A Guide to TEFL for South Africans

Teaching English as a foreign language is appealing because it allows travel and excitement while earning money teaching. Many English teachers hope to spend some time in South Africa, and why not? It is gorgeous; many excellent sites are, from the Kruger National Park to Table Mountain. It is no wonder it has become a popular tourist destination. However, if South Africa is home, you will probably be looking for an adventure teaching English as a foreign language a little further away.  So here is the ultimate guide to TEFL for South Africans. 

Getting Started Teaching English 

Let’s start with the two easy basics. You need to be over 18 and have a transparent background check. Assuming that’s all good, you will need to either be a native English speaker or be able to demonstrate advanced-level English skills if it is not your first language. Some institutions will be put off if you have a strong accent, but this does not instantly preclude all South Africans from teaching English abroad. Usually, they are looking for your education to have been delivered in English or one of the many certificates available to demonstrate that you meet a certain standard. These are only needed for anyone who does not class English as their first language.

Next on the list of vital components of getting started teaching English as a foreign language is your TEFL qualification. These come in many shapes and sizes, and the most important thing here is that it needs to be a certificate that demonstrates 120 hours. It is also essential that the course is internationally recognised, which comes in the form of accreditation. Your course provider should be able to prove that they are an accredited training provider who receives recognition from one of the awarding bodies. Cheap courses often found on money-saving sites tend not to be accredited, and you will have to pay a reasonable fee to get a qualification worth the paper it’s written on.

Are properly accredited course will ensure that every aspect of classroom preparation is covered. Your study will include lesson planning, classroom management, teaching English as a foreign language, grammar and more. The last thing you want to do is arrive in a strange country and find that you have no idea how to deliver your lessons successfully.

What About a Degree?

There are many roles for English teachers worldwide and not all of them require you to have a degree. Some institutions will be looking for a bachelor’s degree in any area. In some cases, this would be a requirement for obtaining a working Visa. However, many countries are not looking for a degree provided you have the internationally recognised and accredited TEFL qualification. Some countries that do not require a degree include Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Columbia, and many destinations across Europe, including Spain, where you are not required to have a degree to teach English as a foreign language.

The Passport Issue 

We have referred to the South African passport as the green member. It does present some challenges. However, it does not make travel impossible, and there are plenty of English teachers from South Africa living the dream of travelling and teaching their way around the world.

Visa Free Travel

Since January 2022, 104 countries have allowed South African passport holders to travel into the country without a Visa. This includes Ireland, Brazil, Thailand and many others. All of these are popular destinations for English teachers looking to travel abroad. Visa-free travel means you are welcome. But if you intend to work, you need to apply for a work Visa, and there is no reason to think it won’t be accepted.

You can arrive in the country with no Visa, but if you successfully obtain a job once you’ve come. You will need to get your working Visa in place. If you know, you have a job waiting for you. Then you should apply for your Visa in advance. You can also arrive in a country on a tourist Visa. Once you have secured work, change it to a job Visa. To avoid potential problems, you must do this before your tourist Visa expires.

Become a Digital Nomad

Although not strictly a way to teach English in a foreign language, the new digital nomad Visa enables people to work in any country who signed up for the scheme, provided they can demonstrate an income. This means you must have an employer not in the country you are travelling to. There are quite a lot of rules and regulations that go with digital nomad visas. Still, if you work for an online company teaching English across the Internet, this is another excellent way to travel and still earn money as a TEFL teacher.

Is COVID-19 Still an Issue?

The world has opened up again, and travel has become almost the way it was before the pandemic. There are a few countries that do want to see evidence of vaccination before they will approve a Visa. This is not specific to South Africans; it’s a general requirement for anyone visiting the country from anywhere in the world. However, it is just worth checking if you are not fully vaccinated.

Great Destinations for South African TEFL Teachers

You may have a fixed idea about where you would like to teach English abroad or be open to some ideas. From experience, we know that South African TEFL teachers have successfully obtained work in many countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, China, Thailand, the UAE, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. Not all of these will accept applications from people without degrees; the UAE, in particular, tends to be looking for highly qualified English teachers, irrespective of the origin country. However, some others are worth checking out if you don’t have a degree.

You will find work advertised on TFL job boards, where it is up to you to make contact and find work. However, several programs are available that place teachers in relevant posts and could be a straightforward, hassle-free way to begin your adventures. Although they might not pay as much as some privately found jobs, they take care of a lot of the red tape for you and give you a chance to learn how teaching English abroad works. This makes it easier next time to move on under your own steam.

You can find out more about these programs by searching for them online, and they include:

  • The Japan Exchange and Teaching program
  • Teach and Learn in Korea
  • Teach and Learn with Georgia
  • Language and Culture Assistant Programme Spain 
  • ConversaSpain 
  • Teaching Assistant Programme France
  • English Programme in Korea 
Is Teaching English Abroad Expensive?

The initial expense will come in the form of your TEFL qualification. After that, you need to consider things like Visa and flight costs. Some jobs offer subsidised or free accommodation. However, if this is not included in your job offer, you must have the first month and a rent deposit. You must also consider feeding yourself even if you limit your social life until your first paycheck arrives. Lots of people travelling abroad have Next you need to view resources for the classroom. Again, some jobs will be fully stocked and offer you everything you need, but in developing countries, tight money often helps if you can bring stationery and teaching materials. 

Many employers offer other benefits, so the salary may seem less than you are used to, but other perks make up for this. For example, some schools will pay your flights, cover your health insurance and have spent vacation time. It’s always worth checking the full details before deciding on a job. Also, remember that the salary relates to the cost of living in the area. Many websites, including numbeo.com, enable you to compare the prices of living in a prospective new country with things at home to understand how far your salary will stretch.

Finally, you need to understand the tax status. If you pay taxes in the country you work in, you will not have to pay taxes at home. Not all countries tax your income. In some locations, if you are only in the country temporarily, you are responsible for declaring your earnings and paying any tax due. Digital nomads will continue to pay taxes in their home country because they are employed and not officially working as part of the taxable community in their destination country. 

Teaching English Online

Teaching English online is one of the ways that some people top up their income and is also a way that you can teach from anywhere in the world without having to travel, provided you have a stable Internet connection. If you plan to try and teach English online from South Africa, you need to address the issues of Eskom, load-shedding and interruption. First, you need an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) that will keep everything ticking over if the electricity goes out. Alternatively, you can seek out a workspace, which might be a restaurant or coffee shop with a generator to replace mains electricity if needed. 

Top Tips for South Africans Teaching English Abroad

Plan well in advance. Everything takes longer than you think it’s going to. Police checks can take over six weeks to come back, so make sure you apply well in advance through your local police station.

Not all countries consider South Africa to be English-speaking. In this case, you may need to take the IELTS exams to improve your English skills. Some employers will also insist on this if your secondary and university education is not English-speaking. This will add another cost to your budget calculations.

When applying for jobs independently, be sure to stay safe. You should never be asked to pay for anything upfront, and you should look for opportunities from recognised institutions. If a job sounds too good to be true, then sadly, it probably is.

Joining support groups is always a good idea. There are many TEFL groups on social media sites like Facebook, where teachers can swap stories, seek advice and find free classroom resources. Take advantage of this, as having a solid support network is essential when working alone in a foreign country.

Look at teaching English online if travelling seems prohibitively expensive or complicated. The time zone in South Africa marries up well with Europe, so you can work standard office hours and still enjoy the experience of teaching people English.

Living and working abroad can make people incredibly homesick, so take home comforts, including rooibos tea and other favourites, with you. But always embrace the culture because living as a native and eating similarly to the locals is the cheapest way to live.

The Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate is one of the most accepted certificates worldwide. This certificate lets you teach English to non-native speakers across the globe. The main requirement to get a TEFL certificate is the ability to speak native-level English and then you complete a TEFL course. You can complete a TEFL course either online or in a classroom. The different courses vary based on the number of hours it takes to finish.

As a TEFL qualified teacher, the world is your oyster. With a TEFL certificate you can live and teach abroad, teach online while travelling the world or set your own hours working from the comfort of your own home. 

Our 120 hour TEFL certificate is accredited and internationally recognised, so you can teach online or around the world. If you’re looking to teach in your home country at a language centre or would like to go to the UAE, we would suggest you do a higher level qualification, such as the 180 Hour Level 5 TEFL Diploma. This is the requirement in such competitive countries. 

First and foremost, an aspiring TEFL teacher must be a native or fluent English speaker. We suggest people who are at least 16 years old with a C1 level of English or higher. A TEFL course and teaching English is perfect for you if you:

  • Are passionate about teaching and helping others to learn
  • Have a good knowledge of the English language including sentence structure, vocabulary and grammar
  • Are open and willing to adapt to other cultures and languages
  • Want to travel and see the world
  • Are looking for an exciting and flexible career path
  • Are outgoing and confident speaking in front of a class or ready to build your classroom confidence.

You do not have to have prior teaching experience or a degree to do a TEFL course. However, the ability to work using your initiative is important. Our TEFL courses are online, so you will need to be well motivated

Non-native speakers often find the Ofqual Regulated Level 5 TEFL courses quite challenging. As a guide, we recommend that non-native speakers have a minimum IELTS 6.5 score.

A Level 5 TEFL course is one that’s regulated by Ofqual according to its qualifications’ framework. 

By taking a Level 5 TEFL course, you’re gaining a qualification that’s assessed as the same level and difficulty as the following: a diploma of higher education (DipHE), a foundation degree, 2 years at university and the CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL teaching qualifications. Once qualified with a Level 5 TEFL qualification, you’ll have access to the most competitive jobs worldwide.

While Level 5 courses are not the same as a CELTA, they are assessed to be the same level of difficulty as a CELTA qualification. The difference between CELTA and Level 5 TEFL is the way they’re delivered. With a TEFL qualification, you’re more likely to study online at your pace while a CELTA course is typically full-time and in-person. When applying for TEFL jobs you may find a small number of employers request teachers have a CELTA.

A regulated TEFL qualification means that it is officially recognised by the government and sits on the Ofqual Register of Regulated Qualifications.

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