How to Teach English as a Foreign Language

Teaching Abroad Direct

It's estimated that, in 2022, there were 1.35 billion people speaking English worldwide, with 360 million of those speaking it as their primary language. With such a lot of people trying to learn or improve their understanding of English, there's a strong market of teaching jobs for English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers, who work with children and adults in both the UK and other countries to help them learn English or improve their proficiency in the language.

Pronunciation, speaking, and writing in sentences, as well as understanding of nouns, verbs, and adjectives can all be improved with the right guidance. English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers can help people who are looking to move to an English-speaking country, those who are trying to enter the world of business, or students who are working to complete English lessons in school. Read on to learn more about TEFL jobs and how to find one.

Who is TEFL for?

Speaking, listening, reading and writing are the four basic language skills, and EFL teachers aim to improve this in their students by encouraging them to communicate using a new vocabulary and language structures they have learned in their English language course. Although literature, games, and formal exercises are used, (along with books, other course materials, and audiovisual activities), most emphasis is placed on using dialogue and role-playing.

Throughout the UK and overseas, EFL teachers can work in schools, further and higher education institutions, and commercial language schools. It's also possible to teach in industry settings or to operate as a self-employed teacher.

For people who want to learn English for leisure or work, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) normally consists of short-term study either in the UK or abroad.

People who don't speak English as a first language but who live in an English-speaking country, such as immigrants or refugees, often need to learn English to help settle into society. Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) is more commonly used in these cases. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) refers to both TEFL and TESL, along with other variations like ESOL and ESL.

How to Teach English as a Foreign Language

An EFL teacher’s responsibilities

An EFL teacher has a number of responsibilities, such as:

Qualifications to teach English as a foreign language

A TEFL certification shows two things. Firstly, that the bearer is a native English speaker, and secondly, that they have been professionally trained in how to teach English as a foreign language. This certification is essential when applying for a role in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America, and will be highly preferred, if not required.

In many countries, holding an accredited TEFL certification is enough, and there's no need for previous teaching experience or even a related degree. However, in some countries, such as Japan and South Korea, the certification must be paired with a bachelor's degree as a minimum. Teaching experience and a master's degree-level qualification will give an advantage in some Middle Eastern countries.

If you're taking an accredited and legitimate TEFL course, you should expect at least 100 hours of coursework and 6-20+ hours of professional teaching experience. A recognised course will be taught by university-level tutors, and will be properly accredited.

Other requirements to become a TEFL teacher

Aside from teaching qualifications, there are two other requirements for those wanting to know how to become a TEFL teacher. The first is a valid passport, with enough time on it to cover the planned working period, (it's worth bearing in mind that some countries require a significant overlap in dates of six months to a year).

The second requirement is a working visa for the planned country. It's vital to know which visa is necessary and the process of applying for it. Before enrolling in a TEFL course, it's a good idea to contact the International TEFL Academy (ITA) Admissions Advisor to get answers to the relevant questions:

Another thing to consider is how to financially prepare to teach abroad. It's essential to take into account costs like the certification course, flights and other travel, and the cost of living in the country you've chosen to teach in (compared to the expected income you'll receive).

There are also many soft skills that are just as important within a teaching role:

Where can I teach English as a second language?

While there are many countries around the world where there is a demand for EFL teachers, there are some that offer a comfortable lifestyle, welcoming communities, easy visa processes and other lifestyle benefits like warmer climates.


Short hours, relaxed workplaces, tax-free income and luxurious living conditions are all benefits that attract EFL teachers to Dubai. A requirement for the highest teacher qualifications makes it difficult to get into the international schools with the most positions, but the opportunities and locations are worth the work for those who want to teach children English as a foreign language. Around 75% of Dubai’s population is made up of expats, meaning you’d find plenty of people who have something in common with you there.

South Korea

Due to burgeoning international commerce, South Korea has a high demand for English teachers and some of the highest salaries on offer, as well as a lower cost of living.


Education in Japan is highly valued, so job requirements can be stricter than in some other countries, but this is reflected in competitive pay and generous compensation packages. The cost of living is higher than in some places, but the students are often better behaved due to Japan's respectful culture. There are plenty of TEFL jobs in Japan for qualified teachers.


With a recent explosion in tourism and a longstanding connection to international exchange (due to its proximity to the Strait of Gibraltar), Morocco has plenty of EFL teaching opportunities. Most demand for roles are either at large international schools, or instructing adults at private language institutions.

Why become a TEFL teacher?

Here are some reasons why becoming a TEFL teacher should be your next career move.

How to find TEFL jobs

Once qualified, finding a TEFL job is very similar to finding any other job. A good place to start is our TEFL job board which shows our current job openings in countries all around the world. Online job boards often list thousands of jobs, and allow applicants to search by salary, destination country, or passport and education requirements. As with other jobs, applicants will normally apply online using a CV, and progress to an interview with school owners, directors of studies, or recruitment coordinators.

If you have a specific country or region in mind, one way to start could be to personally send their CV directly to language schools in the area. Reaching out to a director of studies or recruitment coordinator could uncover a job vacancy that hasn't been advertised online.

In some cases, already being in the target country to work or study could be an advantage, especially if the school in question prefers to interview in person.

Another option is to teach English online. This can suit people who want to work from home, who are already working abroad and are looking for extra work, or who need flexible hours. Freelancing makes it possible to set your own hours or boundaries, and online companies are looking for EFL teachers.


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