Many individuals contemplating TESOL training approach us with the question of whether they need to know another language to teach English overseas or online. Fortunately, the answer is a resounding NO; all you need is a comprehensive command of English. Being fluent in the local language of your intended work country can be beneficial, but employers typically don't demand it.
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The specific criteria for teaching English abroad or online can differ based on the country and individual employer. A comprehensive understanding of English is a universal requirement. Additionally, a TESOL certificate from a trusted course provider is often necessary, and some positions might demand a degree, prior experience, or native English speaking skills. However, very few employers will expect you to be proficient in any language other than English.
Also read: How do I become a great ESL teacher?
It is widely recognized that immersion is the most effective way to learn a new language. The role of an ESL teacher is to facilitate this immersion experience for their students. You are primarily valued for your exceptional English skills, which could be compromised if you also use the local language in the classroom. This might initially seem challenging, but your TESOL course will equip you with various techniques to improve your students' English without resorting to their native language.
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While it is not usually necessary to learn the local language for teaching English abroad, it can offer multiple benefits. Many TESOL-certified teachers utilize their overseas experiences to learn another language, as immersion benefits teachers just as it does students. If you plan to follow this path, finding a job slightly off the beaten track can be beneficial. Schools often include free language lessons in their contracts, and there will be numerous locals willing to participate in a language exchange.
Learning the local language can enhance your teaching as you will experience the same learning process as your students. This experience can deepen your empathy and understanding of your students' challenges. Furthermore, knowing the local language will enable you to engage more with the community, potentially leading to more unique experiences. Moreover, foreign language skills look impressive on your CV/resume, appealing to future employers regardless of your long-term plans.
Also read: Which TESOL certificate to get?
Being surrounded by the local language is a fantastic starting point. You will be exposed to restaurant menus, train schedules, and a populace of native speakers ready to be asked questions. Basic phrases like "please" and "thank you" should come naturally, and everyday life will facilitate further learning. To advance your language skills, you will likely need lessons, which might be provided by your employer. Alternatively, local language schools or private tutors can be an excellent resource.
While the local expat community can be a comforting presence upon arrival, if language learning is part of your journey, you should actively engage with locals. Look for local clubs that align with your interests - art, drama, or cuisine, for instance. Participating in sports is also a popular choice. Most often, locals will be pleased to assist with your language progress and integrate you into their community. Learning a foreign language while teaching English abroad is typically not required, but it can significantly enhance your cultural understanding and enrich your overall experience.