With the Western world’s growing political, economic, and cultural influence on the rest of society, it should come as no surprise that English is increasing in usage as a global lingua franca. According to Mark Robson (2013), Director of English and Exams at the British Council, 1.75 billion people around the world speak English at a “useful” level. By this year, however, he says that 2 billion people will be using the language.
But besides the rising demand of English teachers in countries like Japan, Spain, and Saudi Arabia, what other reasons are there to pursue a career in English teaching? Well, in fact, there is a plethora of exciting reasons, but, for simplicity’s sake, we will keep it down to 4 in this piece.
1. New Connections from Different Countries
Whether you are teaching English as a second language (ESL) in the United States or in the Philippines or teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in Vietnam or in Oman, one thing always holds true: you will be meeting people from different countries. This means that you will be exposed to a whole new way of thinking and viewing the world at large — and, also, that you will be able to share your own experiences and viewpoints with other people.
Visiting a foreign country and living in that country for an extended period of time are two completely different things. While there is much you can glean about a country’s culture and traditions from a week-long stay, chances are you will not be able to really recognize and comprehend the nuances of a certain people’s culture and way of life until you have spent at least 6 months in their country.
In exchange, when living and breathing another country, yo will also be able to share what you know about your home country and, by doing so, foster mutually beneficial relationships with your students.
2. The Opportunity to Hugely Impact Students’ Lives
English is a key that opens millions of doors, even in countries in which English is not an official language, and this is only becoming more and more true. In Japan, between 2015 and 2016 alone, the English learning participation rate jumped by around 2%, from 9.6% in 2015 to 11.9% in 2016 (Statista, 2019), illustrating the quickly growing priority people are placing on the English language in the Japanese workforce.
Even if English learners decided to stay and work in their home countries, learning English would still immensely widen their career opportunities. According to the YBM TOEIC Commission, many major companies in South Korea, such as Samsung and LG, require applicants to submit their TOIEC speaking scores (Lee, 2014). Smaller companies in Japan have been known to require results from similar tests, such as Berlitz’s G.B.C. test (The English Farm, 2019).
But it is one thing to study English for a test; it is another thing to actually be able to functionally use the language in social and professional settings. While English teachers are in high demand for test taking, teachers must focus on improving their students’ overall English proficiency, not just their test scores. The ability to functionally use English is what would really give them an edge in the workforce — and in life in general.
3. A Fun and Rewarding Experience
It does not matter if your students are kindergartners or adults. Teaching English is a lot of fun, and, when you manage to weather through the sometimes long, challenging, and tedious workdays, you will realize that it is all worthwhile. Sometimes a lesson will not quite go as planned, or a young learner will decide to test your limits in the classroom, or you will find it particularly difficult to connect with a painfully shy student in your class. But, at the end of the day (both literally and figuratively), you will know you are making a positive difference.
Students will not always express their appreciation or show you how much you have impacted their lives. However, when you hear that so-and-so got accepted into his dream college or that so-and-so finally landed that long-awaited promotion at her company — and that this success was due not only to their hard work and dedication, but also to your combined efforts as student and teacher — you just can not help but take pride in yourself, in your students, and in your career.
4. Personal Growth and Development
The most effective teachers do not just teach; they also learn — from their coworkers, their supervisors, their mentors, and their own students. They ask themselves, “What can I learn from my students today?”, realizing that their students have unique gifts, talents, skills, and fields of expertise ranging from music and visual arts to politics and social issues to mathematics and engineering. The best teachers know what makes their students tick, and, by trying to get to the essence of each individual student, they end up learning more about themselves and the world around them.
The greatest teachers are also curious, looking for new methods and techniques to apply to the classroom, as old ones can get boring and tiresome after a certain number of trials. And, by being open-minded and experimental, teachers come to realize that change keeps classes exciting, engaging, and dynamic. Teachers striving to be better at their job end up experimenting, developing qualities such as adaptability, open-mindedness, and resiliency, which teachers can apply to other aspects of their lives or even to their future career endeavors.
And there you have it! Again, there are many reasons besides the ones mentioned above to start a career as an ESL teacher, but these are the top 4 in my book. If you have any additional reasons in mind, please do not hesitate to share them!
Lee, C. (2014, March 26). [Eye on English] TOEIC adds to stress for young job seekers. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20140326000917
Robins, B. (2015, December 24). 10 fascinating facts about different countries that are almost too strange to be true. Retrieved March 15, 2020, from https://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/10-strange-facts-countries-article-1.2475730
Robson, M. (2013). The English Effect (p. 2). London: British Council.
Statista. (2019, December 6). Participation rate of learning English in Japan from 2001 to 2016. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/761217/japan-participation-rate-learning-english/
The English Farm. (2019, November 15). Retrieved from https://theenglishfarm.com/blog/all-you-should-know-about-gbc-test