Posted on May 2, 2019 | By Alexa Randell
08th Mar 2019
Both those new to the world of TEFL and those who have been working in the industry for a while will have heard plenty of assumptions about teaching English as a foreign language. Some of what you’ve heard will be true but there are plenty of age-old rumours going around too. We’re going to address a few common myths about TEFL and set the record straight!
#1 It’s one big holiday
Anyone who has worked as an EFL teacher for some time will have heard this myth. As an EFL teacher, others may make comments about how much work you do, the lifestyle you lead or (as the heading suggests) that your life is just one big holiday! Some people find it unbelievable that anyone can get a ‘real job’ with only a 120-hour TEFL certificate or may comment that you can’t make a career out of TEFL. These kind of comments could drive you up the wall – but you can’t blame people for making some assumptions when your social media feed is full of big city living, drinks in the sunshine, crisp golden beaches and a variety of exotic food eaten daily!
However, the reality is, TEFL teachers do have to work for a living. Just like any normal job, there’s a structured timetable, often working five days a week with around six to eight hours of work per day. There are standards that have to be met and you really do have to help students improve their English. On top of that, TEFL teachers have to plan their lessons outside of working hours and may have to mark homework or attend parents evening. Not to mention the dreaded exam time, with teachers having anywhere from 150 students to 500 students each, meaning there’s a lot of marking and correcting to be done!
So, myth #1 busted – TEFL teachers do have to work for a living and it’s not just one big holiday.
#2 Anyone can teach English – it’s easy!
This is probably one of the biggest insults to TEFL teachers around the world. Teaching in general is one of the hardest professions out there and working abroad, teaching your native language (or a language you speak at a native level) doesn’t make it any easier! If you’re teaching beginners, you could have a group of students that don’t understand a word that you’re saying. Whereas if you’re teaching advanced students, you may have to learn grammar points that you haven’t thought about in years. Being a native English speaker does not make you an expert in teaching it, and some training will be required no matter how good you think your English is!
#3 You’re in control
One of the hardest challenges you may face as a new teacher in a foreign country is classroom management. Control, what control?
Unfortunately, achieving your TEFL certificate doesn’t necessarily prepare you for real-life scenarios, especially in the world of young learners and teenagers. Gaining control of a classroom and learning how to fight the chaos takes time and practice! As the saying goes, “it’s easy when you know how” – but you certainly shouldn’t assume that you will automatically be in charge of the class.
#4 All TEFL teachers teach Young Learners
Not every TEFL job in the world is teaching young learners, though it’s true that young students make up the majority of the market in many places around the world. However, there are plenty of language centres for adults, positions teaching at universities or colleges, and jobs at public high schools. In addition, if you have experience in Business English, this is a sure way of finding work with adult learners instead of children. EFL teachers who work as private tutors also usually find that they have a variety of clients of all ages. And, if you work at a large centre that caters to learners of lots of different ages, you can often request to work with specific age groups or levels.
#5 You need to speak the local language
No doubt it would help you to speak the local language of wherever you are teaching, but this is not a requirement of the job. In fact, lots of schools will ask that you do not use the local language in the classroom at all so that your students are forced to speak English. You should also be provided with enough resources to teach your classes without the need for translation. Alternatively, some schools and centres will pair you with a local teacher who can help translate tough subjects and grammar points. So, as you can see, there shouldn’t be any need to learn the local language – though we do recommend that you learn some basic phrases like hello, goodbye, thank you and can I have a beer, please!
#6 You’re too old to teach abroad
Although some TEFL jobs may specify a specific age range for their teachers, this isn’t common. There are no age restrictions on being an EFL teacher abroad, however there may be some restrictions regarding age if you need to get a visa for a particular country. For example, China won’t accept working visa applications for candidates over 60 because you have to be younger than the retirement age to work there.
On the subject of age, there may be some countries where you are too young to be an EFL teacher. For example, at schools that require a Bachelor’s degree, it would indicate a minimum age of 21, which is the common age to graduate.
If you’re finding your age and circumstances challenging, why not go it alone and become a private tutor? There is no lower or upper age limit to working as your own boss. It may be a bit of a challenge, but it could be worth it if you’re determined to be an EFL teacher in a certain country and your age is causing you difficulties!
#7 You need a degree in teaching
As mentioned in myth number one, a lot of people find it unbelievable that you can be an EFL teacher with only a TEFL certificate. The truth is that you don’t need a degree in teaching to work in most countries, but you may need a Bachelor’s degree to work in lots of countries. For example, to legally work as an EFL teacher in China, Japan or Vietnam, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree due to the working visa requirements set by the local governments. In fact, having a degree in any subject as well as a TEFL certificate currently seems to be the preference of most TEFL employers around the world. However, there are some places that will hire EFL teachers with a TEFL certificate alone, for example Cambodia.
So, there’s a few common TEFL myths busted! If you enjoyed this blog, you might like to read: 10 types of TEFL teachers – which one are you?