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Essential Skills and Qualifications for Teaching English Abroad

Obtaining your ESL Teaching Certification is always going to be your first step if you want to teach English abroad, but simply having your TEFL certificate isn’t necessarily enough to be successful in your teaching ambitions – you need to have some essential skills, too.

The Demand For English Teachers Overseas

Many people around the world have recognised the benefits of learning to speak English. In fact, evidence shows that being able to understand and converse in English can boost earning potential by as much as 25%.

It isn’t too surprising, then, that parents in non-English-speaking countries are increasingly enrolling their children in English language classes to help them excel academically, while adults who wish to further their professional ambitions are eager to develop and enhance their English skills.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why there’s such a strong demand for qualified English teachers overseas, but how can you make the most of the available opportunities?

Gaining The Right Qualifications

Although it’s technically possible to teach English overseas without any formal qualifications at all, that isn’t the best course of action for anyone. As a native English speaker with strong writing and reading skills, you may be able to find a job as an English teacher abroad without having obtained your TEFL certificate, but the salary will almost certainly be low, and your working conditions are unlikely to be the best. Not only that, but the range of posts open to you will be small, and you’ll have very little choice.

Having TEFL certification, on the other hand, opens up a raft of opportunities. You’ll be able to work in many different countries around the world and offer your services to students from a variety of backgrounds. Not only that, but the TEFL course itself will ensure you have the right knowledge and abilities to enable you to teach your learners to the highest possible standard.

Passing your TEFL course will also help you to develop the other skills that you’ll need to maximise your potential as an English teacher.

Strong Organisational Skills

Teaching is something that requires excellent organisation, no matter where in the world you’re working or which age group you’re working with. You’ll be planning and preparing classes for different groups or individual students, all with their own unique needs. You’ll also need to prioritise your time and arrange your schedule to accommodate your various commitments. Coming up with lesson plans, preparing resources, marking papers, and writing reports are just some of the essential elements of your role, and all need to be fitted into your working day. Strong organisation skills are, therefore, an absolute must if you want to avoid becoming overwhelmed and stay on top of things for your students’ benefit.

Adaptability And Flexibility

Things rarely go according to plan when you’re teaching. Planned activities can prove to be too easy or too difficult for your learners and require on-the-spot changes; a particular learning point may arise during the class which must be addressed there and then; you may find you have fewer or more learners attending than anticipated; or your students may become distracted and cover less of the topic than expected. In all of these situations, you need to be ready to react and seamlessly change the direction of your lesson without missing a beat.

Excellent Communication

Being able to communicate well with others is crucial if you want to be successful in any teaching role, and doubly so if you want to teach English overseas. You have to be skilled at communicating instructions to learners while inspiring them and keeping them motivated – something that isn’t always easy when your students aren’t native English speakers. You need to be adept at using your body language and vocal tone to get your message across to your learners and form positive relationships with them.


It can be easier said than done to feel confident when you’re facing a class for the first time, but even when you’re feeling nervous, it’s important to be confident in your own abilities and knowledge. Practice and experience will ensure you feel comfortable imparting knowledge to your students, but self-confidence comes from within. Become comfortable with the fact that you won’t know all the answers but that you have the right skills to handle the situation and to help your students find the answers that they seek.

Patience And Enthusiasm

Every teacher, regardless of the age or ability of their students, must be able to demonstrate patience, and as a TEFL professional, you’ll need to be extra patient. Language barriers can be frustrating, and you need to be able to stay calm and collected even when your explanations are misunderstood or your explanations don’t quite hit the mark.

You also need to be sure that your lessons are interesting, fun, and engaging so your students will work hard and enjoy what they’re learning. Having a positive and enthusiastic approach will make sure your students feel positive and enthusiastic about their studies, too.

Motivation And Passion

When you’re passionate about what you do, that passion will shine through. Your love of your subject will help you bring the English language to life for your students, and you’ll be motivated to create the very best lessons for them. Your eagerness to help them learn in the most effective way will drive you to find new and innovative teaching methods and to deliver your content in a variety of engaging ways so that your pupils love your classes and make amazing progress.

Following Your Overseas English Teaching Dreams

If you believe you have the right skills to be a successful overseas English teacher and you’re ready to follow your dream of teaching students abroad, your first step is to obtain your TEFL certification. You’ll then be well-placed to start looking for your first overseas teaching role, and to begin demonstrating your expertise to enable your learners to hone their abilities and achieve their own English-speaking ambitions.

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