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Teaching ESL Abroad

Teaching ESL differs from ‘regular’ teaching. For ESL positions, you may or may not need training. While for regular schools, training in Education or a subject area along with practicum is a must. It is important to note that teaching ESL programs, however, leads to lower compensation and benefits. ESL terms to note There are two main pathways to teaching ESL, that is, either being an ALT or a TEFL teacher. Both have similarities and differences.  The main requirement for both is for teachers to have a Bachelor’s degree. The subject area does not matter. On the other hand, ALTs are assistants in an English Language class while with TEFL you are the lead teacher. Also, TEFL teachers must complete a TEFL training course, while for ALTs it is not compulsory. Finally, ALTs teach from a national curriculum while with TEFL, this is not always the case.

Teaching ESL as an ALT 

 An assistant language teacher (ALT) helps foreign language teachers in the classroom. The language you teach will be your mother tongue. You may teach in English, but some programs ask that you know the local language. Below you will find some of the programs currently available for teaching ESL as an ALT. There are two main programs that you can apply to become an ALT. The main and very competitive one is the JET Program. The Japanese government runs the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Each year, there is a limit on how many people are successful. Placement is throughout Japan in public primary or secondary schools. The main requirements are for you to:
  • be a national of a participating country. You must be present in-country for the interview. 
  • hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher in any subject from an accredited university.
  • be 40 years old or younger.
The application period opens between October to December of each year. The word teacher in different languages The other Japanese program for teaching ESL is to apply to private ALT companies. A google search will reveal many options, but my focus will be on Interac. Interac began in 1972 and is the largest private provider of ALTS to Japanese public schools. There is no yearly limit, once there is a need they will hire someone. The compensation and benefits are lower than those with JET. Interac asks that their applicants:
  • be under 60 years old.
  • hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher in any subject from an accredited university.
  •  be a native-level English speaker
For both programs, there are additional requirements, but these are the basic needs.  The application period depends on when you would like to move to Japan. For Spring, you need to apply between June and early December. For Fall, you need to apply between January and May.

ESL as a Teaching Assistant 

 The Teaching Assistants Program in France (TAPIF) is overseen by the government. It aims to improve students’ oral communication skills. It also aims to deepen students’ knowledge of different civilizations and cultures. Placement is with an academy in the rural or urban areas of France. The application period runs throughout January of each year.  To be eligible for this program, you must:
  • be native speakers of the language you wish to teach in France (English is not the only option. Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese and Turkish are among the other choices).
  • be between the ages of 20 and 30 (35 for some countries).
  •  be in university at the time of application or recent graduates. Including students from the Alliance Française and similar private institutions.
  • have good knowledge of the French language (B1 and above).
There are other ALT opportunities in Colombia and Europe for example. But these are for students fresh out of college only. Despite the focus on Jamaicans, everybody will find the section helpful. But, ensure that you check to see if your country participates in these programs. 

 Teaching TEFL 

 Generally, anybody with a degree can apply for these jobs, they only ask that you have a TEFL certificate. This certification can take a few weeks to a few months to achieve completely online. For some companies, you can move to a country where they host the training and get hands-on experience. Then you can teach there afterwards or move to other countries. These companies tend to have job listings and placement services for TEFL schools.  A google search will show you many different TEFL training companies. GoAbroad has an excellent article that you can read to help with your choice. Always check discount sites as they sometimes have coupons for discounts. One company that others I know have used is ITTT, for which I have been able to source a 25% discount code. International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) offers both online and in-person courses. They have the option to learn with or without the use of a tutor. With the latter of course being more expensive. There is a range of ways to teach ESL abroad. None of which asks for you to be a trained teacher. A lot of people use teaching ESL to live and travel within different countries. Among others are: 
  1. Business executes tired of the corporate world.
  2. Students fresh out of university who want to take a gap year.
  3. Even trained teachers looking for a change.
Where do you fall?  Is this something for you?  Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.  Suggested Readings:  Teacher Recruitment: Worldwide    Teacher Recruitment: Western Hemisphere

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