After backpacking and a go-go go solo traveling; I switched to slow traveling so I could get to know each country bit more. That led me to live as an ex-pat in 8 different countries and I was teaching English in south east asia (Bangkok Thailand, Hanoi Vietnam, Vientiane Laos, and Guilin, China) Not all of them were paid roles but when it was, it paid a decent amount to keep my travel life going. Clearly why it is one of the most sought-after jobs for the digital nomads.
If you are looking for teaching english in south east asia as a non native speaker; my personal experience and recommendation is below. I hope it helps you.
I must admit that I am not only a nonnative speaker but also Asian-looking and don’t hold any degree! So how did I taught English in not one but four countries? Read on to find out.
Teaching English in south east Asia
Here are my tips for scoring the teaching English abroad roles
1. Networking is key
I didn’t know what I was doing back in 2015 but looking back I can truly say networking IS king for opportunities especially if you are non native and don’t have a degree. Here are my real-life examples of how it happened for me.
While I wasn’t actively looking to teach in Thailand but during one of the events I was attending, I met a Thai woman. In our conversation, she asked about my professional corporate background so I explained what I did which was related to IT and she simply asked me if I wanted to teach year 10 students for a week?! I didn’t expect the gig to be THAT easy! Plus the school was taking care of everything in terms of transport, meals, and accommodation.
I know it was only for a week but I got lucky in that instance. There were four big school buses full of school kids, foreign teachers, and Thai assistant teachers going on an excursion for few days outside of Bangkok. I was put on a nice hotel, meals and per day I was getting paid about 1000 bhat which was a bonus really because it was the experience for me at that time.
Now on to how I got the teaching English jobs in Hanoi without the white look or a degree! Firstly I was on a silent retreat Thailand and when my visa was up, I decided to volunteer in the outskirts of Hanoi, perhaps because the meditation was still working in me I wanted to help! It was a volunteer English teacher role and my time/energy was paid in terms of accommodation and food.
The organization was not for profit. So I was put in a 2 bedroom apartment, sleeping with other female English teachers in one room. The bed had no mattress and the bathroom was a mess but the food was decent! We had been assigned a Vietnamese assistant and she would also come around and cook for us. We would then go and teach at either the person’s house or at some other person’s house but the classes were always full of kids wanting to learn English. It was a great learning curve as I started planning lessons and teaching Nursery to class 7 kids.
After my time at the volunterring place ended, I got the certificate and moved to live in Hanoi. That’s when i realized I wasn’t getting any teaching gigs because of my Asian looks! In the meantime I noticed the English Inistutes were hiring any blonde hair and blue eye travelers even if they didnot have any degree, couldnot speak for their life and didnot have tefl course certificates either. They were banking purely based on their looks!
When I asked, I got the reply that was because parents tend to believe the perception “white people can speak good english” narritive. I also discovered the blonde white teachers got paid more and got offered more jobs than the Asian, brunettes or redheads…Teaching english in south east asia in a nutshell!
Anyway, after moving to the Hanoi city I started meeting people organically. I went out with them, befriended them and was geniunly happy to 1. get out of that rock bed sitution in outskirt of hanoi 2. meet other like minded people.
Fortunately, these friendships got me added to their private FB chat and what’s app group where English teachers would give a heads up if they were taking a sick leave and needed someone to cover their class or internal hire and opps.
That’s how I got my first English teaching class in Hanoi! Although it was an hour away from my apartment and I had to return by myself at night on a local bus (I don’t ride bikes) I was committed! I over delivered and the school was happy with my performance. From then on, everytime they needed someone I was on call and they also referred me to their peers which meant I had more classes. During this time, I was mostly teaching ranges of English classes from year 1 till year 10. So, every lesson planning was intense but I enjoyed and loved it.
After a month from that, I was a proper ESL teacher/ teaching IELTS classes at one of the reputed Insitute in Hanoi. Personally for me teaching English in south east Asia all came down to my network and the people I met. Although I did have years of learning IELTS back in Nepal and Australia which helped when planning and teaching lessons.
My other teaching English in south east asia experience was in a tiny remote village in China and Vientiane, Laos. Once again I volunteered to teach English in China. It was a community library ran by the accommodation provider I was staying at and I gladly accepted the opportunity to teach English when I found out kids from miles away would come to the class. I just had to do it.
By the time I was in Vientiane, Laos I had gathered enough experience and now I was teaching 1:1 classes. It was teaching business English to Korean Country Manager and Japanese COM. They both were ex-pats in Vientiane working for multinational companies and wanted to grow their business English capabilities. I had worked in the corporate IT world for years plus with the added teaching experiences, it all came together nicely. My client even gave me flowers at his last class as a thank you! (Japanese culture is amazing!)
I don’t mean to make this post too long but I wanted to share with you how being open and genuine networking helped me to get a job teaching English in south east Asia without any degree.
2. Get a TEFL course
Now i didnot had to get the tefl course but I know this is an abolute must these days. In my network of English teachers; they all swear by it. And if you don’t want to leave things to chances; you may want to secure the international tefl certification. They are many companies offering tefl courses online and job search done for. Please be careful of those ones as it could be fake, read reviews, ask around. I suggest getting enrolled on the official tefl site to be safe.
3. Get a degree
This is what one of the travelers I met did. She came for a taste in Vietnam for a month and absoultey wanted to teach abroad on a long term basis. She went back to her country, changed her course to the easiest bachlor degree and left. For many teaching english in south east asia is dream and having a degree really makes the process faster. Plus the tefl certification boosts your profile infront of the institue and schools. (And this applies for above mentioend countries as well as South korea, chiang mai, japan, online teaching program and schools.
4. Prep to Teaching English in southeast Asia online
Now if teaching on site is not your style then plenty more opportunites for you is out there. But if you are a non native and wondering how to get started, read below. Make sure you are absolutely fluent in the English language in very form – reading, speaking, writing and listening. Second, get a tefl done and make sure you have a good set of earphone/headser and a working laptop. And the most important part, a stable and realiable internet connection.
5. Wher to find online teaching english jobs
Weather you are a native english speaker or non native; looking for teaching english online jobs can be daunting. To help you I have lised the most recommnded companies for teaching jobs. Note: most will ask for Bachlor degree or tefl cetificate.
- Topica Native
- Amazing Talker
- Hujiang CCClass
- First Future
- Bibo Global Opportunity
- Zebra English
Teaching can be a satisfying job if you know what you are doing. I also find teaching abroad is a unique experience and hope you get to do it soon! If you liked this post, please comment and share it with your circle.
Let me know in the comments:
- if you have any questions on teaching English in south east asia
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22 thoughts on “Teaching English in south east asia”
Those are some wonderful points to keep in mind and thanks for those resources you’ve given. I’m a teacher and I’ve been planning on teaching outside my country again and this is such a helpful guide.
It is a great experience. I spent a year teaching English in Asia and it was amazing, I learn a lot. I hope to do it again soon when the pandemic is over.
sounds like a great and rewarding way to make a living, for sure! I am a non-native English speaker, so guess I’ll try my luck but have no high hopes. Blessings!
Such awesome experiences you had. I will share this with my friend who is currently in Southeast Asia as she is planning to stay longer in her stay in the Southeast. I bet she would be interested in teaching too.
this sounds amazing! I enjoyed reading your post thanks for sharing your experiences, I cant wait to head out ther eafter covid.
Sounds like a great plan to enjoy while exploring a new country. Although my English is pretty good but being a non-native English speaker I’ll have a hard time doing it.
Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m planning to have a TESOL to teach English and I learn a lot from your post.
I’ve always been intrigued with teaching English (especially online) — all the more with my bestfriend’s cousin earning a whole lot from it! I’ve heard of 51Talk but am not yet familiar with the other platforms you mentioned. I’ll give them a try!
Wow this is quite amazing that you are doing this! Thanks for sharinghow you got to pursue this career.
What an ispiring story! Be proud of yourself. You go girl! Thank you for this
I have always wanted to venture into this kind of job. I love working with children and teaching them English would be a great way for them to be globally competitive in the future. I will check out these websites that you mentioned. Maybe I can find an online teaching job that would fit my schedule.
This is such a wonderful article, the information is overloaded. From the learning curve to the job hunting is complete on this article and that’s a plus point for me.
I want to teach English again. I’ll check the list you gave and will try to apply.
What an amazing experience. I am considerating doing this next year when I get my degree as an English teacher, thank you very much for the tips. At least I know how to start now.
Teaching is such a noble profession. It’s not an easy job and you really need dedication to succeed.thanks for sharing your experience.
This sounds like it was an amazing experience. It’s so wonderful to be able to do good for ourselves and for others at the same time.
That is so amazing that you were able to land a job teaching English without having an English degree. What a fantastic experience.
What an amazing experience! You get to see the world, and your students get to learn another language. It must be so fulfilling.
This is an interesting post. I hadn’t considered the issues you brought up about being able to teach English in SE Asia. I am glad you had success finding jobs. Thanks for sharing!
What an amazing way to enrich both your life and the lives of others. I think this would be an absolutely amazing experience.
I been thinking to do this, thanks so much for sharing. The passion and organization behind the process is so smart!
This is so cool! I feel like slow traveling is the way to go to really experience a place.