Sunday 30 November 2008

Free Housing and Language Classes in Exchange for English Classes

Updated 8 October 2013

If you're looking for a cultural experience and are only able to commit to teaching for a short time then swapping English classes for room, board, and language lessons might be for you.

  • La Paz: The Point Hostel is always looking for cool, outgoing and responsible people who speak a couple of languages and can commit at least a month. They offer competitive wages, a bed, half board (breakfast and lunch), free entrance to the best clubs and discos, and much more. They need hostel managers, bar managers, barmen, and receptionists.


  • Various: English Opens Doors offers home-stay with a Chilean family, meals, health insurance, TEFL training, an online Spanish course and a participation bonus of 60,000CLP for each month of service.


Costa Rica
  • Torguguero: Meybel Hostel and Hostel El Icaco have been known to offer free housing in exchange for English lessons.

Czech Republic
  • Prague: Jazykava Contact them op (thanks go to Chris Westergaad). They currently offer inexpensive Czech lessons and are working on a language exchange. Try reading Chris Westergaard's info on teaching in Prague as well.

  • Xela: Don Diego hostel (thanks go to OleLarssen). They offer free housing in exchange for English classes.
  • Xela: Utatlan Spanish School. If you will be in Xela for more than two months then you can either get paid for the hours you teach or exchange them for Spanish classes


  • Arequipa, Cusco, Lima, Mancora, and Puno: The Point Hostel is always looking for cool, outgoing and responsible people who speak a couple of languages and can commit at least a month. They offer competitive wages, a bed, half board (breakfast and lunch), free entrance to the best clubs and discos, and much more. They need hostel managers, bar managers, barmen, and receptionists.
  • Arequipa: In return for working at the La Casa de los Pinguinos Hostel you get room, full board and several excursions (rafting, cycling and Colca Canyon). Working hours: 7.30am - 10am and 4.30pm – 9pm, 6 days a week. During your stay you will work in the front desk and bar. Your main job is to give information to tourists. Requirements: fluent English, basic Spanish, ideally German, and non-smoker. The room has a double bed, cable TV, WiFi and private bathroom. 3-6 months.
  • Chachapoyas: International Language Center contact them on You are paid about 200 usd a month to teach 25 hours of English, German, or French a week. Housing is about 50usd a month. Spanish lessons are also available. Email Angel for more information.
  • Huaraz and Lima: Britannia Teachers Peru is an NGO that teaches English to students in the poorer areas of Peru. Contact them on
  • Piura: I.E.P. Bilingue Brilliant Star in Piura contact them on They offer free housing, board, and Spanish lessons.

  • You stay for 6 days in a 3-star hotel in Poland (board + lodging paid) in exchange for conversing in English with Polish participants. You need to a native speaker though.More info at Angloville.

  • Various: Pueblo Ingles has 8 day teaching exchanges throughout Spain throughout the year. You'll get free food, accomodations, and a coach ticket back to Madrid.

United States

  • Phan Thiet: Tri Cong has been said to offer free housing and a stipend in exchange for English classes (thanks go to ajc19810).

  • Peace Boat offers a chance to teach on board as well as visit a number of countries. Volunteer positions last three months.

Volunteering, English Camps, and Teaching Exchanges


Saturday 29 November 2008

How to Create a Teaching Portfolio

Updated 28 November 2014

Having a variety of material available is key to creating a good teaching portfolio. Try to collect material from each job. It’s better to have more items that allow you to pick and choose when going to a job interview, than have too little to show. Look for a professional binder that allows you to add or take out pages as needed. Rather than punch holes directly into papers, it’s better to buy plastic sheet protectors to put your papers inside.


Friday 28 November 2008

Teaching Abroad, Perks, and the Cost of Living

Updated 15 February 2012

When considering teaching abroad, remember that salary isn't the only thing to consider. Here's an example of what defines a good salary in Amsterdam.

  • When you don't have an item to pay for such as a car.
  • Medical Insurance
  • Free housing or housing allowance
  • Utilities allowance
  • Free internet
  • Free meals /meal allowance
  • Transportation allowance
  • Computer and printer provided
  • No taxes or lower taxes. Here's information for Americans.
  • Grants. There are grants for people who work abroad such as the Christianson Grant.
Perks and Benefits
  • Pension plan
  • Chance for advancement / pay rise
  • Flight reimbursement or a travel allowance
  • Few teaching hours
  • Chance to earn more by teaching private classes.
  • More free time
  • Longer vacation
  • Chance to travel to other nearby countries
  • Overtime
The Cost of Living
Going out to eat back home might cost you at least $20 plus tip. In other countries you can get a nice meal for less than $5 and no tip is required. Things, such as transport, movies, going out to drink, or going to a spa might be significantly cheaper. In fact many people enjoy their lives much more overseas even though they are getting a lower salary because they are able to afford luxuries more often.

When you add up the freebies, perks and benefits you might be pleasantly surprised to see that teaching overseas is often more lucrative than staying at home and chance are you'll enjoy your life more. Many people use their time overseas to pay off debt and save money for retirement while still having a good time.


Thursday 27 November 2008

Are You Ready to Teach English Abroad?

Updated 7 February 2012

In some countries going abroad is a part of life. For example, in New Zealand, people between the ages of 16-25 often go abroad for the Big OE (overseas experience). Some come back and some don't. If going abroad to teach English sounds like something you'd like to do check out the info below as well as 30 days to move abroad.

Going abroad has many benefits: you'll learn how to solve problems, be tolerant of different cultures and customs, be flexible, adapt, accept the unknown, learn another language, and many other things such as those International Schools Resource wrote about in things you can learn while teaching overseas.

Do You Have What It Takes to Teach English Abroad?
While there are many reasons to teach English abroad here are the top reasons NOT to teach abroad. Be sure to check out these questions you should consider before teaching English abroad, read what Expat Guy says, and find out what makes a good TEFL teacher. There are certain characteristics that you need if you're going to live abroad such as the ones listed below. If you're serious about teaching English abroad read all about teaching English abroad.
  • Adaptable
  • Adventurous
  • Constructive criticism
  • Creativite
  • Cultural appreciation
  • Easy-going
  • Empathy
  • Energetic
  • Flexibile
  • Focused on creating good lesson plans
  • Goal orientated
  • Humourous
  • Independent
  • Knowledgeable
  • Language skills
  • Optimistic
  • Organised
  • Passionate about teaching
  • People skills
  • Perspectives have changed
  • Professional development
  • Punctual
  • Self sufficient
  • Team player
  • Tolerant
  • Well-travelling
  • Worldly view

Culture Shock
Your attitude is just as important as your teaching ability. If an employer doesn’t think that you will be able to overcome culture shock they may not hire you. Culture shock is a normal part of moving abroad. Everyone suffers from culture shock but those who don’t end up overcoming it often end up breaking contract and going home. Make sure you're prepared so that it doesn't happen to you.


Wednesday 26 November 2008

Cold Calling to Get Teaching Jobs

Updated 30 June 2014

If you're going to do cold calling in hopes of getting a job you need to do your research. Make a list of at least 10 CEOs or employers that you'd like to contact. Online forums, such as Dave’s ESL Cafe are good places to learn about schools. If you are in country, then talk to other teachers and find out which schools are worth applying to. Here are some tips from the experts about cold calling.

If you’re only applying to schools that advertise positions you’re missing a lot of good jobs. When you apply to an advert you’re competing with lots of other teachers. By cold calling you’re taking a chance that the school might have an upcoming position that hasn’t been advertised yet and are beating other teachers to the punch.

It's best to go in person if possible. If you want to talk to someone it's much easier for them to say no if you send an email or call. Sometimes it's impossible to go in person, if that's the case, look at these tips from Cool Careers for Dummies by Marty Nemko PhD and Richard N. Bolles.

What to say when you call
One way of getting straight to the person in charge is calling before and after work. They often come in early and you won't risk getting a secretary. Calling from 7:30-9am or 5-7pm often works.

If you get a secretary try being less formal. Saying something like, "Hi, is John available?" might make the secretary think that you're a friend or family member and put you right through. You could also say, "I could really use your help." This statement empowers them and helps turn even the strictest secretaries. Using humour may help as well, "This might be one of the wierder calls you've gotten." could make them crack a smile or even tell you about some of the weird calls they've gotten.

When you do get through to the person you want to talk to be enthusiastic. The fact that you're calling them and asking them for an opportunity means that you're a go-getter. Most people who have positions of power have also taken risks and admire people who do so. Try saying "Someone must have given you your first chance and I'm looking for someone to give me mine." You could also offer to work for free. After all, you'd probably learn more from them than a college course and the college would charge you to study with them. They might even offer you a job afterwards.

If they can't help you out, then ask them if they could recommend someone who could help you. Whether or not they give you the contact details, thank them anyways for their time. If you get a name, then call them and mention the person who gave you their name.

Send a personalised letter of introduction and your CV. Keep in mind that you might not receive an answer, but the key factor to remember is that you are making contact. You might try calling or arranging a meeting with the director as well. Here are some sample networking emails you might be interested in.

Follow Up
Send another email or call them. If they don’t have any vacancies now or in the near future ask to be notified when vacancies do arise.


Monday 24 November 2008

Learning the Local Lingo while Teaching EFL

Updated 22 January 2012

This is part 2 of learning the local lingo and is guest post written by James Zerfoss.

Some people teach ESL* because they would like to learn the local language. This is a great opportunity for many native English speakers. The one drawback is that you will be spending four or five hours a day teaching English. That means that you will be required to speak English during those hours. Furthermore it will likely put you in a community of English speakers. I think this is one major determining factor as to how well students acquire a foreign language. There are lots of tips for learning a foreign language.

I am currently attending a university in Taipei every morning to learn Mandarin and working as an English teacher in the afternoon. The one major obstacle I see for most people, not only for native English speakers is that many people spend most of their free time speaking their native language with friends from their country.

Few students actually spend much of their free time speaking Mandarin. Of course I realize that learning the language of the host country is not everyone’s primary goal. Some people are just in another country to have fun and learn about the culture. For the more serious language learner you really need to distance yourself from the pack. You need to make local friends and try to spend your weekends with locals and not your fellow countrymen. You can do this by doing your favorite hobbies. You can join a hiking club, find local drinking partners, local musicians, or local skateboarders.

Language Partners
They can be helpful but I believe that many people in Asia have mixed reviews on language partners. Since their English is likely to be better than what you can speak their language sometimes they take advantage of the situation. I have not used language partners much in Taiwan but had language partners in South Korea since there were no Korean language courses available where I lived.

The one drawback to doing a language exchange is that if you are not serious about grammar you may really miss some important points. There are grammar aspects that taking a course that tests you on certain grammar can help with. That said, I know people who really liked grammar or who were translators that really hammered away at learning the grammar.

University Courses
In some countries it is possible to attend courses at a university language center in the morning and work at a language school in the afternoon. This will cost you more but it will guarantee that you listen to two or three hours of the local language a day. This is not an aspect to be overlooked. If you are a true beginner it will take you some time to make local friends that do not speak English.


One good way to learn the local language is to make friends. In some areas of the word this is easier to do than others not to mention that people all over the world are looking to practice their English. In some countries it can become a struggle to get people to stop speaking English to you. In my experience Asian countries are the best for getting opportunities to speak the local language. Part of this is that many Asians are not very confident when it comes to speaking English.

If you show that you are confident at speaking their language, they are likely to speak to you only in their language. That even happens when their English is better than you can speak their language. In some European countries the opposite happens. Some Europeans are so confident in speaking English that as soon as they hear your English accent they will try to speak to you in English.

It is all about input. While speaking is great, if you really want to get good at a language you need input. You need to have people talk to you. You can also listening to music and watch DVDs. Another thing you can do is join a local club or take a class about something that you are interested in. I have met some Koreans and Chinese with great English who have never been to an English speaking country. How did they do it? Well they have been watching American movies for years, even decades. Not to mention that movies and friends will teach you local lingo that you are not likely to find in a book.

My Experience
I have studied German in Germany, Spanish in Peru, Korean in South Korea, and Mandarin in Taiwan. I learned spoken German by having a German girlfriend in Berlin. German was also my major in college. After studying German Literature for two years at the University of Delaware I moved to South Korea. I lived in the country side for one year and learned a lot of Korean from language exchanges and Korean friends. Later I lived in Gwangju and learned a lot of Korean from a good friend Tae-yung.

Now I have been living in Taiwan for over a year. I hope to study at Taiwan Normal University for the next two years and then take the American Foreign Service Test.

*I realise it should be EFL, however, many people use ESL when they're talking about EFL.


Online TEFL Certificates, Diplomas, Masters, and PhDs

Updated 6 April 2016

Why Study Online?
The US Department of Education has recently released a study that shows that students who study online perform better. If you're considering online education, do your research since some places will not accept distance degrees.

For example, the Ministry of Education in the UAE doesn't accept them but the Ministry of Higher Education does. This means that you can't teach K-12 with a distance degree but you can teach at university. While the Saudi government doesn't accept online degree, the SACM  often does. The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission (SACM) requires a letter in a sealed envelope stating the method of instruction. In addition to Saudi, Kuwait, and Qatar also do not accept degrees that include coursework that was done online. Here's some info about teaching with an online degree in Saudi and Qatar as well as ways around the new laws.

If you need to get your foreign degree verified to work in the USA, Foreign Credits has an affordable service and it's the one I'll be using once we got back.  

Certificates and Diplomas
You can find information about TEFL Certificates, short courses, TEFL Diplomas, management diplomas, teacher training certificates, and qualified teaching status (QTS) / teaching licenses, check out this post. Below you will find a number of masters degrees. You can also find more at distance learning schools, affordable online schools, affordable colleges foundation, affordable online degrees, and education degree.

Master Programme Basics
Many people feel that 1 year programmes are inferior than 2 year programmes. However, you have to remember that it's quality, not quantity that matters. "If you factor in skills, such as project and time management, that are required to complete a British Masters within its tight timescale, judgements on quality based on a course's length appear shaky. (Masters of Europe, 2005)".

Be sure to consider how much time you will be expected to devote each week. It’s also worth asking about the graduates. If many people start a programme but few finish you might want to look at another school. There are a many programmes out there: online, on-campus, and blended learning (those that are a mix of the two).

Make sure that you select an accredited programme and ask about online support. There’s nothing like writing a paper and not being able to submit it because there’s a problem with the system. Your professors should be accomplished in the area they teach, have substantial teaching and training experience, as well as publications. Having an adviser who can answer questions is also good. Here is a google doc with info about some popular schools to get an online MA with.

Don’t go for the cheapest programme out there since you usually get what you pay for. If you’re a US citizen look at IEFC. Scholarships (such as those listed at GoodCall) and paying in installments might also be an option. Some universities (such as those in Asia) have been known to offer discounts simply because you're a foreigner. You can often transfer credits from another university, a certification course, or a diploma course (Cambridge ESOL has good info.) Other universities offer credits for proven work experience.

Master Degrees from Australia

Master Degrees from Canada

Master Degrees from China

Masters Degrees from Costa Rica

Masters Degrees from England

Masters Degrees from Hong Kong

Masters Degrees from Ireland

Master Degrees from Israel
  • Tel Aviv University - MA TESOL
  • University of Haifa - MA TEFL
  • University of Liverpool, in Israel (TASP: Teaching and Studying Programmes)- MA in English Language Teaching (There has been some controversy about this degree so do your research carefully.)

Masters Degree from Japan

Masters Degrees from Korea

Masters Degrees from Mexico

Masters Degrees from New Zealand

Masters Degrees from Peru
  • FUNIBER - MA in TEFL. FUNIBER has a consortium with the University of Piura, Peru and the University of Jaen, Spain.

Masters Degrees from Saudi Arabia
  • School for International Training - teaching fellowship with Saudi INTERLINK Language Center at Al Yamamah University (YU) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It consists of two summers of full-time study in Vermont and two academic years of full-time teaching at YU. You get a salary, housing, and discounted tuition. More details can be found at "teaching fellowships"at Interlink.

Masters Degrees from Scotland

Masters Degrees from South Africa

Masters Degree from Spain
  • FUNIBER - MA in TEFL. FUNIBER has a consortium with the University of Piura, Peru and the University of Jaen, Spain.

Masters Degrees from Thailand

Masters Degrees from Turkey
  • Bilkent University - They have 4 MAs: MA in Curriculum and Instruction with Teaching Cert, MA in Curriculum and Instruction, MA in Educational Management, MA in TEFL

Masters Degrees from the United States

Masters Degrees from Wales

Distance PhD / EdD Programmes can be found at this post.


Sunday 23 November 2008

Warning Signs of Bad Schools

Updated 15 November 2012

Here are some warning signs I've heard of over the years. You might also want to look at ISR's article called Warning Signs that Tell You Not to Take the Job.

  • Everyone's afraid of the boss. Respect is one thing; fear is another.
  • Threats or sexual harassment. Threatening to fire you for no reason is bad enough. If you're on a tourist visa and you want to quit and they threaten to go to immigrations. Don't put up with sexual harassment either.
  • Same advert week after week. If you see them advertising again and again it’s probably because they can’t get or keep teachers.
  • Living with your boss. Don’t live in the same apartment as your boss.
  • Classes in your house. The employer needs to provide space for lessons.
  • Mixed level classes. Most classes are mixed levels, but if it's taken to the extreme you need to be careful. If you have people with basic English thrown in with very advanced students that's not good.
  • Mandatory events. Every once in a while is ok but when it becomes a habit that means they’re trying to get you to teach for free.
  • No material. They want you to create everything and don't follow have any structure whatsoever.
  • Lots of changes. Tons of cancelled classes, changed times, salary differences, and so on.
  • Lots of unpaid training and meetings. Some are ok but be aware of those that have excessive unpaid training and meetings.

  • Visa promises they can't keep. If they promise you a visa make sure you get one.
  • Contract penalties. Don’t sign a contract that has lots of penalties when you quit or one that only has info about how they can let you go but nothing about how you can quit.
Money: Warning Signs
  • Bank accounts. They want to use your bank account or have you open a new one and give them the info.
  • Pressure. Some places try to convince you that you’ll never find another job anywhere else.
  • Late pay. Talk to the teachers and ask if they get paid on time.
  • No receipts. Even if you're working on a tourist visa you should sign something.
  • Salary’s vague. You should be told exactly how much you’ll make.
  • Paying for copies. They should make them for you.
  • There's no sign out front. A school should prominently display their name outside.
  • Bad first impressions. Peeling paint, dilapidated furniture, or a bad neighbourhood aren't good signs.
  • Learn English in 6 months. While some people can learn English that quickly the majority of people can't.
  • Dangerous places. The institute is located in a bad neighbourhood or they want to you to teach classes in a bad neighbourhood.
  • Lots of new teachers. If most of the teachers have been there for less than three months, that's not very good.
  • Disgruntle teachers. If everyone's complaining it says something about the school.
  • No foreign teachers. Not always a warning sign, but I'd rather work at a school that has (had) a foreign teacher.
Signs That You're Being Scammed
  • Pay up. If you're asked to pay money, it's probably a scam.You might also want to look at and Scam Warners.
  • Get rich quick. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. End of story.
  • Rich African. Another warning sign.
  • Dead spouse. If the person is a recent widow / widower who needs you to take care of their children. Be very careful.
  • Western Union, Moneygram, etc. If they require you to accept or send money this way it's usually a scam. Visa fees are paid to the embassy, immigration fees are paid directly to immigration, and travel fees are paid to the travel agent or airlines.
  • Cheques. The schools asks you to write, mail, or cash a cheque on their behalf.
  • Parcels and packages. They want you to accept or send parcels or packages. NEVER do this. You never know what could be in the package and you could end up in a local jail.
  • Dealing with individuals. When dealing directly with a person, rather than a school you have to be extra careful. While it's true that people often hire tutors or au pairs, about 99.99% of the time they go through agencies. Go through an agency. You might have to pay a fee but it will be worth the peace of mind.


Saturday 22 November 2008

How to Deal with Job Burnout

Updated 18 February 2012

Are You Suffering from Job Burnout?
  • Do you dread going to work?
  • Do you feel sad or depressed on a Sunday?
  • Do you regularly feel exhausted at work?
  • Do you find yourself getting bored at work?
  • Do you find yourself hating things that you used to enjoy?
  • Do you find yourself criticizing your job, boss, or place of work?
  • Do you find yourself annoyed by your co-workers?
  • Is your personal life being affected by your feelings about work?
  • Do you find yourself envious of people who are happy at their job?
  • Do you now care less than you before about doing a good job?

Reasons for Job Burnout
  • Tedious jobs
  • Difficult jobs or bosses
  • No recognition for what you do.
  • Changes at work (such as restructuring or new management)
  • Changes in your life, such as your interests, goals, or values.
  • Not having your skills and abilities used at work.

Fixing / Avoiding Job Burnout
  • Make changes. You might need to change your job or even your career. You may consider taking some time off and travel.
  • Take care of your body: Eat healthy food and drink water. Avoid sugar, junk food, and caffeine. Get enough sleep and go to the doctor for annual exams.
  • Take time out: Do something that you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, going shopping, out to a movie, for a walk in the part, or just doing nothing. Travelling around the world is also possible, especially now with budget travel options.
  • Make goals: List what you want to accomplish both professionally and personally. Take steps to reach those goals.
  • Talk to people: This is a great way to relax or vent.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses: It will make your job easier.
  • Spend time with friends and family: Invest in your friendships and relationships.
  • Learn more about job burnout and how to overcome it


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