Teaching EFL (English as a First Language) in Asia has become very popular in the last few years. For both people who are new graduates from university, as well as people who want to live abroad and think teaching EFL will help them do that, there are opportunities in many Asian countries. If you want to teach EFL though, which countries in Asia are the best places to go to teach English and why?
Teaching EFL in Thailand – I’ve been teaching EFL and Business Skills in Thailand for six years now, so I have to say it’s the best country to teach EFL in. Thailand is a great country for both new EFL teachers and experienced EFL teachers. There are EFL jobs everywhere, the pay isn’t high but it’s a livable salary and, in many cases, gives you a much better standard of living than if you taught in the west. Most EFL jobs too, in Thailand, only expect you to teach between 18 and 25 hours a week – much lower than other countries, where sometimes 40-plus teaching hours a week is the norm. Thailand has teaching opportunities in public and private schools, universities, business schools, corporations and language schools.
Thai EFL students are relaxed, incredibly friendly, very polite and respectful and, if they’re adults, they really want to learn. Teaching EFL to Thai kids, on the other hand, can be a challenge as many of them are very lazy. But, Thai kids are still very respectful as well as some of the funniest and sweetest kids you’ll ever meet so, if you’re thinking of teaching EFL, think about Thailand. Wonderful weather, incredibly friendly people, a huge selection of EFL jobs, a good standard of living and one of the most relaxed places you’ll ever live.
Teaching EFL in South Korea – I have many friends who have taught EFL in South Korea and, overall, they’ve enjoyed it. Job opportunities for EFL in South Korea are good – businesses, public schools, private schools, universities, and privately-run language schools – all are in need of EFL teachers. Salaries are quite high (especially compared to Thailand), and the cost of living is quite low (not as low as Thailand), so you can afford a pretty decent standard of living. Korean culture is also very interesting, and dramatically different from the west, so it’s a wonderful place to learn about a truly unique way of life. Drawbacks to teaching EFL in Korea are that EFL teachers have to work a lot more hours than in Thailand. An average EFL teaching week in Korea can be at least 40 working hours, and that’s teaching hours, as lesson preparation and lesson plans are not paid for. The friends I have who taught in Korea also said Koreans are nowhere near as friendly or hospitable as Thais (in fact, many are downright rude and Korean kids are often very badly behaved), so they much preferred teaching in Thailand over teaching EFL in Korea.
Teaching EFL in Japan – Japan has a very good reputation as an excellent Asian country to teach EFL in. EFL teaching salaries are high in Japan, and there’s also a lot of part-time extra work, where you can really make some serious money. However, Japanese schools, universities and businesses are much stricter about the qualifications of their EFL teachers (often asking for Masters Degrees) and it will take you a while to start getting the good part-time jobs, so don’t expect to be making big money right away. The Japanese are very friendly and hospitable, Japanese food is fabulous and Japan is probably the cleanest country in the world. Japanese culture is also alien to many Westerners, so Japan would be a wonderful country to teach EFL in simply because the culture would be so fascinating to learn about.
Drawbacks about teaching in Japan include having less freedom when it comes to what you can teach, so you’ll find your lessons are monitored and very little moving away from the curriculum is allowed. You also will teach long hours in Japan, as the Japanese themselves work long hours and then learn English after work or on weekends. There is also a large population of Japanese housewives too, though, who want to learn English so, if you only want to work during the day, you’d probably find yourself teaching EFL to this group. Japan has also had a problem in the last two years with enormous language schools like NOVA going bankrupt and not paying teachers what they were owed so, before you sign up, make sure you’re signing up with a reputable place. If you want to teach EFL in Japan be prepared to work hard. However, the rewards can be worth it. Just as long as you know it won’t be a walk in the park.
Teaching EFL in Vietnam – Some people are frightened of teaching EFL in a communist country, but teaching in Vietnam can be a delight. I have one friend who spent three years teaching in Vietnam, two years in Thailand, and couldn’t wait to return to Vietnam to continue teaching as she said the students were much more dedicated. Teaching EFL in Vietnam usually requires a 4-year degree, and most of the EFL jobs will be in universities, language schools or private English tutoring (there are very few jobs in public or private schools for EFL teachers in Vietnam). Jobs in Vietnam for EFL teachers are also not particularly plentiful, so you might spend some time looking for a job if you’re without one. The Vietnamese are lovely people though so, in my mind, it would be a wonderful experience teaching in Vietnam just to get to know them better. Surprisingly, the Vietnamese are also very hospitable towards Americans, a fact that has always bemused me since it’s only recently that America bombed the hell out of their country.
Don’t expect to get rich in Vietnam, as EFL salaries are low, but for a truly excellent adventure, Vietnam would be a great place to teach. It’s a wonderful country to travel in too!
These are just four of the Asia countries you can teach EFL in. Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Indonesia are also popular places for completely different reasons. Most people starting out teaching EFL in Asia, though, usually try Thailand, South Korea, Japan or Vietnam, which also means you’ll meet many other EFL teachers in these countries just like yourself.