Once you have made the decision that you would like to teach English abroad, there are some steps to take. You need to think about the countries that you are interested in. Begin acquiring a general knowledge of a country and its history. It is rare, but there are some cases in which a school ask questions about your knowledge of their country, history, and culture.
A quick place where you can go to learn about a culture is of course the internet. Just search for say “Turkish culture” and you will find a site like TurkeyCentral.com. Websites like this have articles, blogs, forums, photos, etc., to get you started. You can also refer to travel books on different countries and cities.
Even though Fodor, Insight Guides, Lonely Planet, and DK Eyewitness are travel books, they contain information on history and in some cases etiquette and basic useful words and phrases in the country’s language. Their websites are also good sources. The Culture Shock book series is another good place to learn about the culture and customs of various countries. But unlike the travel guides, the series doesn’t cover almost every nation. You can also find a lot of information and links on Wikipedia.
After you have studied some about the country of your choice, it would be wise to learn at least a little bit of the language. Learn greetings such as “thank you,” “happy birthday,” “ hope you get well soon,” numerals, how much items cost, and how to say “good-bye.” These are an excellent start and will generally impress the local people, including your students. Information on simple words and phrases of many languages can be located online.
Why you might ask, “Should I have to do so much homework before I apply for a job as an English teacher? I’m going to their country to teach them how to speak my language.” The answer to this begins with an old adage, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do?’ Americans are sometimes seen as arrogant, disrespectful, and willfully ignorant of other cultures. In order not to be viewed as the “Ugly American” it is very important to know something about the place where you want to teach, and you need to be genuinely interested too. People can pick up fast if you are fake and have come to their country for all the wrong reasons.
If you do your homework and is serious, passionate, and professional about teaching English, you will earn the respect of most of the people.
In my next article I will discuss online job websites for ESL employment and certification.