I taught university journalism students CARR (Computer Aided Research and Reporting) for years, and I always advised my students to do a TEFL (Teaching English As A Foreign Language) course as a complement to their computer and writing skills. In those days (the 90s) there was a huge market in the area of teaching basic computer skills and internet research, and many of my students supported themselves by doing just that after they graduated. They were one of the first groups to be able to manually code HTML and create websites. But to me the TEFL was just as important – no matter where they went, they could use their mother tongue to support themselves.

When it comes to teaching English as a second language nowadays (just as in the computer world), those basic skills are more widespread and so teachers of them are not so in demand. More and more people can speak English, so they require teaching at higher levels. There are still jobs to be had where you can be fresh off the boat with your backpack and your surfboard and have nothing but your mother tongue to support you. But they are few and far between. So I recommend training and a certificate.

I have had it happen in the past that students come to me and say ‘my brother’s girlfriend is from England and she would like a job. Can she contact you?’ I usually reply ‘sure, give her my business card and ask her to email me her CV with copies of her qualifications’. At this point if I get a blank stare I know that yet again, someone feels that having English as a mother tongue is sufficient. In Sweden where almost everyone speaks fairly good English, no it definitely isn’t. You will get questions like:

  • what is the difference between a gerund and a present participle?
  • what is the difference between the first and third conditionals?
  • what is a schwa?
  • what is the difference between past perfect and present perfect progressive tenses?

As well as being able to explain things on a technical level, you need to be trained to teach. Knowing a subject does not mean you can teach it. I think all of us have unfortunate experience of this from teachers at school or university….

I have a BA Honours degree in English (with journalism), a DELTA, two years of Swedish and Swedish Political Science at university level and 34 years teaching experience. I have had the same permanent job for 12 years. I worked my way up from trainer to Courses Director and love my job every single day.

I am sure that in many developing countries there is still a market for English teachers who have no qualifications or experience. But as I said earlier, because English is so prevalent these days, absolute beginners are rare.

I did my DELTA in Dublin where I studied from 10am to 10pm seven days a week for two months, but most large centres offer TEFL/TESOL courses.


These are the most common acronyms currently used to describe English language teaching.
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) refers to a particularmethodology for teaching people whose first language is not English, but who need to learn it for work or choose to learn for leisure. These students are adults or children who are paying for the courses themselves, or their employer or parents are. They are often highly motivated and literate, and already have an aptitude for languages.TEFL methodology is highly developed and the most up-to-date training courses turn out teachers who use a communicative approach and a student-centred style of teaching. In these key respects, TEFL courses are different from the way English is taught in most mainstream compulsory education.
TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is often used to mean the same thing as TEFL, but it is also used to describe English language teaching to people living in an English speaking country who are not native English speakers – such as refugees and first generation immigrants. In the UK, ESOL courses provide students with a level of English that will allow them to integrate into the country’s educational, work and cultural environment. There may be a need to teach basic literacy and other life skills as well.
TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) is different again. English is spoken as a common second language in the context of official communication and administration in many countries where several other language groups co-exist – such as Nigeria, Kenya, India and Singapore. Another term that may be used in this context is TEAL (Teaching English as an Additional Language).

In answer to another question I often receive – yes I love teaching English in Sweden. But I live here permanently and have done for fourteen years. It is extremely expensive to live here, and accommodation in Stockholm is very difficult to find. I am not joking when I say that to find a nice apartment you will be on a waiting list for up to 20 years. But if you know someone with whom you can stay and you have a CELTA or DELTA plus teaching experience – call me!

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

2 thoughts

  1. Thanks so much for your article. I currently teach English at a university in Seoul and am a few months away from finishing a MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL. Here you can still get a job with just a BA, but the tides are changing. I look forward to reading more posts about English teaching on this blog.

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