Teaching English Abroad

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Teaching English abroad is a necessary achievement because of the growth in English usage. English is the international language of science, medicine, information technology, and business, and is fast becoming the international language in other fields as well. For example, according to a recent issue of Newsweek, all of the world's top 10 universities are in the U.S. and Britain, and 30-40% of our doctoral students come from foreign countries. If foreign students want the best education to get the best jobs, they need to speak English.

Many universities in the U.S. and the U.K. offer a Master’s Degree in ESL or EFL teaching, and many schools throughout the world hire native-English speakers even without specific training. Some private companies also offer short courses to obtain a “teaching certificate,” but they are no substitute for formal education or experience in the field.

The greatest demand for teachers is in Asia and South America, but salaries tend to be low and working conditions not up to Western Standards. The richer countries of the Middle East offer higher pay and better working conditions, but the U.S. State Department may advise U.S. citizens against travel in some parts of the region. European countries also hire native English teachers but competition is stiff.

Potential teachers should exercise caution since some web sites selling short certificate courses feature fictitious “want ads,” i.e. schools that don’t exist advertising for “Teacher wanted…Short certificate required.” Genuine want ads can be found in the New York Times quarterly Education Supplement, the Boston Globe Education Section, the Manchester Guardian and other newspapers.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal beware of sites that ask you to enter your personal information in a "resumè database," since you may be at risk of identity theft. Schools aren't so desperate for teachers that they go searching through the databases of sites selling short certificate courses of questionable value.

Content and Methods

Traditional textbooks that present grammatical constructions, common vocabulary and exercises are widely used for mature students, with greater use of color illustrations, easy stories and games for younger learners. Multimedia software on CD-ROM or DVD are very popular with children. The British National Corpus, a statistical analysis of the most frequent words and word-groups in popular writing and speech, has led to the experimental teaching of "key words" and their usage, rather than grammar rules. This innovative approach is refreshing for students who have already worked through a traditional grammar book, but the success of the approach has yet to be documented.

Modern teacher training is based on recent research on learning and memory, which suggests that scholastic success most closely correlates with the student's internal motivation, as well as the obvious basics (quantity of time spent studying and the individual student's ability or talent for learning a particular subject). Experienced teachers recognize that each student is unique, so the "best" method for some students may not be the best method for other students.

A problem in the question of teaching methods is the distinction between learning and performance, since assessment tests measure a student's short-term memory and mood at the moment of testing, and not necessarily the student's long-term memory. Some teachers with long experience teaching English abroad suggest that learning the local language is the responsibility of every ESL teacher. Further discussions of these issues may be found in such journals as Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional.

External Links:

Cambridge Examinations Teacher career development.

Teach English in Southern Italy Informative site for ESL/EFL teachers who want to teach English in Italy. Jobs with private and public schools are listed with details and updated daily.

Jobs-in-Europe Includes teaching positions.

Teach English in Italy Advice and job list.

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