It is no secret that learning a new language is a long and winding road, but what people might forget is that it is worth every step of the journey.
Being able to speak a foreign language opens many doors for meeting new people, improving your CV, teaching abroad, and gaining awareness of different cultures and arts. In this post, I unpack the many benefits of learning languages, with a focus on teaching English abroad.
If you haven’t yet learned another language, what are you waiting for? You might be surprised to learn that while half of the world’s population is bilingual, only a quarter of the US population can speak a second language. Stand out from the crowd, learn other languages, and start teaching abroad.
Teaching Abroad: What is TEFL?
Teaching English As A Foreign Language (TEFL) is a certification program that allows you to teach English abroad.
While you do not need another language to become a TEFL teacher, it is an asset to be able to communicate in the language of the country in which you are teaching.
You can complete the TEFL certification program online or in face-to-face lessons in a classroom. The online program is ideal for students who want to study at their own pace and balance their TEFL certification with other commitments.
However, learning in a classroom has other benefits. For example, you will meet fellow English teachers who might become your friends for life. Research your local TEFL classroom options and see if this is a possible path for you.
Once you receive your TEFL certificate you can teach English abroad anywhere in the world. Schools and academies will look out for candidates with a TEFL certificate, and you will also appeal to summer camps.
Moreover, you can offer private tutoring or au-pairing, or teach business English programs to adults who want to develop their business in an English-speaking country. Having a TEFL certificate opens many employment doors and you can choose the teaching program that is right for you.
This all sounds great, right? But why do we recommend that you learn a foreign language? Here are five of the main reasons why language learning will enhance this experience:
1. You Can Teach A Language Better When You Have Learned One
Going through the struggles of language learning in other countries will put you in your student’s shoes.
It is important to build a relationship of trust between you and your students, especially if their first language isn’t widely spoken worldwide. Korean, for example, is not widely spoken, and this might give students in South Korea a sense of isolation and frustration.
If you make an effort to understand how their language works, you will gain their appreciation. On a practical level, it will also help you to understand how languages work and, as a result, you will be better equipped to explain a grammar point or new vocabulary.
2. Language Learning Is Great For Your Brain
Building foreign language skills and learning new words is a great cognitive exercise. By retaining vocabulary in your long-term memory, reading in a different language, and learning a new set of grammar rules, you are essentially exercising your brain.
It has been proven, for example, that those who can communicate in more than one language are better able to focus and multitask. In addition, multilingual people have enhanced memory and problem-solving skills, according to research shared in the New York Times. Why wouldn’t you want to optimize your brain’s potential?
3. Increase Your Cultural Awareness and Appreciation
You cannot separate a language from the cultures associated with it. So, when you learn a language, you inevitably learn about the cultures, traditions, values, arts, and history of the lands where it is spoken.
You can do so by watching movies and TV programs in your new language, reading newspapers, listening to music, meeting locals, and exploring other art forms in the language.
A key characteristic of a good English teacher is a desire to explore new cultures and, in turn, share their own culture in the classroom. One of the greatest joys of language learning and education is bringing people together from around the world.
Moreover, being culturally sensitive is necessary when you teach people from different countries, as certain gestures, mannerisms, personal questions, and attire might be considered disrespectful in one place and perfectly ordinary in another.
4. Give Your CV An Edge
In this digital age, the world of work knows no boundaries. It’s not surprising that companies seek employees who know more than one language.
As well as teaching jobs abroad, other employment opportunities will present themselves when you have a second language, as many companies seek a candidate who can communicate with their clients, suppliers, and potential customers around the globe.
Moreover, having a second language will make it easier for you to get your first job abroad to teach English. This is because many school principals might not know English and prefer to interview you in their native language or want you to communicate with the children’s parents. If your CV and cover letter are translated into the local language, you will also stand out from your competition.
Once you have teaching experience from abroad your CV will stand out when you are back home. Your teaching abroad credentials make you look like a courageous, confident person. Companies love to hire people who don’t need their hands held and can take initiative. Your teaching jobs abroad will indicate that you are this person.
5. Language Learning increases your chances to connect with others
People are social creatures and connecting with others is usually a massive benefit of any opportunity to teach abroad. Being bilingual (or multilingual!) gives you the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world. While you are teaching English abroad, you will have ample time to practice your spoken language at supermarkets, restaurants, and with locals.
You can also improve your written communication skills through text, social media, and keeping in touch with a pen-pal once you are back home. This will keep your reading skills sharp too. Those who teach abroad connect to people in various wonderful ways.
Teach Abroad and Make Lifelong Friends
Living in a foreign country and speaking the native language, even as a beginner, is a great way to meet people of other backgrounds, cultures, religions, and ethnicities.
You can meet the locals when you know a little of their language and learn a lot from them. Being in a foreign language immersion environment rapidly increases your language acquisition, so the more you socialize within the local community, the better your ability to communicate will be.
As well as meeting people whose mother tongue is not English, remember that you will also be a part of a global community of native or proficient English speakers who teach abroad.
The bond you can develop with other English speakers while you teach abroad is a huge asset in this journey. You will make friends through TEFL from all around the world, and you can enjoy visiting one another’s countries for years to come.
Language Learning and Teaching English Abroad
Language learning and teaching your mother tongue abroad are both invaluable experiences. Taking a year out of your day-to-day to teach abroad will broaden the horizons of your awareness of the world, open up a plethora of new literature, art and cinema for you to explore, allow you to experience different ways of living, and generally make you a more well-rounded individual.
We cannot stress enough how much more of the world there is to see and explore, and how much of it you will get to experience once you learn a second language.
Language learning and teaching abroad go hand in hand and enhance each other immeasurably. So, where will you go to teach abroad?
Gaining Teaching Experience in Italy
If you are considering Italy to teach English, you won’t be disappointed. From golden beaches to mountain ski resorts, incredible art, and ancient history, there is something for everyone – not to mention the amazing food! Research the various cities and regions to see where you would like to be placed.
You can teach abroad in the big cities in Italy, but there has also been a rise in English teaching programs in smaller centers. So, if you prefer to immerse yourself in an authentic Italian environment, avoid the bustle of the city, and enjoy the countryside, you can look for suburban schools or camp programs that are hiring English teachers to teach abroad.
While a university degree is preferred by many language schools, it is not a dealbreaker. The most important qualification is your TEFL certificate.
Although teachers are expected to cover their flights and accommodation costs, a teacher’s salary in Italy ranges between 1,200 and 2,100 USD, depending on location, which is a very liveable income.
Gaining Teaching Experience in The Czech Republic
With its central-European location, The Czech Republic is the ideal starting point for a European tour. There is a lot to do in this landlocked country, both indoors and outdoors, such as visiting Prague’s many churches, eateries, and museums, hiking in the aptly-named Bohemian Paradise, and taking a train to another European capital for the weekend.
English teachers are sought-after in Central and Eastern Europe and you will find plenty of English teaching programs, especially in the capital cities.
A Czech language school is likely to offer new teachers additional training on-site before they join the English program, so if this appeals to you, research the local schools and find a program you like.
When you are deciding where to work abroad, consider Central and Eastern Europe for reasonable living expenses and a great quality of living.
Teaching Abroad in Thailand
If you fancy learning Thai, what better place to go than Thailand itself?
Thanks to its tropical climate you will enjoy the wonderful landscape this gorgeous country has to offer, from rivers and beaches to giant cities and impressive highlands. If you want to explore south-east Asia, Thailand has a convenient location that offers easy access to Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma).
In terms of teaching English in Thailand, you’ll find that food and accommodation are very affordable, and a teacher’s salary is above the national average.
This allows you to live comfortably and do a bit of traveling while you work abroad. Many TEFL programs here offer housing and flight allowances as well.
Teaching Abroad in South Korea
South Korea is one of the safest countries to explore, even on your own, and offers incredible cuisine, as well as great art, stunning cities, and many teaching programs to choose from.
While accommodation can be expensive, eating out is generally cheap and healthy in South Korea. We recommend you make the most of the affordable food and use the opportunity to learn new words from the menus, expanding your useful vocabulary.
For language teaching, the average salary in South Korea ranges between 1,300 and 3,100 USD, according to our research.
Benefits often include housing, health insurance, flights, and a bonus if you renew your contract. You can teach at a private language school directly or apply for a language program sponsored by the government of South Korea.
5 FAQs Relating to Teaching English Abroad
Q1. What qualifications and experience do you need to teach abroad?
First, English does not need to be your native language, nor do you need to have a Bachelor’s degree or any four-year degree programs under your belt in order to become TEFL-certified.
All you need is a great understanding of the English language, a willingness to undergo the TEFL program, and a desire to teach.
While having teaching credentials or a Bachelor’s degree on your CV will undoubtedly help you to get hired, no prior teaching experience in a school or higher education is necessary to complete a TEFL certification.
In fact, some university students like to take a year out to undergo a year of TEFL, as this gives them a break from their intensive degree programs and serves as an introduction to jobs and opportunities outside of the university.
Q2. How should I choose which country to teach English in?
There are several considerations to make when choosing which country to teach in. First, how far from home do you want to be? If you feel more comfortable being a short flight from home, you would be as well to teach in a country within your continent, where possible.
On top of this, think about the local language or languages. Moving to a country where they use a different alphabet means learning the foreign characters. For some, this is a thrilling challenge, while for others, it is a little overwhelming.
Moreover, consider the culture, costs, and the kinds of teaching programs you might want to be involved in once you arrive. Do your research about available jobs before you get your heart set on one location.
For more tips on choosing your location, check out testimonies from older TEFL teachers.
Q3. What if I want to come home?
Remember that the world these days is very small, and if you ever feel like you need to go home, that is not a failing. You can leave at any time, and you will still have a unique and wonderful experience that will shape who you are for the rest of your days.
Whether you teach overseas for five years or just three months, you will have acquired new vocabulary and developed your ongoing education and life experience.
Any language learning you have undergone will set you up for future language programs you wish to try. It’s all about building experiences.
Q4. How do I get hired as a teacher abroad?
When you are looking for jobs to teach English abroad, you can use the online TEFL job search, sign up on local job advertisement websites, or advertise your private tutoring online via social media.
Moreover, word of mouth will help you secure a teaching job. Having friends who also teach English abroad will help you to make connections and build teaching credentials.
Any language learning institutions or programs that are hiring will recognize TEFL as a valid universal qualification to teach English. You can teach at sleep-away camps or language schools or offer at-home tutoring for adults, children, and university students.
People teach English abroad in a number of ways, and the job opportunities are endless.
Q5. Can I teach abroad and not know the local language?
Yes, you can. But as we have highlighted, there are many reasons why it is preferable to have another language under your belt. You will inevitably lose out on employment opportunities, as well as chances to socialize, discover new art, culture, and literature, and build on your life-long education.
While it might seem easier to avoid, the fact is that language learning can be super fun and eye-opening. If you are the sort of person who wants to teach English abroad, the chances are you are also open to new experiences, you have an interest in language learning and you have a brain for linguistics. This being said, you are the exact right sort of person to be learning another language.
Summing up: Why Learning a Language Is Important to Teach Abroad
Language learning offers many advantages if you want to teach and travel overseas. First, it allows you to teach better, and if you have read this article, this is probably a top priority for you.
Moreover, it gives you the chance to develop your cognitive skills and cultural sensitivity while connecting with others and getting hired. Essentially, language learning is the gift that keeps on giving.
When you teach abroad, you will find that learning the local language helps you to build a stronger teacher-student bond. At the same time, you can gain a deeper understanding of the history of the land, the traditions, mannerisms, and cultural values of the people, and arts old and new.
So, which language are you going to learn while you teach abroad?