, the better pay you should be offered.
  • A CertTESOL or CELTA certificate will enable you to negotiate a higher wage. During my stay in Sudan I came to know of one 15-year old native English speaker who was offered a position as a teaching assistant. This was in spite of the fact he had no previous teaching experience or qualifications other than iGCSEs. His pay, however reflected his lack of qualifications and experience.

Know your working conditions

  • It is as important as knowing your salary, because sometimes you may be taken for a surprise. If you are in a country with a hot climate, know what is the air conditioning like? Do they have power cuts or shortage of water? While some of the prestigious schools will have their own back-up electricity generators, it is worth checking the same.
  • Who will you be teaching? and what are the typical working hours? Will you have to spend a lot of time preparing for the next days’ class, grading assignments and worksheets?
  • If possible, visit some of the classrooms to get an actual feel of it.

Know the culture

  • Some cultures are more conservative than others.
  • Different schools also have different ethical values, such as their dress code, restricted mixing of genders and cultural practices.
  • Some actions may be considered to be offensive, for example, that are considered normal in your own culture.
  • Reflect carefully about whether you would be able to work comfortably in any given school.

Check your contract

  • Check the contract thoroughly between you and the school before signing.
  • Some schools may specify that you cannot work anywhere else when employed at their school, for instance. If you want to work in more than one place this will be undesirable.
  • Most schools will require proof of a work permit or residency, although this may be conveniently overlooked in some parts of the world.

While searching for ESL job vacancies, there are many web portals where TEFL jobs are published on a regular basis. You can visit these websites, and find the company/school which has advertised the job post. Then, do a Google search for these schools names to find their website/address and try to get in touch with them directly.

You can also visit some of the top Facebook Groups where TEFL jobs are discussed. You can find them by doing a Google search.

Third, find suitable accommodation

Upon arrival from abroad, many prospective teachers tend to stay in temporary accommodation like B&Bs until they secure a post. Choose temporary accommodation central to as many International schools as possible. Then, after securing a job, look for suitable, permanent accommodation nearby.

Again, try to “network” with other teachers through various social media websites, so that you know the real situation when it comes to accommodation and can find a suitable one through proper contacts and guidance.

Finally, income from other sources

There are plenty of opportunities for private tuition, which can be very lucrative. I once met an Irish lady who held an English degree. She started her career abroad by appointing a room in her home for teaching in. She charged her students different amounts, increasing from primary to iGCSE to A Level English. She is now working in a very high class school with a high salary to match!

I know of another lady who secured a job in a children’s nursery. A parent paid to meet up with her once a week so that they could practice their conversational skills.

Another teaching possibility is through renting a classroom in a school and offering after-school courses. You can distribute leaflets to students already in the school, who can spread the word. Word of mouth and social media are powerful tools for spreading awareness of your course.

All you need is an idea where you want to go, your TEFL or other teaching qualification, money to get by on until you’re settled into a job and the world is at your feet!

Looking to teach English in Hong Kong? Check this guide here!

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This article was originally published on March 14, 2018 and was last updated on November 22, 2020.

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