Acronyms are widely used within the English language teaching world and EFL is one of the most common. English as a Foreign Language is typically used to describe any scenario where English is being taught or learned in a country where English is not the main language. In this situation most students are learning English as part of their school studies, in order to travel overseas, or as a hobby, and they rarely get to use it outside of their lessons. An example of EFL would be an American teaching English to Italians in Rome.
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While EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language, ESL stands for English as a Second Language. In practice these two acronyms are regularly used interchangeably when talking about English teaching, however, there is a genuine difference between the two that you should be aware of. As previously mentioned, EFL is mainly used when the language is being taught or learned in a non-English speaking country. In contrast, ESL is mainly used when the language is being learned in a country where English is the main language. An example of ESL would be a Korean immigrant learning English in Chicago.
Although EFL teaching can be found in most non-English speaking countries to some degree, there are certain places where it is more common. Countries that have a particularly strong demand for EFL teachers often offer a wider range of job options, as well as a higher average salary in many cases. The majority of the most popular EFL countries can be found in Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Asia is well known to have far more EFL teaching jobs than any other region. Many countries have a very strong demand for EFL teachers in mainstream schools and private language schools and these can often be found at any time of the year. A simple Google search will reveal hundreds of vacant positions across dozens of fascinating countries, although the requirements for each country do vary considerably. Some are open to anyone with a TEFL qualification, while others require a bachelorâs degree and a passport from an English speaking country. China has had the most job options of any country in the world for several years and despite a recent lull due to the pandemic, that is likely to continue for some years to come. Other countries with big markets for foreign teachers include Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Smaller markets can also be found in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Europe is often high on the list of many newly qualified English teachers, despite it being more difficult to get a good balance between income and outgoings than in many other parts of the world. People are often drawn to the region by the promise of a familiar culture that is potentially less difficult to get used to than countries in Asia or Latin America. Whether this is actually true or not is debatable, but it doesnât change the fact that thousands of foreign EFL teachers work within Europe every year. The most popular destinations include France, Italy, and Spain in the west of the region, where jobs are widespread, but the cost of living is relatively high. Countries in the east of the region are gradually becoming more and more popular due to the lower expenses involved and less competition for the top jobs. The Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia are just a few of the more popular options.
Latin America covers a large area and around 20 countries, many of which have a good market for TEFL qualified teachers. Average salaries across the region are typically less than you would find elsewhere, however, the cost of living is also relatively low allowing teachers to live comfortably in most countries. One of the big attractions of Latin America is its close proximity to the USA and Canada which makes it much easier for teachers from these countries. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico have long established markets that attract large numbers of teachers year-in, year-out, while many others have seen a recent growth in opportunities and potential incomes. Up and coming options that are well worth checking out include Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay.
Although most of this region is technically part of Asia, the Middle East gets its own section due to the very strong market for foreign teachers that exists in many countries. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are two of the biggest employers of EFL teachers in the world, while several other countries also have plenty of jobs on offer at most times of the year. Unfortunately for some teachers these markets might be out of reach as the bar is often set very high by employers when it comes to the requirements for vacant jobs. Many positions will require at least one year of teaching experience, as well as teaching qualifications and a degree. However, for those that can meet the requirements, the potential rewards are excellent. Salaries are typically very generous and often tax free, while added benefits such as free accommodation, paid flights, and cash bonuses are commonplace. The requirements are sometimes less stringent in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Turkey.