Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) has taken the world by storm. So much so that the idea of teaching English online or overseas has almost become a cliche. You’d be forgiven for thinking that South Africans teaching English abroad is a fantasy. You might be thinking that this utopian life of teaching and living abroad doesn’t apply to those of us blessed with a South African passport. But the thing is, TEFL can still totally change your life.
You don’t have to just take our word for it. We have living and breathing alumni from The TEFL Academy who have changed their lives with TEFL and lived to tell the tale!
Coming from the small town of Harding on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, Londiwe decided to study at the University of Stellenbosch (ahoy maties!). She graduated as a Food Technologist and worked for Woolworths, which sounds like a very snazzy job.
After working for a few years, Londiwe decided she wanted to travel abroad. After doing some research she realised that working as a TEFL teacher was the passport to adventure she craved. She enrolled with The TEFL Academy (TTA), taking her first step towards realising her dream.
Once she graduated from TTA, Londiwe found a job teaching at a Kindergarten in Yuyao, China. Yuyao is a small town (with 1.6 million people!) in Zhejiang province, approximately 200km south of Shanghai. It is known for the Neolithic Hemudu culture formed in about 5,000 B.C., one of the earliest sites of human civilization on earth.
Londiwe was working Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, but her teaching hours varied depending on the day of the week. Some days she would teach for two hours, and other days she would work 30 minutes (yes, minutes!) a day. When she wasn’t teaching she was doing admin work and looking after children.
Even though her teaching hours were low, her working hours were still the usual 8am to 5pm, so she was earning a full salary. She started off earning 14 000RMB (R33 000) a month, and then 17 500RMB (R42 000) a month, and by the time she left China she was on 22 000RMB (R52 000) a month.
She taught in Yuyao for two years, then returned to South Africa in 2021.
What was it like teaching English abroad?
In terms of challenges, Londiwe didn’t feel like she faced many: “It was fun for me!! I loved every bit of my experience.”
How did TEFL change her life?
“It opened up borders for me! The best thing I ever did and I think at the right time, too – mid 20’s is a great time to travel!”
What advice would she give to South Africans thinking about taking the plunge and becoming a TEFL teacher?
“Do it! Just register and do it! Travel, learn and grow, your future self will thank you for it!”
While it sounds like Londiwe had the best time ever, we understand you probably still have questions. Let’s take a look at the most common TEFL questions asked by South Africans:
Who can TEFL?
For the most part, anyone can teach English as a foreign language. You’ll need to be over 18, but once you have your TEFL qualification there are very few restrictions. A few countries have an upper age limit on working visas but these are generally around the age of 65 to 70.
English is not my first language. Can I still TEFL?
As an English teacher, it should be obvious that your English needs to be at a very high level. You don’t need to be born speaking English, just a fluent speaker, with a proficiency level at a C1 (Advanced) level according to the CEFR.
As a South African, English might not be your first language. Because of this, you might need to prove your level of English proficiency. This is done by obtaining a certain score in an exam such as the IELTS, or by showing your high school and tertiary education were conducted in an English-medium institution.
Of course, even if English is your first language, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically be a good TEFL teacher. This is a big reason why doing a TEFL course is so important – it will give you the skills you need to thrive online and in the classroom.
I don’t have a degree. Can I still TEFL?
Absolutely. You don’t need a degree to do a TEFL course. However, you will have fewer options than someone who has a degree.
My degree is not a Teaching degree. Can I still TEFL?
Of course. A degree requirement is a requirement for certain working visas but not for being accepted onto a TEFL course. For this reason, it’s not important what field your degree is in but simply the fact that you have a degree.
How can I afford to TEFL?
When you think about it, there are a few costs involved when it comes to teaching English abroad. The first is the cost of your TEFL course itself. Though you can find TEFL courses which are as cheap as chips, please believe us when we say they are too good to be true – because they really are. These certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on.
Rather, invest your time and money into a qualification which you know is accredited and internationally recognised – like those from The TEFL Academy.
How do I find a TEFL job?
You can find a TEFL job the same way you would find any other job. These days TEFL teachers, for the most part, find jobs online. The TEFL Academy has a Jobs Board listing the latest jobs from around the world. All you need to do is apply.
If you already know which country you want to teach in, there are country-specific websites where you can find local job listings. For example, if you want to teach English in Thailand, you can look at ajarn.com.
What can I earn?
Ah, the big question. How much you earn depends totally on the job and the country. You can’t expect to make millions if you’re only working a few hours every day. But at the same time you don’t have to work yourself to the bone to earn a decent living with TEFL. It all depends on where and who you are teaching.
TEFL salaries and packages vary around the world. Some countries offer packages which include flights, accommodation, and a completion bonus. Most schools will give you paid school holidays. Other jobs might pay you an hourly rate. What is important to consider when looking at job salaries is what is included in the salary, the working hours, as well as the cost of living in that country.
Read more: The Average TEFL Salary: The Lowdown
What are you waiting for? We’d love to get you started on your TEFL journey.
Check out more about Londi’s TEFL experience as a South African teaching English in China: