The Biggest Misconceptions about TEFL/TESOL Discussed


Today, we are going to talk about the “biggest misconceptions about TEFL and TESOL and teaching English abroad”. We get a lot of questions here at ITT, and a lot of people are confused and I just want to clear a few things up, some myths here and there, and I think I've narrowed it down to eight misconceptions that we're going to look at and you can throw your questions at me at any time.

I would also really like to know where you are like in your TEFL journey, are you currently taking a TEFL or TESOL course? Are you thinking about it? Are you already certified? Or are you already teaching abroad? Let me know, that would be interesting to know.

Let's jump right into the biggest misconceptions about TEFL and TESOL and teaching English abroad. Let me just start off by explaining quickly the difference between TEFL and TESOL, because this is also something that you know we get asked all the time, like what's the difference which one should I get etc.

I just want to mention that TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language and TESOL stands for teaching English to speakers of other languages, so they sound very similar right the acronyms the explanations and, indeed,
They are pretty much the same thing. Especially nowadays, they kind of merged into the same thing so whether you're doing a TEFL course or a TESOL course, the training essentially is exactly the same and the only difference is you know that TEFL is most commonly used within the UK and Europe, and the TESOL acronym is preferred in Australia and the USA. It just depends where you're from. In Europe people most likely use the term TEFL more, and in Australia and the USA they most likely use TESOL. It entails the exact same training and actually on our certificates, this is what it looks like and you can actually choose if your certificate should say TEFL or TESOL so depending on where you're from or where you want to teach, you can choose that, but also it says here International TEFL and TESOL Training ITTT. It does mention both TEFL and TESOL. But then further down here, I chose TEFL: 120-hour TEFL course so you can choose whether your certificate should say TEFL or TESOL, it's totally up to you.
Let's talk about the biggest misconceptions. I've narrowed it down to eight but I'm sure there's more, but those are the most important ones that I thought we should cover because a lot of people get confused. Let's start with the first one. The number one biggest misconception about teaching English is that it's really hard to find a job teaching English abroad. You know we hear this a lot. It's so hard to find a job and it's so hard to find a teaching job abroad and stuff and like that. Sure, you know it always depends on your own qualifications and if you're set on this one destination. Then maybe, it can be a little bit hard to find a job in that one place that you might want to go to. It always depends on your personal qualifications and stuff.

But actually according to the British Council, in 2020, there are 2 billion people around the world speaking and learning English. There's a huge demand for English language education worldwide and actually one of the biggest markets or areas/regions in terms of demand for English language teaching is Asia. In Asia, the biggest one is China. In china alone there are 200 million people learning English, so you'll find a lot of jobs specifically offered in China than in other countries around Asia, East Asia, South Korea, where I'm a, or Japan, Taiwan also Southeast Asia, Latin America are all huge markets.

You know even during the pandemic we still get a lot of job offers, schools are still hiring. So there's a huge demand. It's obvious that different countries have different requirements. It always depends. Some people have to adjust a little bit, in terms of destination. But you can always do a certification and up your TEFL certification.
That's why we offer so many different courses for all kinds of scenarios. We have the basic TEFL course. We also have all these specializations. We have a diploma in TESOL - so whatever your background you can take these certifications to then find the job that you really want. That's why I would say this is one of the biggest misconceptions because the demand is so huge and you can definitely find a job teaching English abroad.

Let's move on to the next number two biggest misconceptions about teaching English. Number two is that you need a degree to teach English abroad. We get that asked a lot, do I need to have a degree and do I need to have a degree in English? Do I need to have a degree in teaching? Do you have to have a teaching license?
So yes it is true that in some countries, some schools also require their teachers to have a degree, at least a four-year degree, a bachelor's degree. But then even if that's the case, the bachelor's degree doesn't have to be in English, it can be any major, for example in my case, my bachelor's degree major is management and foreign languages, and you can still find a job if you do not have a degree.

Don't despair there are still many locations where you can get hired, and you can find a job if you don't have a degree. Those places are usually Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos places like that or Latin America. So even if you don't have a degree you can still find a job teaching English abroad. You might have to be a little bit more flexible in terms of location, but it's definitely possible and you can always take your TEFL course to stand out from the crowd if you don't have a degree.
Number three of the biggest misconceptions about teaching English is: TEFL doesn't pay well. I always have to laugh about that, because you need to consider the location. Salaries vary from country to country and even in the country, they vary from city to city, region to region. There's no set TEFL salary.

It always depends on where you teach and also the type of school you work at. Private schools are going to pay a different salary than private schools or universities or international schools and stuff like that. If you want to make the most money teaching English abroad, the best region or location to look to would be the Middle East, so in the Middle East, they have really the highest salaries out there. You can make like four, five, or six thousand dollars.
A lot of countries in that region also pay their salaries tax-free to their teachers. That's really awesome and there's a lot of extra benefits, like free housing, free airfare, health care end of contract bonuses all of those things so you can make a lot of money in that region, but they also tend to have a little bit higher requirements in terms of degree and TEFL certificate and work experience and all that stuff.

Another great region to look for in terms of salary is East Asia. You can make a lot of money in China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. They pay the highest salaries. In that area there are also a lot of great benefits, like if you come to South Korea for example, most schools will provide housing. You don't have to worry about rent, you live for free. Basically the school takes care of that, you get health care, end of contract bonuses, there's a pension scheme.

You basically pay into the national pension scheme in South Korea and then when you leave, you get all that money back. That's also really great. There's a lot of things like that, you always have to remember you know the local cost of living, for example, if you teach in Thailand, maybe your salary won't be that high maybe it's like 1600 US dollars, but you know 1600 US dollars are going to get you much further in Southeast Asia and Thailand than it would back home. So, always consider those things. I have a lot of friends who are teachers, who every opportunity, they get every holiday, every vacation they go and they have the money to go to all these amazing places around Asia around the world.
A lot of my friends they have paid off their student loans from back home, a lot of my friends they save, they are able to to save a good chunk of their salary and save that or send the money back home or save it for when they go back to buy a house or a car or whatever. It's definitely a good career choice in terms of money. I wouldn't say that it doesn't pay well. Definitely, I think that's a misconception.

All right, moving on the biggest misconception about teaching English, number 4 is: I need to speak another language. Basically people always ask us, hey, I want to teach English in Spain, do I need to speak Spanish, or I'm going to China to teach English, do I need to speak Chinese? And the answer is no!!
You do not need to know your host country's language typically.

Most of the time, they do not expect you to know their language, because you're the English teacher. You are there to teach the students English. For example at my school where I used to work at, we even had an English-only policy where the students and the teachers were encouraged to only speak English in the school on premises for total English immersion of the students. However, I definitely recommend picking up some basic phrases before you go because things like please and thank you, they go a long way if you know them in the language, where you are teaching. You're also going to be able to build rapport with the locals and I think that's just a great thing and you should definitely pick up some basic words and phrases, before you go, even when you get there in the country of your choice, there will be so many options to go and learn the language. For example in South Korea, we have the YMCA in every city. They offer Korean classes. Then typically every city around the world will have language exchanges typically around university areas that you can go to and all these kinds of things and so I think that's a really great way to learn a new language, but it's not a requirement, definitely not.

Moving on to number five of the biggest misconceptions about teaching English: you have to teach kids. We get a lot of questions like, hey I want to teach English but I don't want to teach kids so I probably can't go abroad. It is true that the largest target for EFL around the world is children, that's definitely true. especially in Asia, all the after-school programs are typically targeted at children obviously, but you can still find positions if you don't want to teach children. At universities, there's also business English.
You get classes where you teach children as young as two or three years old but then you can also teach like high school kids, so it always depends.
In my personal opinion, I feel like a teacher should always kind of get experience teaching all different kinds of levels. Number six of the biggest misconception about teaching English: TEFL is only for young people. We actually get a lot of older people taking our TEFL courses, people in their 50s in their 60s, because they also want to top up their retirement or they want to move abroad and do something exciting during their retirement.
A lot of countries also hire older people as teachers, that's definitely true and it's not only for young people. One thing that you have to consider, if you are old there be retirement age in different countries. so I know for example in China and in Korea, especially in Asian countries, the retirement age can be between 55 and 65. So it might be a little bit difficult if you're older to get a position, especially those targeted at children.

They always have this sort of stereotype that older people might not be as fit and enthusiastic and have the energy to teach children, which you know is not always true but a lot of markets, a lot of schools especially in terms of business English, they like to hire older people because of business English and the people the students are going to be older there, too, so it might be better to have an older teacher in terms of respect and stuff like that, but it is not impossible to find a job if you're an older person.

I've personally met a lot of older people teaching in China, in Korea as well even despite the retirement age. There are workarounds and some schools are eager to hire people with more experience so that's definitely something to consider.

Number seven of the biggest misconceptions about teaching English is “you don't need a TEFL qualification if you're a native English speaker”, so if you're a native English speaker you can just hop on the plane, arrive in the country of your destination, and people will be there and hire you off the airport. That's some people think like that but obviously, that is not the case. It might have been the case 20 years back when teaching English abroad kind of became a thing and it was new but it is not the case anymore and actually a lot of countries have made it a legal requirement in order to actually obtain a work visa to be TEFL or TESOL certified.

Countries like China have that regulation where you need to have a TEFL in order to get a work visa to be a teacher there. Many other countries have followed suit since then, even in countries where it's maybe not a requirement to have a TEFL certificate the schools in those countries might still require their teachers to be TEFL certified anyway because TEFL on TESOL sort of just has become the international standard. Without a TEFL or TESOL, it's going to be really hard because for me, a TEFL certificate or a TESOL certificate really is kind of two things. On the one hand, it's this piece of paper in your hand that you can show people like look I'm a certified teacher but on the other hand, this TEFL or TESOL course also teaches you the skills and the knowledge necessary for you know teach because only being a native English speaker doesn't mean you're able to actually teach and understand what your students’ needs are and that's what a TEFL on TESOL course teaches you.

So I for myself, want to provide the best value to my students and that's why I take a TEFL or TESOL course. So it's two things and the schools they also know that they see this teacher has a TEFL or a TESOL they are serious about the job because a lot of schools might think some people just move to a different country to have fun, to travel and obviously that would not be a good candidate for their school. So they're looking for someone who's serious and really wants to be a teacher.

Moving on to the final misconception number eight, the final misconception about teaching English “you have to be a native English speaker to teach”. It is true that some countries only hire native English speakers or speakers with passports from certain countries. However, there are still many countries where they also hire non-native English speakers who are certified, who have experience or no experience it depends on the school and the location but actually there's a lot of non-native English speakers who want to be English teachers and there's so many benefits to that. Non-native English speaking teachers have been through the whole process themselves. They learned English themselves, so they know exactly what students might struggle with and a lot of schools they see that and they hire people like that and a lot of our ITTT course grads are non-native English speakers and they move on to amazing careers abroad or in their own country. So just because you're not a native English speaker, it's not gonna hold you back from teaching abroad. It might limit some choices in terms of destination but it's not going to be a deal breaker, in fact many schools see it as an advantage.

Now we would move on to the open question-answer session, and I'll finally have some time to look at the comments as well.
Jacqueline says: Hello from Wisconsin USA.
Okay, then we have a question: I'm not a native speaker but I'm interested in taking the TESOL certificate. Do you think it is hard for non-native speakers to find a job as a teacher?

So that's what I just talked about. I think that answers the question. Let me know if you missed it. You can re-watch but I just answered this question.

Teacher Lewis says: amazing presentation.

Thanks so much, it means a lot, I hope it's helpful. That's why I'm here, that's why I do it but thanks that's great.

Then we have somebody from Russia asking: do you guys have TOEFL?

No we do not have TOEFL. Those are different things. So a TOEFL is for English proficiency and English proficiency certification. So we do something different, we do teaching certificates. People who want to teach English abroad take a TEFL or a TESOL course not a TOEFL. However, if you maybe are a TEFL or TESOL teacher later on you might have to do some TOEFL training, you know some TOEFL prep classes and stuff like that.

Okay, we have another question: Hi, I am in Botswana, Africa, and I am a TESOL TEFL graduate. I want to work in China. Awesome, China is hiring like crazy. I think you're not going to have any problem if you have a TESOL or TEFL certificate. Go for it, apply for jobs and pick the best one. That's my recommendation.
Let's look at these questions from Nadine: Hi from the Philippines, applying for either Japan or Taiwan soon. I just got my certificate last month, any tips?

Well, you already have your certificate, they probably are going to do Skype interviews with you, so my tip would be to prepare yourself for that. We actually have some pointers, some tips about that on our FAQ section, and also you might want to check that out on our blog. We actually have a blog post about the most frequently asked questions in a TEFL interview.
Then I would also research the school so that you know a little bit about the school beforehand and sometimes they might even ask you to give a short mock lesson. So you might want to prepare a little bit for that, like a 10,15,20 minute mock lesson depending on what the school's target students are. You can prepare that. They might just be like, hey teacher, show us how you teach, so prepare that, that would be a good idea. You better be more prepared than underprepared. Good luck.
Then we have Jacqueline, she says, I'm in my mid-50s and was finally at a point in my life where I was able to seriously move forward with teaching. I was interviewing in fall 2019, then learned I was going to be a grandma.
OK that was your answer to why you didn't go abroad yet. Okay well, I mean it's still not too late. Even you could go, you can find some short-term positions as well. I know there's a lot of short-term stuff in Latin America/South America. That might be something, you could go and teach for just a few months, and then come back home. Typical teaching contracts are one year. So you could go somewhere, move abroad for a year and come back. But I totally get it when you're a grandma, just became a grandma. I think you might not want to leave so soon. So I totally understand, but then there's also the option of teaching English online. Especially nowadays, a lot of platforms hiring people from all over the world, TEFL and TESOL certified people to teach English online. So that might be something you could look into.
Okay, one more question, “Can you tell me if your school would provide an online BA in TESOL in the future?”.
I think we are definitely working on something like that. So I can't give any details as of now, but we are always evolving our courses, adding new courses to our range.
So you never know what's going to come, but that would be definitely something, that we can look into, and perhaps offer in the future. So always stay tuned.
We always share any news and everything on our Facebook page and social media. So just stay connected, like, and follow, so that you're up to date. Thanks for the question.

Another one from Jacqueline: thank you, Linda, I've learned a lot and enjoyed it. I'm thinking about teaching online.
You should. I think it'd be great for you and there are so many different platforms out there. You can really pick and choose which one fits your lifestyle. Some have different teaching hours or minimum hours that you have to do per month or per week. So you can definitely find one that fits your lifestyle.
This was a lot of fun. So thank you so much for joining today.

Register now & get certified to teach english abroad!