How to Prepare to Teach English

Let’s say you’ve decided to become a TEFL teacher and want to teach English, but have no idea where to start – how do you prepare? This article will tell you everything you need to know, from getting qualified and finding your first job to preparing for your first foray into the classroom. With endless courses and resources available online, it isn’t hard to prepare for becoming an English teacher, you just need to know where to start.

Get Qualified

First things first – if you want to teach TEFL, you need to get qualified. Whether you want to teach TEFL online or jet off to an exotic location, you’ll need some sort of teaching qualification to get you any kind of decent job. Even if you plan to work freelance, you’ll have far more credibility as a teacher if you have a TEFL certificate. Getting TEFL certified isn’t tricky to do – there are a wide range of courses available with specialisations for those who know which direction they’d like to head in. You can study online, in person, or on one of the popular combination courses that give you real-life experience alongside a predominantly online course. Find an accredited course provider like and browse the courses they have on offer. Courses vary wildly in cost, but make sure your provider is certified and has great reviews to check you’re paying for a quality certificate. 

Get Experience

If you’re not in a rush to start teaching full time – for example, if you’re a student who is planning ahead for a gap year – then make the most of your preparation time by getting some teaching experience. Many voluntary positions will accept native speakers even if they don’t yet have a TEFL, and it can be a great way to gain an insight into the teaching world and have something to put on your CV. You might get the chance to work with or observe more experienced teachers, learning things from them that you’d never glean from a textbook. In your local area, find out if there are opportunities to volunteer as a TEFL teacher – this is easy to do if there is a sizable immigrant population in your country, or if you live near a refugee centre. You can volunteer as a TEFL teacher online, too, with companies such as Refunet, and this volunteering opportunity from British Council. 

Who do you Want to Teach?

Before you start looking at teaching jobs, you need to work out who you want to teach. This consideration will also play a part in helping you decide which TEFL course to study, as some are pitched specifically at certain student groups. For example, do you want to teach young learners, teenagers, or adults? Would you prefer to work with beginners at CEFR level A1 and A2, or would you be more at home conversing with students who have achieved near-native fluency of C2 level? Are you hoping to teach one-to-one, small groups, or whole classes full of students? Would you like to teach in a country where students are quiet and well-behaved, or a place where students are known to be boisterous and opinionated? 

Teaching Online – Work Out Your Availability and Research Platforms

If you want to teach online, it might seem like you have an easier job than those hoping to teach abroad, but there are still many different aspects to consider. Once you’ve decided which demographic you’d like to teach, that will help to narrow down the search when you’re looking for jobs. Another important factor is thinking about your availability. Are you looking to teach full-time, or will your online lessons be a part-time gig? Working out the days and times when you’re free might be a hindrance on how much work you can get – remember that your students will probably be in a different time zone to you, and their peak times for lessons probably won’t fit nicely into a 9 – 5 working day in your country.

Once you’ve got a realistic idea about when you’ll be working, start looking into platforms to teach with. Some will have minimum teaching hours per week – often around 10 hours per week but you can sometimes find them with 5 hours or fewer. Remember to check job specifications carefully – some online platforms specify how much prior experience you need, what kind of TEFL certificate they prefer, and if they have a preference for accent as some schools only hire, for example, British teachers. Some schools are a ‘turn up and teach’ situation where you’re provided with a PPT and lesson materials that require little to no preparation on your part. Others will expect teachers to plan their own professional lessons. Also, remember that the hourly rate isn’t everything – some schools pay less per hour but have much more availability to give you the hours you’re looking for. Many schools also offer attractive bonus systems for teachers who work large numbers of hours per month, so look out for these perks as well as the base rate of pay. 

Go Abroad – Decide Where to go

If you want to teach English abroad, you’ll find a wide range of opportunities across the globe. TEFL is the industry that’s always hiring, particularly if you’re not fussy about which destination you head to. As a newly qualified and inexperienced TEFL teacher, there will be some limitations as to which jobs you can apply for. Often, teaching in Western Europe requires years of experience or a CELTA instead of a basic TEFL certificate. Also, top-notch jobs at International Schools and Universities will be out of bounds until you get some experience under your belt. Great locations for first time TEFL teachers are:

–        China

–        Spain

–        Cambodia

–        Vietnam

–        Japan

–        Hungary

–        Russia

–        South Korea

–        Turkey

–        Taiwan

–        Dubai

Choosing which location you’d like to teach in can be a tricky conundrum. If you have a clear idea of where you’d like to go, the decision is easy, but there are still different points to consider. Being able to get hired in that country is just one factor to consider. Other points you need to think about are: How far from home is it and how long is the journey to get there? What is the cuisine like and will it get on with your stomach? What is the climate like and can you handle their temperatures? Will you need to wear anything special on a day to day basis, such as covering up in conservative or religious countries? Are there any laws in that country that might impact your daily life, such as countries where it’s illegal to be homosexual? What is the mother tongue of that country and will you be able to pick any up while you’re there? What is the cost of living and will you be able to afford a nice life on a teacher’s wages? 

Prepare to Teach Like a Boss

If you’re going into your first teaching role, much of your preparation should focus on how you’re actually going to impart the wisdom of your native language to your students. It may sound easy when jobs specify that all you need is to be a native speaker, but the truth of the matter is that it can be really scary to stand up in front of a class of students if you don’t know what you’re doing. Spending time reading about different teaching methodologies will give you a good introduction to the profession and help to spark ideas once you get in the classroom. Read compilation books of top TEFL games for both classroom and online lessons, and watch Youtube videos to see some of the games in action. Get into the habit of grading your language so that you use words and phrases that will be appropriate for your learners. And remember that, as with any new job, it’s a learning curve – expect to receive constructive criticism on your early lessons, which you can take on board to become a better teacher. 


When is the best time to start preparing to teach English? Basically, right now! It’s never too early to start researching different aspects of the TEFL industry, even if you don’t plan on teaching for a while. The better informed you are, the better the decisions you’ll make, so source some books or websites to start looking at as your plan for your TEFL adventure. 

Un saludo,

Gordon y Cynthia:)

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