person in boat in vietnam

Teaching English as a Second Language

If you’re interested in teaching English as a second language, you’ve come to the right place!

If you’re a native English speaker, want to explore the world and have good planning skills, you’d be perfect for a career teaching English as a foreign language.

As a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) teacher, you can teach English to a range of students, whether that’s online, in a school, college or language centre. Most people want to teach English as a second language so they can travel the world with their TEFL qualification; however, if you want to teach from home, working online is the perfect solution.

teaching english in classroom thailand
A group of TEFL teachers at the Great Wall of China

What is teaching English as second language?

Teaching English as a second language or “TESL” is essentially teaching the English language to those who don’t speak English as their first or native language. As a TESL teacher, your students will have an interest in learning English as their second language for many reasons.

If you’re working as a TESL teacher in native English-speaking countries (such as the UK, USA, South Africa, Australia or Canada) your students may be immigrants or refugees who want to learn English to settle in their new country for work and leisure.

If you’re teaching English as a second language abroad, your students may be in a school or language centre, learning English to help with future career prospects or simply as a good skill to have.

There’s also the option of teaching English as second language online – this sort of teaching can be done remotely, wherever you are based, whether that’s from home or abroad. This type of teaching is flexible and can work around most lifestyles and timezones!

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Teaching English as a second language: where to start?

So you’re interested in teaching English as a second language? Exciting times! With the huge amount of TESL (teaching English as a second language) information out there, it’s sometimes overwhelming to know where to start! However, there’re a few things you need to know when you’re starting out teaching English as a second language that’ll provide a good foundation to a successful teaching career.

  • 1: Accredited TEFL qualification

    Firstly and most importantly, you’ll need a good TEFL qualification that allows you to teach around the world, feeling prepared for any classroom situation.

    Here at i-to-i, our courses are Ofqual regulated which means they’re guaranteed to be of the highest quality, as they’re regulated by the English Government. Not only do our courses help you feel totally prepared for real-life teaching situations, but the fact they are Ofqual regulated means they’re internationally-recognised and highly regarded around the world. Naturally, with one of our courses, your CV will be at the top of the pile where ever you’re applying to teach around the world.

  • 2: At least 120 hours of training

    When it comes to teaching English as a second language around the world or online, you’ll really struggle to get a reputable teaching job without at least 120 hours of TEFL training. As we’ve said above, you’ll not only need 120 hours but also training that’s internationally-recognised.

    We offer courses that are 120 hours or above, so whether you’re wanting to study solely online, add some practical classroom training into the mix, or specialise in a particular field, we’ve got a course that you can tailor to your needs. When you’ve got your TEFL certificate, the fun of picking a destination and applying for jobs begins!

    View all TEFL Courses >>

  • 3: Finding a job

    Once you’re fully qualified and have received your TEFL certificate, it’s time to start looking for a job! Where you look all depends on what type of TEFL job you’re interested in getting. For example, do you want to teach children in a classroom, adults in a language school, do private tuition in people’s homes, or teach one-to-one online?

    There’s also the decision of how much support you’d like in a country when you’re teaching English abroad. For most people, teaching English as a second language will be totally new, as will be the country in which you’ll be teaching. For many first-time teachers, having in-country support from people who speak your language can be invaluable for personal or professional support.

    At i-to-i, we offer a range of Supported TEFL Jobs where not only will you get a job in a reputable school, you’ll also get your TEFL training included, visa support, orientation in your chosen country, and even free accommodation. As it says in the name, the main attraction to these jobs are the incredible support you’ll receive from the moment you apply to the end of your placement in your school. These programmes take away the stress related to relocating to a brand-new country, leaving you to focus on the fun!

    Check out our Supported TEFL Jobs >>

    If you’d rather go it alone, there are hundreds of opportunities advertised for teaching English as a second language around the world at one time, it’s just a matter of taking time out to research each role and the credibility of the company who are advertising. A good place to start is our jobs board where we have a great selection of jobs for destinations around the world!

    See our Jobs Board >>

Teaching English as a second language terms

In your research into teaching English as a second language, you’ll probably have come across many different terms to describe it. What’s important to remember is that, most of the acronyms used mean exactly the same thing! Check our list below to see the common terms used for teaching English as a second language:

two girls looking out over rain forest

(TEFL) Teaching English as a foreign language

Used for teaching English to people who want to learn English in countries where English isn’t the native language. TEFL can be done in native English speaking countries (such as the UK, South Africa, USA or Canada), but is mainly done abroad.

(TESL) Teaching English as a second language

As we’ve discussed here, commonly used for people who live in an English-speaking country, but who don’t speak English as their first or native. These students may be refugees or immigrants and need to learn English to help integrate into life in a new country.

(TESOL) Teaching English to speakers of other languages

A big umbrella term that people often use to mean both TEFL and TESL.

A girl travelling looking out to sea
A seascape
An outdoor cafe scene in Spain

(ESL) English as a second language

This essentially describes learning English as a second language for those whose native language isn’t English.

(ESOL) English as a speaker of other languages

Similarly to ESL, ESOL describes learning English as a second language for those whose first language learnt and used isn’t English.