Hopefully, if you’re reading this it is because you have heard about TEFL’s and are just as confused as I was when I first started to research them. There is so much information on the internet it’s easy to get overwhelmed, trust me because I was! If you’re here because you’re a bit nosy, also like me, a TEFL is the acronym commonly used for teaching English as a foreign language. For you to gain jobs, and in many countries visas, you must have an accredited certificate by a reputable school. There are online and practical courses which range from 20 hours to 120 hours, but most schools look for 120 hours so I would focus on those in your search. Of course, the practical courses are more beneficial but online is still accepted and often a more convenient and affordable option.
Choosing the right course to gain the qualification to teach English as a foreign language really depends on the reason you’re applying to it in the first place. Are you looking for a gap year opportunity after you graduate? Where do you want to go? Do you want to teach adults or children? Is this a serious career change/path you wish to follow? What lifestyle do you want to have and will your salary support this?
Asking yourselves these questions is so important when it comes to choosing the right TEFL course because there are THOUSANDS on the internet, ranging from Groupon £18 to courses costing upwards of £1500! I spent hours and hours scouring the internet trying to choose mine but eventually, I landed a teaching position that paid for my TEFL and provides me with teacher training upon my arrival in Beijing. My position will be within a training school, so I won’t be working in a public or private school. Training schools are great for people like me with little to no teaching experience as the amount of training and assistance will be invaluable when I arrive. Training schools do actually come with the downfall that the pay tends to not be as high but I decided to compromise on that in value of the training provided. As I said, you really need to ask yourself some questions regarding your reasons, hopes and motivations for choosing a TEFL course and ESL career.
How much can you spend and does the cost match your intentions? If you are looking to move away for a year, enjoy a new culture and get some teaching experience, are you really going to spend over a grand on a course? The most expensive course is also not always the best, when I was looking I found some companies charging an arm and a leg when they weren’t even accredited! They must, must, MUST be accredited by an external body, ‘recognised worldwide’ is a ploy and you will pay the very heavy price for no real qualification. It totally depends on how much you want to spend and as I said, are your intentions for getting a TEFL going to justify the most expensive? If not, work out what you can afford and do your research.
Have other teachers in a similar position to you used this school? Any School worth their salt will be open and honest, email and ask if it is possible to speak to any former teachers on their experiences with gaining the qualification through that school. Search their social media, see if they have been tagged by real people, be an absolute stalker and dm/message that person and say I’m sorry to be a weirdo but do you mind answering some questions? If they do they’ll block you and you’ll feel like a gimp and if they don’t they’ll answer you and you could save yourself from being scammed or you may find the perfect course for you! The internet is your best friend in this case and there are literally thousands of people in the same position as you who are more than willing to help. Join groups on Facebook, when I first started I just typed TEFL into the search bar and so many groups came up with people posting, asking questions and posting job opportunities daily! Go with your gut, often if it seems to good to be true it is, trust yourself and just be smart.
Where do you want to live? The ESL teaching market truly is worldwide and the course should prepare you for the specific location you wish to teach! My research showed me that those wishing to teach in Spain must have exam preparation skills and telephone teaching! Yet in China, where I will be based, there was an emphasis on teaching adults, children and online/ via Skype. Not only for the sake of your TEFL but for your sake too. TEFL providers can often and really should offer you assistance with looking for job vacancies, accommodation, visas, bank accounts and legal paperwork. You will need police background checks and in most cases, you will need a degree that needs to be authenticated by a solicitor. Visa processes can be long and expensive but your TEFL provider should guide you through it.
You also need to think is this country really somewhere that interests me, is the history and culture appealing? Obviously, that isn’t something you can really know until you arrive, but it would be daft to apply for a job in somewhere like Peru when you have no interest in learning Spanish, no desire to learn about the Inca’s and you’re not a big fan of Ceviche! I chose Beijing for several reasons!
Location: I really wanted to move somewhere that was easily accessible to the rest of Asia but was still a big city. As much as I’d love to be a beach bum in Thailand, I wanted to maintain certain aspects of my current lifestyle.
The language: Mandarin is the most commonly spoken native language in the world and as China’s economy and influence continues to grow in the Western World, I quite frankly want to be able to put it on my CV. Luckily my company offers free Mandarin lessons! I’ll be Ni hao-ing all over the joint soon!
Cost of living: As with any Capital City, the rent in Beijing will be relatively higher than other cities in China, excluding Shanghai. Yet researching the cost of living for a city is fairly easy and the cost of living in Beijing appears to be relatively low. Of course, it all depends on how you spend your money! I ultimately wanted to live somewhere I could afford a few meals out, enjoy a couple (or triple) beers with my friends, some holidays and the odd pair of shoes every now and then! Googling the cost of milk, bread, public transport, beer, cinema tickets and an average meal out is a good way to figure this all out for yourself.
The history: I am a history nerd and although I studied Medieval European history, the history of China is so appealing. I think there a few countries and cities that can offer such an up-close and personal view of their history and culture. Catch me at the great wall and the summer palace this Autumn! I can hardly wait!
I’m not going to offer you a list of TEFL courses I think you should take because ultimately I am not going to recommend something that I did not take myself! I just hope this post is a bit of food for thought for you and the questions you should be asking yourself before you start an application for a TEFL! Do you have any experience with TEFL’s? let me know in the comments if I have missed anything out!