Is Teaching English in a Foreign Country Ethical?

Over the past few years, as I’ve gotten more involved in the world of teaching English, I’ve wondered if it’s ethical to teach English in foreign countries. Am I imposing my culture on someone else? How is this different than some of the practices of cultural imperialists? These are all things I considered while taking Anthropology courses and considering the Peace Corps during undergrad. In order to find answers, I spoke with former Peace Corps volunteers and decided to go to China for a month to teach for the first time. The answer to this question? Well, there is no exact answer. But I do believe that teaching can be done in a way that truly helps people live and work in this globalized world, without undermining their native language and culture.

English is becoming the new global language. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing. It just is what it is. In almost every tourist city to which I’ve traveled, English is the bridge between locals and people visiting from all over the world. Chances are, most tourists you meet in Czech Republic, for example, probably don’t speak Czech. But they might speak English, allowing them to get around, order food, and read signs while traveling. Additionally, most job advertisements working internationally require applicants to speak at least some English. Without a basic understanding of the language, the job pool shrinks tremendously.

Having seen the necessity of English in traveling, working, and general social settings, I know that by helping others learn the language, I am helping to expand their opportunities in life. This does not mean that the English language is superior and that you should not make an effort to learn local languages. If you are living and teaching in a foreign country, you must respect that culture, do your best to learn their language, and never ever impose your ways on your students. But language is a gift, and if you can give someone a gift that can open countless doors for them, then I believe it is absolutely ethical. So whether your native language is English, Japanese, Portuguese, or Mandarin (all of the languages in my apartment), take the opportunity to teach! Not only is it rewarding for you as a teacher, but all of your students will have access to a brand new culture and a world of opportunities.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear your opinion.

A Practical Guide to Finding Jobs Teaching English

Do you want to travel the world? Do you want to learn about new cultures while still making money? Do you want to have an impact on the next generation? If so, teaching English may be for you.

Personally, I never thought that I wanted to be a teacher. After all, I was interested in politics and travel, and until last year, I never knew that teaching could be the key to pursuing these interests. As a native English speaker (or even a non-native speaker with fluency), the possibilities for teaching English are endless. With the number of people seeking to learn the language for social and economic reasons, the market is growing at an enormous speed. There are jobs available on every continent and unlike other fields (including mine), businesses and schools are actually competing for teachers rather than the other way around. Whether you have a teaching certification or not, there is a place for you to start. Let’s talk about some of your options.

Getting started: obtaining a certification

Types of certifications: ESL, EFL, TEFL, TEFOL, CELTA

A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of websites offering online courses for obtaining your certification. However, some of these can be pretty pricey. One way to get a discounted (or even free) certification is to find a program that provides your certification in exchange for volunteer teaching. The company through which I received my TEFL certification is called Angloville, which offers a TEFL Scholarship to anyone who completes an online course and three programs with them. The online course was quick and easy and the programs allow you to go to Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, or Hungary for a few weeks with free room and board. If you don’t have classroom experience, don’t worry. Angloville programs simply involve speaking with non-native speakers to improve their English. It’s fun and you make lots of interesting friends.

While this is an exciting option, it’s not possible for everyone to take three weeks and travel to Europe. In this case, there are many options online or within the U.S. You might even have a center in your area. Although a certification isn’t necessary for all English jobs, it certainly increases your chances of finding a job you love.

Government Programs

Governments understand the importance of knowing English in the 21st century. As a result, many have created their own programs that place teachers in schools around their country. Some of the most well known are:

The only downside to these programs is that they tend to pay less than other options.

Placement Companies

There are now countless organizations that accept applications for placement in private learning centers or in schools. Many of these programs offer large benefit packages like free visas, vacation time, language classes, and housing assistance. Some even offer free flights. Here are a few that I’ve looked into:

Independent Search 

There are many websites that exist to help you find the perfect teaching job. A few favorites include Dave’s ESL Cafe, EL Gazette, and TEFL.com.  Although you can find great opportunities on these websites, you also need to watch out for scams. I have heard stories of people arriving in a new country to teach and not receiving the housing they were promised or not getting paid for months. If this worries you, you may be better off with a more structured program like those sponsored by governments or company placement.

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With all of these programs, it is important to do lots of research before committing. Read reviews, talk to current teachers, and compare benefits. Moving across the world to teach isn’t for everyone so really consider all options before signing a year-long contract. Whether you teach for a few years or for a lifetime, it can be an incredible way to see the world, learn about new cultures, and ultimately, change the lives of others.

Check out some pictures from my experiences teaching children in China and adults in Poland. And stay tuned for a post all about teaching English online!