ESP-ecially Interesting – Teaching English for Specific Purposes

Okay . . . not that kind of ESP

Great. You’re all set. You want to re-make your life and start a new career as an English teacher. You kiss goodbye to your old job and catch a plane, never to look back.

Hold it!

Even though choosing a career in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) often does mean a complete shift in your work life, don’t ignore the fact that a lot of your previous experience and education may come in handy in the English classroom, even if your old job had nothing to do with languages or education.

If your background means you can get a job teaching English for Specific Purposes (ESP), then you’re already a few rungs up the TEFL ladder, in terms of prestige and, (who are we kidding?) pay.

As an example, consider someone who has training in the Information Technology, or IT, industry. When she transitions to TEFL, it would be logical to start the job hunt looking for a a position teaching English in secondary or tertiary institutions that have an IT specialty for their students.

There are plenty of examples of occupational specialties at schools and institutions overseas that require English training along with their vocational or academic training. Worldwide, people need English to publish papers at university, research for said papers, study advanced degrees and to start up many businesses.

It’s in your best interest to utilize all your assets when finding a job and your background is one asset you shouldn’t ignore. If you have knowledge or training in a special area, then you will already understand and be fluent in the jargon of that businesses, you’ll understand how the business works, and you may have an enthusiasm about it that other teachers won’t have. This will make you attractive to prospective employers.

Here are some more examples—by far not an exhaustive list, either—of areas of special knowledge that come in useful when teaching English overseas:

●            Nursing

●            Aviation training

●            Marketing and Business

●            Engineering

●            Pharmaceuticals or anything else related to medicine

●            Hospitality and Tourism

●            Law

●            Construction Technology

●            Basically any other subject that you majored in at university

When looking for a job teaching students specializing in your ESP area at a university, avoid approaching the English Department first. A better tactic is to introduce yourself at the department in charge of your skill area, and then request that they recommend you to their colleagues in the English Department.

Some helpful links about ESP: Here are a pair of great examples of ESP work that new TEFL teachers may be qualified for: Hotel and Resort English and Business English. This might entail teaching a few motivated, engaged receptionists or concierges at a 5-star hotel (or maybe even at a resort on an island!). What sounds better, that or teaching 60 bored middle-schoolers all playing with their smart phones instead of listening to you, the teacher? See, ESP has its advantages!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Look within yourself to see what the BEST English Teaching Job is going to be for YOU. What will get you both maximum enjoyment and maximum pay? It just might be related to your personal skills, experiences and education. Don’t ignore your unique strengths—you might be hobbling yourself AND your new career.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Just because you may be new to teaching English doesn’t mean you have to start on the bottom of the heap. If you’ve got marketable skills, then by all means approach colleges, universities and businesses directly.

Teaching Internships in China


Build your own ESP for TEFL Success

Earn More – Enjoy it More

This is one of my favorite topics to discuss. It’s a topic that newbies and especially us older teachers should pay special attention to.

A few things might stand in your way to break into the TEFL world. If you don’t fit the stereotype of a young, beautiful or handsome, white native speaker you may find yourself at a disadvantage, but don’t forget about your skills.

How can you deal with this stereotypical discrimination against older teachers and make the disadvantage an advantage? Your answer lies in ESP – English for Special (or Specific) Purposes.

You can draw special skills for ESP from your work history and experience. As you climb the ladder of age, your skills will climb too. If you are older, your skills will be more in-depth and you will have a greater variety of them.

Recently I met an older woman looking for a teaching job in a wonderful destination resort area.  As she was older, she was not likely to be picked by the local school system who liked young women to teach their young kids. Does she really want a local school job while her ESP skills are just waiting to be tested.  She had worked for and been trained by a major hotel chain.

If you compare teaching screaming kids in a hot classroom and teaching hotel receptionists in small groups in an air-conditioned corporate training room, which one do you want? Give me that hotel job! No doubt about it. So that is the future of this woman.

Her resume should focus on two things: Her hospitality training and experience plus her TEFL training and experience. It’s a match almost made in heaven, a good ESP marriage.

She can even take her job search further, beyond just hotels and resorts and apply for jobs at colleges and universities with hospitality training programs.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Take another glance at your resume before heading for the TEFL world. Identify your ESP skills and exploit them. It’s to your advantage.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t forget about the colleges, universities, technical schools, specialized vocational secondary schools and all the rest who might teach and value and need your “special” skills.

Why ignore your ESP skills when it has countless advantages? It will open many doors for you, you will most likely teach people who share your interests and get a higher salary. Your ESP skills are a big bonus.

Teaching Internships in China