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 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.

_______________________

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!

Travel Without Paying for Room and Board

Travel is eye-opening. It is transformative. And above all, it’s fun. Travel has allowed me to grow as a person in ways that I never thought possible. In fact, I love it so much that I am determined to make it a regular part of my life rather than just something I pursue on holiday. However, if travel is associated with fancy hotels and expensive restaurants, making travel a “way of life” can seem unrealistic for most people. But that’s not necessarily the case. The world has become so interconnected that finding a way to exchange your volunteer work for free room and board has become easier than ever. In doing so, you will meet people from around the world and encounter new cultures from a local’s perspective. Regardless of your talents or interests, there is an opportunity for anyone who seeks extended travel without the cost. Here are a few ways you can do it:

Become an au pair

If you like kids, then this may be the job for you. An au pair is basically a nanny (live in or live out) for kids. Regardless of where you’re from, there are probably some parents out there looking to teach their kids your native language. As an au pair, a family will take you in as their own, usually providing food and your own room in their home in exchange for you taking care of and interacting with their children. As an au pair, you will live like a local in whichever country you choose and oftentimes, host families are eager to share their culture with you. Some even take you traveling with them! Two great websites for finding au pair jobs are www.greataupair.com  and www.aupairworld.com . With an account, you can browse families, countries, and work expectations.

Work on a farm

http://wwoof.net

WWOOF is an organization that pairs volunteers with organic farms all around the world. Usually, in exchange for free room and board, you will be required to help with farming in the mornings, leaving your evenings and weekends free. Not only will you meet other travel-oriented people, but you will also be contributing to sustainable farming practices- two birds with one stone.

Teach English

While I will go into further detail about teaching English in a future post, there are many teaching opportunities that don’t require a long-term contract. One of the best ways to find this is to search for English-Immersion programs. These are usually short-term (a week or so) and provide all your amenities while you converse with non-native speakers. In between programs, you are able to travel and see the country in which you are staying. I participated in 3 programs with a company called Angloville in Poland this summer where I made so many new Polish friends and learned more about the country than I could have as just a tourist. Additionally, this program allowed me to obtain my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. These types of programs exist all over the world so if you’re interested, check out Angloville https://angloville.com  (Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary) and Vaughan Town http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com (Spain). These programs do not require a teaching certification.

Work anywhere doing anything – Workaway

https://www.workaway.info  

Do all of these opportunities sound cool but you’re not sure if they are a good fit for you? Workaway is the best database to search for all jobs that are looking for volunteers. Hosts include hostels, animal rescues, schools, yoga studios, eco farms and more. With an account, you can read reviews, talk with hosts, and even link your profile with a friend’s if you are traveling together. I have met many people who have used Workaway and most say it was one of the best experiences of their lives. One of my close friends, Jennifer Bishop spent the summer after her study abroad backpacking around Europe by working in hostels. Read about Jen’s experience below:

 

“Doing a Workaway experience in a hostel was one of the highlights of my time backpacking in Europe! Not only did I save a ton of money in the time that I spent there, I also made lasting friendships who I still FaceTime with frequently a year later. I worked in the #1 hostel in Zagreb, Croatia for 1 month. Each volunteer was required to work 5-hour shifts, 6 days a week. There were three different shifts you could get which were morning, afternoon, and evening. The morning shift was entirely cleaning – we were in charge of changing any vacant beds (up to 60), mopping and vacuuming all the floors, cleaning the common areas like the kitchen, and sweeping outside. I’ll be honest, the cleaning shift was a lot of actual hard work but in the end rewarding. We worked alongside the full-time housekeeper. The other two shifts usually involved a bit of cleaning and then helping to check people in and giving tours of the hostel, or running game nights and entertaining guests in the common areas. In return for our work, we received free access to an amazing breakfast buffet (which I would sneak away enough food for lunch ha), a free bed in one of their 8-bed dorm rooms, free laundry, and free beers and ciders during our shifts. In my opinion, it was well worth it since the exchange rate was ridiculously good for the U.S. dollar at the time so I only spent $2-3 a day at most for anything else I wanted. Overall, I had an amazing time. Not only did I get to meet all kinds of people from all over the world without having to travel myself, but I was able to have a more localized view of living in Croatia since I made friends with the regular staff. I can’t wait to use Workaway again to find more volunteer opportunities abroad!”

 

Volunteer opportunities are changing the way people travel. It allows those with fewer savings to experience new cultures for an extended period of time. More and more, I meet people who return home for a few months at a time to make money before they head out to their next few work away assignments. If you are willing to put in a little work, there is nothing stopping you from seeing all this world has to offer.

If you’re enjoying this blog, please follow A Girl and Her Visa for updates on new posts. Enjoy your travels! 

 

Instagram: @christineoswald