Teaching English abroad- Step 1: Getting qualified.

Ever since my big news a few weeks ago a couple of you asked me about the course I’m planning to do and how to get into teaching English abroad, so I thought I’d document my experience, every step of the way as I live it, to hopefully help others considering doing something similar. So this post is about…

Step 1: Getting a relevant qualification

You have a few options when it comes to getting a relevant TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification.

a) Do I need one?

If you are a teacher or a native speaker you may be able to land a TEFL job with no qualification whatsoever, but opportunities would be more limited, and that also means (especially if you have no teaching experience) you might end up in a foreign country alone with no clue on how to even begin teaching English.

b) What about online courses?

There is a huge number of TEFL courses out there (and too much information, it can be very confusing). Online, classroom, combined, cheap, expensive e.g.

A short online, relatively cheap course is a good option if you are only looking to refresh your Grammar knowledge, learn more about teaching in general as well as teaching English as a foreign language. Some of them are recognised by various regulatory bodies but some countries only accept one of the two classroom based, internationally recognised or equivalent qualifications, Cambridge CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL. With these two diplomas you will also be qualified to teach English for academic purposes (pre-sessional English courses) at UK universities.

c) CELTA or CertTESOL?

CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is
provided by Cambridge English Language Assessment through authorised Cambridge English Teaching Qualification centres and CertTESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) is awarded by Trinity College London. When it comes to choosing between the two, I’m not sure myself whether one might be slightly better than the other, the content is very similar, but after some research I did, it seems CELTA is better known and that may open more doors for me (and if you decide to apply for funding, the Advanced Learner Loan covers the majority of the tuition fees charged for CELTA at most colleges but only partially for CertTESOL, more on that below).

Both CELTA and CertTESOL are level 5 qualifications, offered full-time, part-time and online but face-to-face assessed teaching as the practical element is what separates them from the rest. The full-time variant is a month long-9am-to-5:30pm-five days a week, intense course whereas the duration varies when it comes to part time options, from 3 months up to a year, depending on the training provider.

I opted for the month long, intense one. It’s a great challenge and you are done in four weeks. Though that will be your life for those four weeks. No time for anything else. You are pre-warned by EVERYONE who has already done it and the course trainer.

When deciding where to apply, make sure you check the training providers offering them are accredited (for CELTA you can check here and for CertTESOL here)

d) Any funding available?

For both CELTA and CertTESOL you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan(ALL) at specific providers, which will cover your tuition fees up to £811 for CerTESOL, that may not cover the tuition fee and £1417 for CELTA which is what most providers charge for it (list here for CELTA and here for TESOL). Oh by the way, there is a long list of qualifications you can get an ALL for! All details about the loan, repayment terms etc here.

e) What’s the application process like?

Applying was a bit scary for me, since I haven’t applied for any course for a long, long time and my self-confidence levels are running a bit low lately, but it wasn’t half as bad as I thought it’d be.

I applied at Cambridge Regional College, so what I’ll describe is their application process but it’s very similar to most of other providers.

Pre-Interview task. Part of the application (in addition to the usual personal and education information) is a pre-interview task mainly consisting of grammar, syntax questions and ways you’d teach various English language related items. See examples here. I was allowed to use books and the internet for my answers.

-The interview. I was very nervous on the day, I was terrified I’d be asked a million grammar questions on the spot, but it wasn’t that bad at all. Jonny, the course trainer and interviewer was very sweet and put me at ease straight away.

I was offered a Skype interview, it would have been a nightmare getting to Cambridge at 10am, so I spent a tenner to get a chair for the dining table (I could have sat on the sofa, but in my head it seemed unprofessional), an unhealthy amount of time deciding where to set the table, where to put the chair and so on (of course the overthinking took over).

I woke up early, had breakfast, did my make-up, put a nice semi-formal top on (I kept reminding myself this was not a job interview but it’s hard to get out of that mentality), got a cushion and my blanket to keep my feet warm and made a cuppa. All set!

After introducing ourselves and talking a bit about my background and the reasons I wanted to do the course, we then went over my pre-interview task answers, to make sure my level was English was adequate. There was also a short 15 minute interview exercise, with a couple of questions, similar to the ones on the pre-interview task.

He then told me more about what the course entails, the units we’ll cover, that teaching starts from day two and the fact I won’t have any social life for a month. What I got from what Jonny and some of my friends and colleagues who’ve done the course, as mentioned earlier, is that it will be intense, time and life consuming for four weeks but also rewarding.

‘It was tough, but so worth it!’ every single person who’s done it told me.

The main purpose of the interview is not to check your Grammar or vocabulary skills (the trainer has to check your level of English is satisfactory, but they don’t expect anyone to be an expert and know every single rule or exception). It’s for them to make sure you are applying for the right reasons and you are aware of the intensity of the course and for you to understand what’s about and whether you are prepared to take it on.

The interview concluded with Jonny offering me a place, explaining what the next steps will be and sending me a book recommendation list and a pre-course task, so I can start preparing.

That’s what I’m about to start now. Any questions or advice, comment below!