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Need advice for getting started in TEFL
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Coolguy123



Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 132

PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:33 am    Post subject: Need advice for getting started in TEFL Reply with quote

Looking to get started in EFL teaching. I'm interested because I want to change career paths towards education, I'm interested in language and culture, and I want to be in an international environment.

Background-

B.A. in English Literature and minor in Philosophy, some coursework and experience in writing fiction/non-fiction. I originally intended to study comparative literature or foreign langauge in graduate school with aims at teaching/professorship but I've been working for a few years in the tech field.

Basically I've realized that I'm not really interested in the field that I'm doing currently, both because I'm not super money-driven and because I'm not interested in technical subjects or the industry. Just kind of ended up doing it because of the jobs available.

Other Info-

I've found that I thrive the best in international environments, enjoy cultural exchange, and enjoy learning and teaching others. I taught EFL briefly abroad previously, and seemed to like the job better than others.

Plan -

Seems like a CELTA is recommended from what I've heard. I have an in person, 4-week CELTA course available to me, which while expensive, seems like a good option in terms of credentials and counseling/info available.

After that, I figure Korea or Taiwan would be a good option in terms of opportunities and low bar of entry. While I'm open to other options including Europe, those positions seem to require more credentials and pay less. While I'm not super money-driven, I'd like to have a decent lifestyle and put away at least some savings.

From there, I figure I would either move further into an EFL career into a more "real" type EFL job or, depending on the situation, get a higher education degree in a foreign language somewhere abroad, study a language full-time to become fluent to work in a different career somewhere abroad, or some other option I haven't thought of yet, like teaching in an international school back in the U.S.

Anyone have any input on my idea here? Any comments would be helpful on the research that I've done so far.
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tttompatz



Joined: 06 Mar 2010
Posts: 1951
Location: Talibon, Bohol, Philippines

PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I assume you are from the States.

Your plan to get a CELTA (specific brand of TEFL/TESOL cert) is a good idea.
It does carry more weight globally than some generic TEFL cert (like "oxford seminars, i to i, etc).

IF you are American you can pretty rule out most of Western Europe because of visa issues. That pretty much leaves you with S.America (pay is crap) and Asia.

Korea is an option but you need to take that discussion to the Korean boards (separate registration required) since we can't discuss Korea here in the international forums.

Taiwan is not a great option since you are limited to working in Buxibans.
China and Thailand are viable options. With a degree and a CELTA you can legally find work in both (as well as all the other countries in SE Asia with the exception of the Philippines).

While the base pay may be lower than Korea or Taiwan the potential for savings (due to the much lower costs of living) are equal to or higher than Taiwan and Korea and travel is much easier (lower costs and more options).

There are also other options that may open up to you in both countries allowing you to improve your standard of living, increase your income and branch out of "EFL" and into other more interesting fields.

Look around and get a feel for the industry and the job. Then your questions will be less like, "How high is up" type questions and more informed answers will come your way.

.
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Coolguy123



Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 132

PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I'm from the U.S.

Thanks for the useful comments. Smile Yeah, I'm going to start applying more and hopefully get a little better feel for things from talking to recruiters and employers and whatnot. Just need to polish my resume a little more and make it suitable for teaching jobs.

Will the CELTA be applicable to all jobs and locations or do some places want different ones? I assume since all CELTA courses are accredited, it would be universally accepted/desired regardless of location. I just want to make sure I get a certification that will be applicable since it's quite expensive before I put down the money.
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tttompatz



Joined: 06 Mar 2010
Posts: 1951
Location: Talibon, Bohol, Philippines

PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coolguy123 wrote:
Yeah, I'm from the U.S.

Thanks for the useful comments. Smile Yeah, I'm going to start applying more and hopefully get a little better feel for things from talking to recruiters and employers and whatnot. Just need to polish my resume a little more and make it suitable for teaching jobs.

Will the CELTA be applicable to all jobs and locations or do some places want different ones? I assume since all CELTA courses are accredited, it would be universally accepted/desired regardless of location. I just want to make sure I get a certification that will be applicable since it's quite expensive before I put down the money.


CELTA is recognized anywhere that a TEFL/TESOL cert is needed.
If is also an assurance of a decent quality course (not always true with "generic" programs).
For ALL of East/SE Asia you are good to go when you are ready as far as actually getting a job with the proper paperwork (visa/permits).

For MOST of Asia (other than Korea/China) you will probably need to be "on-the-ground" to get decent work. Using recruiters for countries like Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Myanmar is not usually a good idea.

You'll want to see what you are getting into BEFORE you sign on the dotted line. Asia is NOT the Litigious States of America and getting issues fixed after the fact is usually a no-go (you'll be fired first).

.
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Coolguy123



Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 132

PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I've heard a few stories from a few people who complained that they felt like their employers tricked them to some degree. Obviously good to prepare as much as possible to avoid such situations.

I'm also thinking about Eastern Europe/Russia but it seems like the pay is fairly low (mostly subsistence). So is the only realistic option Asia unless you have a really specific place in mind you want to go for some reason?
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1838

PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm dealing with a few points you brought up:

low bar of entry
I can't see why this is a criterion for you. Not only will you have a CELTA, but also a degree in English and another 'literate' subject. I think you will limit yourself if you factor this into your calculations.

more "real" type EFL job
I am not sure what is intended here. However, your degree in English will be respected academically, should you decide to carry on later to study at postgraduate level and to teach at universities.

I'm also thinking about Eastern Europe/Russia but it seems like the pay is fairly low (mostly subsistence). So is the only realistic option Asia unless you have a really specific place in mind you want to go for some reason?
Language schools in Russia can pay reasonably: usually, you have a difficult first year and then things usually crop up. I would suggest going to the Russia/CIS forum, also Ukraine forum, before ruling these areas out. (High demand in Kiev, if it is anything like it was a few years back. Not that I was particularly fond of Kiev.)
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Coolguy123



Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 132

PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thought I would add an update after having done tons of research and thinking about this.

Well I'm leaning towards Korea actually, but I guess I'll have to post on the Korean boards about that.

The issue is that here I am, 28 years of age, and I'm worried about getting stuck in the "sticks" in China. I'm fairly sociable, and like to have an active social life and such. I also have a friend in Korea and it seems to be the exciting, "place to go" for young folks. Sorry if I already went into too much detail.

Basically I'm looking for a place that can balance good earnings and experience with a good personal life experience.

Regarding the previous post, I didn't realize until now that an English degree would help me considerably, but it sounds like it might. I also start the CELTA next week, so hopefully that will give me a leg up on things, but it's pretty abstract as to the advantages those two things would give me. Anyone have any ideas of what kind of opportunities/advantages an English degree and CELTA might give?

Quote:
low bar of entry
I can't see why this is a criterion for you. Not only will you have a CELTA, but also a degree in English and another 'literate' subject. I think you will limit yourself if you factor this into your calculations.


I found this comment really interesting. What does this mean? What types of positions might be available? Should I be trying to avoid the entry-level type jobs? Would these entail more responsibilities?

Other than that, I do have some postgraduate experience in an M.F.A. in Creating Writing. I stopped in the middle because I wasn't sure I wanted to continue with it, or what advantages would be concurred from completing it. Any possible advantages from the coursework, or any reason to possibly complete the degree?

I appreciate all the valuable feedback from everyone. I'm going to start sending resumes with increasing frequency since my CELTA is going to be underway and I'll be needing to find a job and choose a location/position fairly soon.
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1838

PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You said ".. I figure Korea or Taiwan would be a good option in terms of opportunities and low bar of entry." I just didn't see why you would want to look at a 'low bar of entry' from the situation of being an English graduate with a CELTA. I'm not saying that you would be getting more than an entry level job in your first year or two - sorry if I gave that impression - but am suggesting that you don't have to force yourself into the worst jobs going. You can compete for the more decent ones. That's all.
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11453
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2013 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Coolguy123 wrote:
B.A. in English Literature and minor in Philosophy, some coursework and experience in writing fiction/non-fiction.

and wrote:
...I didn't realize until now that an English degree would help me considerably, but it sounds like it might. I also start the CELTA next week, so hopefully that will give me a leg up on things, but it's pretty abstract as to the advantages those two things would give me. Anyone have any ideas of what kind of opportunities/advantages an English degree and CELTA might give?

Other than that, I do have some postgraduate experience in an M.F.A. in Creating Writing. I stopped in the middle because I wasn't sure I wanted to continue with it, or what advantages would be concurred from completing it. Any possible advantages from the coursework, or any reason to possibly complete the degree?

Depending on where you want to teach past your initial target country, your BA in English Literature may not satisfy the qualification requirement for a degree in English (or other TEFL-related field). For example, in the Mid East, employers at the university level do not consider Eng lit as relevant; some will actually indicate in their list of qualifications that a lit degree is not acceptable for English language teaching positions. Anyway, the two fields aren't the same; English literature relates to literary forms within an English cultural context, whereas English focuses on the language. Something to think about when referring to your degree.

If you complete an MFA in Creative Writing, it's likely to cause you the same problem depending on where you plan to teach EFL over the next umteen years. In the long run, a relevant MA would serve you better in terms of competing for teaching jobs worldwide, especially if you have the Mid East in mind or intend to teach at the uni level in the US.
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Coolguy123



Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 132

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I just didn't see why you would want to look at a 'low bar of entry' from the situation of being an English graduate with a CELTA. I'm not saying that you would be getting more than an entry level job in your first year or two - sorry if I gave that impression - but am suggesting that you don't have to force yourself into the worst jobs going. You can compete for the more decent ones. That's all.


Thanks for the words of encouragement, that does make me feel better about landing a decent gig.

Quote:
Depending on where you want to teach past your initial target country, your BA in English Literature may not satisfy the qualification requirement for a degree in English (or other TEFL-related field). For example, in the Mid East, employers at the university level do not consider Eng lit as relevant; some will actually indicate in their list of qualifications that a lit degree is not acceptable for English language teaching positions.


That was one of my concerns, but I'm sure it looks better than having a degree that's completely non-relevant, maybe not by much though depending on the position like you said. Thanks for clarifying,

Slightly off topic, I've been studying an English grammar book in preparation for the CELTA course. I find it pretty interesting, which is encouraging since most people complain about having to learn grammar in grade school. I'm learning a lot about words that I use and understand without thinking and better understanding their meaning explicitly, a pretty interesting experience.
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1838

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, learning some of the ins and outs of grammar before starting your course is definitely a good idea. Well done.
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JustinC



Joined: 15 Mar 2013
Posts: 138
Location: The Land That Time Forgot

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And good luck in the course, I found it really tough going but very rewarding also. It's good to read up on grammar but you won't be using much of that in the classroom unless you're teaching upper intermediate or advanced students (who will usually, in my experience, be adults). Reading up on classroom control would be a good idea, especially for a newbie.

Being out in the sticks in K or C Land is not the worst thing, if there are good, fast transport links to a large city. In fact some people prefer to live in a quieter area but be able to hit the town at the weekends. Being near a train station is great, it's not much fun having to walk 20 minutes to a bus stop, then take a 25 minute, bumpy bus ride to a train station, then an hour on a subway (I had to do that last year) to get into a major city. Especially when it's -10 outside.

Europe is closed to most Americans legally working there, unfortunately, but even to Brits like myself it's difficult to get into and also difficult to save any money. Europe's broke, after all. Russia ... hmm, all I've heard is Moscow is very expensive and outside of there you'll be walking around in -40 temps for half the year, but I might be mistaken on that.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

By and large, that is a mistaken comment. It is true that it can be cold in Moscow, and Russia generally, but rarely minus forty, except in a few remote arctic regions. You'd be using public transport in the main anyway, and that is seriously hot and sweaty. It is also true that Moscow is expensive, in that buying a BMW will set you back a lot more than it would anywhere else in Europe. Staples like food are not cheap either, but are more than affordable given how expensive private English lessons are - which offsets the expense of living here.

Come to Russia. Sign up with a McSchool. Fairly low entry requirements there, but enough help to get you started. As Cole said earlier, first year is a tough one, in every way.

Best of luck!
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1838

PostPosted: Sun Jun 02, 2013 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I agree with Sashadroogie. In particular, I disagree with your idea that
"you'll be walking around in -40 temps for half the year".
No, it rarely gets to that low in European Russia and even in Siberia, -25 is about standard for most of the places you're likely to go to (and on nice days, it's a comparatively balmy -10 to -15).
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Coolguy123



Joined: 10 Apr 2013
Posts: 132

PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, so I finished the CELTA, and it was pretty awesome. Really learned a lot, and got a lot of ideas for a huge number of tools and techniques for teaching that I wasn't even aware of before. Hopefully, I'll be able to use these things in the future and it will open up opportunities. It seems like it will, but I'm getting quite a wide range of opinions from different people.

I've pretty much settled on Taiwan, and some people have recommended going there to find a job.

I considered Russia because it sounds like you can teach adults to start with, but I don't really have any contacts there, and thought it might be easier to start off with kids. The pay also seems to vary quite a bit from job to job and it the cost of living is higher. There do seems to be higher paying jobs but they seem to require more experience.

So Taiwan seems like a good place to get a foot in the door. The only question would be whether it's better to simply book a ticket and pound the pavement or apply from abroad. Having savings, it's tempting to go there and look for something, but again it might be better to save that money for training or something in the future unless there's a significant advantage to going there in person.


Last edited by Coolguy123 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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