16.9.12

Teaching English in a Foreign Country

America might not be as influential in the world as it used to be. The times when ‘Coca Cola’ stood for a whole culture have long gone. And economically the US is still the biggest economy, but serious competitors have entered the scene, like China, for example.

England used to be a world power, but that is something you’d find in history books by now. However, both countries have left their imprint on the world as we know it, and that’s why we find that English is still the most important language in the world, in terms of its use and by how many people speak it.

German, the language of war, French, the language of diplomacy, and English for all there is under the sun. Foreigners meeting abroad try English first when they want to communicate; it is not at all uncommon to find two German tourists in the Czech Republic starting to talk English to each other until they find out that they are from the same country.

But most importantly English has been, is now and most likely will continue to be the language of commerce. This is why students all over the world, be it in Latin America, Africa or China, want to learn English. Their job prospects increase dramatically when they can show in their curriculum that they speak English. And this is why there are always openings for English teachers all over the world.

The market for teaching English as a second language has become kind of crowded of late, to say the least. More people want to learn it, and more Americans or other English speakers want to teach it. This is one interesting aspect of that particular market: you have a good chance of getting into it even if you don’t have prior experience as a teacher.

I’m not referring here to teaching jobs as let’s say a second grade teacher in a private school. There you will be asked for qualifications. I’m referring here to commercial institutes that cater to the needs of foreign and multinational companies that want to teach their staff to answer a fax in English, or attend to some supervisor in the home office.

Mind you, the times where it was just enough to be American in order to land a teaching job have long gone. You will have to meet certain requirements, but they are relatively easy. For one, you have to be ‘teach-able’. That means that most serious institutes around the world want motivated and skilled staff, and are willing to send them initially through a training program of their own.

Since staff turnover in these institutes is pretty high, they want to recover what they invested in your training by paying you a low salary first. Since most people drop out after a couple of month that makes sense for the language school. But you can be pretty sure that if you hang in there and do a good job, you will a. be allocated more classes, and therefore more pay, and b. your hourly rate will go up.


It’s not absolutely necessary, but it does help a lot if you have experience in general business matters, or if you have worked in a corporation yourself. Because you will find that your students are not so much interested in learning English, but to improve their communication skills. There is a fine difference. If they’re able to service a client better because of their command of English, that gives them a better standing with their company and better prospects for promotions. And if you as the teacher can focus on those phrases that are used in negotiations, for example, or in sales presentations, that would help both you and your students. But again, it’s not absolutely necessary.

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