Best Places to Teach English in Asia

From Seoul to Sapporo, Asia’s demand for English teachers is at an all-time high but not all opportunities are created equal. Here is our shortlist of the best places to teach English in Asia:

1. South Korea
Why ?: Because English classes are compulsory in school (and English proficiency so desirable in the private market) teaching opportunities abound in the “Land of the Morning Calm.” Plus, in addition to high salaries and ample benefits, some positions even provide roundtrip airfare.
How?: Native English speakers only need a Bachelor’s Degree, but the best schools are looking for candidates with formal credentials. Training schools can certify you in as little as one or two months to be a professional English teacher.
Be careful of: Disreputable ESL recruiters and programs.

2. Thailand
Why?: Although salaries are lower than elsewhere in Asia, so is the cost of living. Plus, the easy-going nature of the local and the natural beauty of the country itself makes this growing market even more desirable. In short, many English teachers consider Thailand to be a paradise on earth so why teach abroad anywhere else?
How?: Native speakers need Bachelor’s Degree, but a TEFL certification can lead to higher paying jobs in most urban centers.
Be careful of: Low wages and rural locations.

3. Japan
Why: Japan, long a mainstay of international English teachers, continues to be a top destination with its varied programs, safe travel, and secure positions. Most large cities have ample opportunities with public and private schools while national programs (such as the Jet Program) provide immersion opportunities in rural communities.
How?: Native speakers only need Bachelor’s Degree but competition can be fierce so apply early [FYI: the school year begins in April].
Be careful of: The relatively high cost of living.


Teaching English in Thailand

Experience counts when it comes to teaching English in Thailand but thanks to a recently instructors stand to recent report by Tuong Hung Nguyen, even first time teachers have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants. In Thailand: Cultural Background for ESL/EFL Teachers, there is a wealth of information that can help current and would-be teachers as they prepare to work in the Land of Smiles. Some of the important points that Nguyen illustrates provide valuable insight on some of the difficulties Thai learners often face in the classroom.

Like any language learners, Thai students have difficulty producing sounds that do not appear in their native language. Common examples that are unique to Thai students, however, include many common English-language consonant pairs such as “dr”, “fl”, “sl” and “th” and are frequently cited as being particularly troubling for the country’s language learners.

In a similar vein, proper Thai pronunciation – which places equal stress and timing on each syllable – is fundamentally at odds with the idiosyncratic pronunciation style used in English.

Thai and English grammar are quite different. Where English would modify existing words to reflect changes in number or gender (his book v. her books) Thai employs separate words for such purposes. As a result errors in subject-verb agreement are particularly common. By the same token, while both Thai and English have a Subject-Verb-Object sentence structure, Thai employs implied subjects and objects far more frequently than the conventions of English grammar allow (meaning that sentences that would, for example, require pronouns in English do not need them in Thai).

Finally, a note on “face” or pride. Because of these differences and a a fear of being wrong in front of their peers, Thai students may not feel as comfortable asking questions or participating in classroom discussion. Lesson plans should be, as a result, designed in such a way as to minimize conflict as much as possible.

Big Names in Japanese ESL

For many people, teaching English in Japan means working with one of the country’s major ESL programs or companies. Of course small companies do exist (and may offer wonderful teaching opportunities) but the law of large numbers dictates that the majority of open positions will be with the major players. Here, then, is brief overview of some of the more important big names to lookout for in Japanese ESL:

JET Programme – founded in 1987, the government-run Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, is one of the oldest and most respected names in Japanese ESL. Focused primarily on serving smaller metropolitan areas and rural communities, Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) sign on for multiyear commitments but receive generous compensation.

Interac – Like JET, the Interac program also connects ALTs to public school positions in Japan, but this private company often has more urban positions available. Another plus: it’s easier to transfer from one Interac location to another after you complete a full year, providing teachers with a diverse experience while living in Japan.

AEON – one of the biggest names in Japan’s private school market, AEON recruits teachers for hundreds of their language schools across the country. A major perk: as a private company it is not tied to the normal school year cycle and often hires year-round and from abroad.

ECC Foreign Language Institute – A growing private English company, Education through Communication for the Community offers classes catering to toddlers, adults, and everyone in between. Located in many of Japan’s major cities, ECC also operates various technical and university preparatory schools giving candidates a number of options within the same organization.

Gaba – a company which emphasizes language lessons on a one-to-one basis, Gaba (whose name reflects that focus in Japanese) offers ALTs more than just a unique classroom structure. Gaba instructors are effectively independent contractors, meaning that in theory they have the flexibility to choose their own schedule and working hours. In practice, however, it should be noted that many Gaba employees work split shifts that cater to the morning and evening availability of their working professional clients.

For more information on these and other organizations, see this table originally published in 2010 in the official JET Programme forums.

Here are some of the major English language programs in Japan to get you started!

Three Questions to Ask About Every Job Opening

So you’ve made the decision to begin a career teaching English abroad. Thanks to ESL recruiters, finding a job is easier than you think but, of course, not all jobs are created equal. Even if you think you’ve found an offer that you’re pleased with, before you sign a year contract you should do your due diligence and find out what the school is really like.

As you consider your options, make sure that you ask your recruiter every single question that you can think of. Better yet, if you can get touch with school officials or – even better! – other teachers at the school directly, ask them their opinion. If you can, here are our top three go-to questions:

1. How long have the current teachers been there?

If the position is so great, why is there an opening? Alternately, if the school other foreign teachers that have been at the school for more than one year then obviously some have re-signed for another year. This is a good indication that the working conditions at the school are good or better than most. Because most contracts are a year long, they obviously wouldn’t have signed on again if the position wasn’t worthwhile.

2. What are the exact hours working hours?

Often schools will discuss the total number of “teaching hours” for a position – a distinction which may exclude office hours (the time between classes where you prepare and grade lessons). Office hours can really add up, so when you are evaluating a position make sure you get the “total time” that is involved in your teaching English job.

3. Are there any extra duties I should be aware of?

In many teaching contracts, extra duties are simply taken as a given. Some schools will mandate going on camping trips with children, teaching summer camps, or offering after-hours lessons to the staff. None of these are unusual, but since these are above-and-beyond your usual teaching duties, they (and their compensation) should be spelled out in advance.

Of course, there are many more questions to consider. Check back with ESL Directory early and often for our latest tips!