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How to become a TEFL teacher

tefl teacher careers

What does a TEFL teacher do?

Teachers of English as a Foreign Language teach English to people whose first or main language is not English. There are many reasons why people want to learn English: to help with their work or business; to get into college or university in an English speaking country; or to prepare for an exam.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language is widely known by the generic term TEFL. The teaching takes place in different settings, such as commercial language schools, further education colleges and language centres throughout the UK and overseas. This usually involves teaching small groups of students.

Teachers prepare language lessons and activities that are instructive, but also enjoyable. Normally, only English is spoken in class, and lessons cover reading, writing, listening and speaking. Teachers may use resources that are already available, but may also produce their own. Teachers set and mark tests and exercises for students.

Some TEFL jobs involve more than classroom work, particularly seasonal work for commercial language schools. Teachers may be expected to take students to sports and social events, trips to other towns, cities, local shops or museums, or organising drama or art activities. The aim is always to make the learning of English enjoyable and practical at the same time.

Some teachers concentrate on teaching English for business and other specialisms - known as TESP (Teaching English for Specific Purposes).

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) is related to TEFL. It is for people whose first language is not English but who need to learn it for everyday purposes because they are living in the UK long-term or permanently. Both TEFL and TESL are covered by the term Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

What's the working environment like working as a TEFL teacher?

Hours can vary depending on the organisation or type of job. Some jobs involve evening and weekend work. Teachers spend many hours preparing lessons and materials, as well as classroom teaching. In some jobs, particularly in summer schools, teachers spend a lot of time supervising sporting and social activities. Some jobs are residential and involve living-in.

Most of the work is indoors in classrooms, but some time may be spent outdoors, eg on outings.

What does it take to become a TEFL teacher?

To be a teacher of English to speakers of other languages you should:

  • have a good knowledge of English, particularly grammar
  • have strong verbal and written communication skills
  • be a good listener
  • have lots of confidence and a lively personality
  • have energy, patience and a good sense of humour
  • get on well with people of all ages and from different backgrounds and cultures
  • be able to adapt your teaching style to suit your students
  • have the creativity to devise interesting lessons.

TEFL teacher Career Opportunities

Further information

If you would like to know anything about TEFL teacher that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

56 Buckingham Gate
Tel: 020 7802 9200

University of Cambridge ESOL Exams
1 Hills Road
Tel: 01223 553355

Trinity College London
89 Albert Embankment
Tel: 020 7820 6100

British Council
10 Spring Gardens
Tel: 020 7930 8466

International Association of Teachers of English as Foreign Language (IATEFL)
Darwin College
University of Kent
Tel: 01227 824430

Facts and Stats:

    60 per cent of people remember a good teacher, compared to 75 per cent who remember a bad teacher. Sting used to be a teacher (be still your beating hearts, girls). An actual answer from a GCSE question paper read: "The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths, A myth is a female moth."