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Does teaching English abroad truly make an impact?

Teaching abroad can have a huge impact on yourself and on your students. You will have experiences that will open your eyes to different ways of life and you will learn perhaps more than you will teach. 

I am unsure that there is anything quite like living abroad. The opportunity to be immersed in a culture that differs, even in small ways, from the one you were born into can teach you so much, about yourself, about your own culture and language(s), about other ways of being, knowing, speaking and living. It affords a unique perspective on life and it is rare to find these affordances in the social milieu most people exist in their everyday lives. Teaching English is impactful in many ways, on yourself, and on those you teach and interact with whilst you are away. This impact can be negative or positive depending on the opinions you hold, the choices you make and the experiences that you have.

The impact on yourself
Living in another country allows you to see how your own beliefs create your reality, direct your thinking, and drive your way of life. You will be able to directly observe how people in another culture do this differently. This can lead you to question fundamental beliefs you hold and take you on quite a journey of self-discovery, if you are open-minded that is. If you are not you may find yourself, as I have witnessed, frustrated at everything your host country has to offer, annoyed at the way of life of its people, longing for the comforts of home and wondering why you ever left.

I suggest therefore, you think deeply and carefully about just what kind of person you are and what experience you think you will have before signing up. If you don’t like going without creature comforts perhaps rethink a position in a nation that is not economically advantaged, if you love technology perhaps rethink a position in a small town and if you don’t like change, don’t go.

Living in another country will facilitate a deep knowledge and understanding of another culture and provide you with a greater understanding of the world in which we live. If you are lucky enough and you put in the effort, it may also allow you to learn another language which will provide another wondrous window on our world.

The impact on your students
The demand for learning English worldwide is currently unprecedented. English is often now required for academic advancement and for entrance into certain professions, in some places social mobility itself is tied to English language ability. Taught well, therefore, English has the power to alter lives. Unfortunately conversely, taught badly English, has the power to alter lives.
As a teacher, you are in a position of power. Your abilities, not only in teaching English but assessing it whilst ensuring its relevance, are central to your students’ success. You have a duty to your students to be the best version of yourself as a teacher. The rigour of your lessons, the sequence of learning, and the enthusiasm you bring to class will help or hinder your students’ future success.

When you teach a language you also teach culture as language and culture are entwined. You must make sure that what you teach and how you teach it does not prioritise one culture and language above the other. You should be mindful of the idea of cultural safety in your teaching of culturally and linguistically diverse students. This means that the cultures, beliefs, and opinions of the students you teach should be safe in your care.

Learn about the culture of the place you are living and when teaching does not violate society’s customs. Do not, for example, in a country that predominately is vegetarian, give the students an exercise to write the procedure of making a lamb roast. Or in a predominately Muslim country, teach students a Christmas song that violates the fundamental beliefs of Islam. You may laugh but I have encountered such activities!

Make English relevant to your students. Help them to see how it can be used and useful in their own lives, in their own country, that it is their language too. Find out more about your students to do this, learn what it is they do in their lives in English, where do they use it? Do they play video games in English, watch American movies or listen to English pop, rap, rock music? Consider how you can use their hobbies in class to motivate them to learn. Can you incorporate the lyrics of a song into a lesson on poetry? A scene from a movie into a dialogue lesson?

Final remarks
Teaching abroad can have a huge impact on yourself and on your students. You will have experiences that will open your eyes to different ways of life and you will learn perhaps more than you will teach. For your students, you will be one of the gatekeepers to further education and prospects only available to proficient English speakers. Whether these impacts are positive or negative however is largely up to you.

Tatiana Rokou

Tatiana is the news coordinator for TravelDailyNews Media Network (, and Her role includes monitoring the hundreds of news sources of TravelDailyNews Media Network and skimming the most important according to our strategy.

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication & Mass Media from Panteion University of Political & Social Studies of Athens and she has been editor and editor-in-chief in various economic magazines and newspapers.