What countries can I teach English as a foreign language?

Teaching English as a Foreign Language offers many difficult choices, one of them being where you choose to live first! Seriously though, one of the best things about being a TEFL teacher is the global flexibility you have, and the ability to experience different cultures, different ways of life, and really integrate into foreign cultures. Learning new languages and meeting new people is really one of the highlights that people can’t experience in a regular 9 to 5.

That said, some of the biggest destinations, especially in summer, include countries such as the UK, USA, and Canada. This is due to students coming to study on English programmes or summer camps.

Aside from these countries, which people often overlook, there are some places which are bigger markets than others. For example, in countries where there is generally very high English proficiency already (e.g. Germany), there may be less, although still some, demand for English teaching.

Asia has long-been considered one of the biggest markets for TEFL, and with the development of China this has only continued. China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and even Myanmar and Laos are all staples of the TEFL community, offering very different vibes, and very different lifestyles. Taking A job in Korea may be like living in a futuristic metropolis, whereas teaching in Cambodia you’re more likely to live more simply. Of course, costs of living and accommodation will vary from place to place too. One of the largest countries for TEFL is undoubtedly China, a rapidly developing economy, over a billion people, and a growing middle class have led to China being something of a ‘boom’ zone in English teaching. Jobs are available all over the country, whether in a rural province or a major megacity like Shanghai or Beijing.

Other avenues which are expanding include South America – a place that is irresistibly alluring to some. Countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador are on the TEFL map, and jobs are certainly available there. Pay tends to be lower than in other regions, but the lifestyle, nature, and exploration of one of the world’s most fascinating continents makes it an excellent opportunity for many.

The Middle East is also a mainstay of the English teaching community. There are excellent perks here, including great benefits and hospitality. There’s also the opportunity to explore fascinating ancient cultures and learn about ways of living different to your own. Jobs in the Middle East tend to command high salaries, often tax-free, but they also require a high level of qualifications and experience. Some of the restrictions in strict Islamic countries aren’t appealing for some however.

Europe, is perhaps one of the most appealing destinations for TEFL. Although salaries tend to be lower, and cost of living tends to be higher, there is something extremely attractive about teaching in countries like Spain and Italy.  There is still a lot of demand for teaching English in these areas, and there are senior positions and progression available, although it is more competitive than elsewhere in the world. As mentioned, you can expect to earn less, but when you get to live in Barcelona or Rome, it’s not difficult to see why some people are happy to take the trade off. Eastern Europe is another appealing destination, in countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. English teaching positions here offer all the romance of Prague or Warsaw, along with a relatively low cost of living.

Finally, one other place to consider is Russia and Central Asia. Although Russia’s relations with the West have soured in the last few years, there is still a brisk demand in English language learning in Russia, and there are plenty of jobs available. Similarly, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and other similar countries in the region do hire, especially for teaching jobs at the university level. These are at the fringes of the TEFL world and offer exciting adventures and unique experiences.

In short, the answer is that you can teach English almost anywhere in the world, except maybe Antarctica. As the globe gets smaller and we become more economically and culturally intertwiner, this trend is only set to grow – so what are you waiting for?