Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.
People in every corner of the globe want to learn English from a native speaker. Other travelers have made a career using English as a journalist (both as a freelancer for US papers and a staff journalist for an English language paper overseas) or as an advertising or website copy editor.
Unfortunately, many travelers have exploited these skills in ways that make it harder than it is used to be for Americans who seek work abroad. Far too many travelers sign up for a teaching or journalism job in another country and decide to hit the road before the conclusion of their term (most schools require you to sign up for a semester or academic year). As a result, increased schools need you to demonstrate that you have some specialized training in these topics (and thus are serious about the career) before they will hire you.
In addition, occasionally, Americans assume that they can teach (or write) English well; but cannot. If you intend to use your English skills, take some classes in teaching and journalism beforehand. Or volunteer to help tutor immigrants in your community. Better yet, invest $2000-$3000 for a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate through a college extension program (in which case the classes will be part-time and take an academic year to complete) or a private teaching school (most of these classes take place over a full one-month term). Look for courses leading up to a recognized certificate (like an RSA or C-TESL). St. Giles, New World Teachers, and several universities have these classes in large American cities in the US. You can also take these classes (sometimes for less money) abroad.
As an English teacher, you will not make a lot of money in most countries. As Conrad Haynes, a TEFL instructor at Saint Gilles School in San Francisco, notes, teachers make enough to get by in most of the world. You will live an equivalent lifestyle to an entry-level teacher in the USA”. Some typical wages: Mexico $500-800 a month; China $800-1500 a month (often with accommodations); Japan $3000-4000 a month; South Korea $1500-2000.)
While this is not the road to riches, it is one of the best ways to get an intimate insider’s view of life in another country. You will experience the joys of living in another country (including being invited into your students’ homes and the tribulations (some directors are corrupt, and the bureaucracy can be stifling).
If you want more earning opportunities, you can supplement your job with private tutoring assignments. (Often, students will suggest clients, or you can place ads on bulletin boards.) One of the best ways to distinguish yourself is to study pronunciation. English learners are frustrated by accents, and most teachers do not know how to teach pronunciation well. It may be worthwhile to take a class in English pronunciation designed for foreign learners and copy some of the techniques shown. I have also heard people recommend taking radio or TV broadcasting classes since both skills require careful enunciation.
How difficult is it to find a job? In many countries, you can show up and find an appointment with a few weeks of asking around. An excellent place to start is a youth hostel. In some areas, like Tokyo, there are enough teachers, so that they have dormitories primarily set aside for prospective teachers. You should make sure you bring your diploma, resume, and teaching certificate from home. Keep in mind the academic calendar in the country where you will teach. Y You’ll find a job much easier if you start looking just before the start of the semester or academic year.
Finding a job in Europe can be exceedingly difficult because you must distinguish yourself from the Brits and Irish. With the advent of the European Union, employers in Italy, Spain, or Greece can easily hire English teachers from the United States. These same employers must fill out oodles of forms justifying why they cannot find a good teacher from anywhere within the European Union.
Some countries like China (which otherwise is one of the most accessible places to find a job) may require you to have a job lined up before you get a visa to travel there. Even if you do not get an appointment for visa reasons, you may want to try to line something up before you leave. (This is not easy in some countries like Mexico, where they value face-to-face contact.) Otherwise, you should bring enough money to sustain yourself during the job search. (Experts recommend planning for a two-month search.)
You can find out a lot of information about finding a job, teaching conditions, and other issues for English as a Foreign Language teachers (including good and bad schools) online. One of the best sources for this information is Dave’s ESL café (http://www.eslcafe.com). There are also several country-specific websites and newsletters for ESL instructors. The best-regarded such site is www.ohayosensei.com which addresses ESL teachers in Japan.
Once you have started working, you may have issues getting a work visa. Teachers often avoid these issues by leaving the country before their tourist stamps expire (many countries give you up to a three-month stay as a tourist without a visa) and returning to the country on another tourist stamp. Some countries will let you do this indefinitely, and others are stricter. To find out the specifics of finding and keeping a job in a country, talk to English teachers.
Experienced teachers can find good jobs in the International School System (www.tieonline.com), a network of schools set up for Fifty-Plus Nomads throughout the planet. They can also find good jobs working at universities in the Arabian Peninsula. These jobs usually pay an equivalent wage to that offered in an American public school. Some teachers love these jobs because they can live well on these wages in a less expensive country.