10 Tips for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Abroad

Solo Travel, Working Abroad — By on July 21, 2011 at 9:00 am

By Sarah Fudin
Special to Lost Girls World


The rise of English as a global language has created an ever-growing, worldwide demand for TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) instructors. Imagine living in another part of world, exploring far-away countries and immersing yourself in different cultures. This is the life of a TESOL teacher. TESOL is a rapidly expanding field of education that offers unique rewards and challenges.

Here are ten tips for becoming a TESOL instructor:

1. Learn the lingo.

TEFL and TESL are acronyms that are also associated with teaching English. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) refers to teaching the language in countries where English is not the primary language. TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) refers to teaching non-English speakers within English-speaking countries. TESOL encompasses both TEFL and TESL.

2. Do your homework.

Research the field of TESOL to find out more about career opportunities. Investigate degree and certificate programs. Find out about the cost of living in countries you’re interested in. Network with TESOL instructors and ask them about their experiences.

3. Get U.S. Government support.

The U.S. Department of State’s Office of English Language Programs offers a variety of TESOL resources, including fellowship programs, scholarships, teaching resources and materials. Visit the Office of English Language Programs website for more information.

4. Take a test drive.

Before you make a commitment to TESOL, gain some experience by volunteering as an ESL tutor. Contact community service organizations in your area to find out about volunteer opportunities.

5. Become qualified.

There is no single degree that qualifies someone as a TESOL teacher. Requirements for teaching English vary from country to country and job to job. In general, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education or a related field as well as some type of TESOL certificate is required. If you have a specific country in mind where you’d like to teach, contact the Department of Education for information about teaching requirements.

6. Look into international schools.

Many TESOL instructors consider international schools to be the best places to teach. International schools promote an international curriculum, or follow a national curriculum that is different from the host company. Both foreign and local children attend international schools. Wikipedia’s page on International Schools is a good place to find links to international school websites.

7. Decide where you want to teach.

Institutions that provide TESOL certification can offer advice for locating teaching positions. TESOL jobs can be found in the public and private sectors in both urban and rural settings around the world. Consider the culture and geography of countries where you would like to teach.

8. Use technology when it makes sense.

Many TESOL instructors are using technology to help students speak, read and write the English language. Stay current with technology and use it when it’s available and makes sense.

9. Avoid culture shock.

Before you travel to your teaching destination, avoid culture shock by learning about the customs and culture of your host country. After you arrive, familiarize yourself with your neighborhood, including grocery shops and restaurants that serve the type of food you like. Spend weekends exploring the surrounding area.

10. Avoid isolation.

In your host country, keep yourself from becoming isolated by making an effort to meet people and form a social network. Sign up for a gym, club or class. And remember to approach new experiences with an open mind and a good sense of humor.


The University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education offers an online Master of Arts in Teaching that includes TESOL training. Known as MAT@USC TESOL, this innovative teaching degree program combines an interactive online learning environment with intensive classroom-based fieldwork. Find out more about MAT@USC TESOL on the University of Southern California website.

The website of the TESOL organization is another good resource for information about careers and opportunities teaching English to speakers of other languages.


This post was submitted by Sarah Fudin who currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Masters in Teaching program, which provides the opportunity to earn an MA in TESOL online. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.

Tags: , , ,