What are Major Differences Between Teaching English in Asia & Latin America?
As an admissions advisor at International TEFL Academy, I often find myself discussing my personal teaching experience overseas in order to help prospective teachers better understand the contrasting teaching markets that exist in the world. I taught in both Argentina and Taiwan, each for one year - and while both countries gave me just the experience I was looking for at the time, both were drastically different in many important ways. Here is a list I’ve compiled on some of the differences between teaching English in Asia and Latin America to help prospective teachers decide which region might be the best fit for them, based on what they’re looking to get out of the exciting experience of teaching English abroad.
1. Salaries - How Much Can I Make and Save?
This is probably the #1 question asked by most prospective ESL teachers, and understandably so. Money is important, whether we like it or not! In Latin America, teachers can expect to “break even.” This means that you’re going to live a comfortable, middle-class life, but you’re not going to be saving any portion of your paycheck. In Argentina, for example, I comfortably paid my rent, went out on the weekends, and did some regional traveling – but at the end of the month I did not have any money left over to put toward savings or paying off any debt.
In Taiwan, however, the complete opposite was true. On average, I was able to save about $800/month. I honestly didn’t even notice that money missing from my bank account because the cost of living was so low. My rent was $250/month and my salary was about $2,200/month, so the numbers really speak for themselves in this part of the world.
For a firsthand perspective on teaching English in Argentina, check out: Buenos Aires, Argentina Q&A with Lili Kocsis
2. The Classroom Environment
Argentina is known for its passionate, fiery culture – and the people (including my students!) were a direct reflection of that. It was great to experience this first hand, and spend a year in a place where its citizens were encouraged to voice their opinion. For the most part, I spent my year there as a fascinated foreigner. In the classroom, my students would directly mirror what they saw in their parents, politics, television, etc. – meaning they had no problem letting their opinions be known.
At times, it could get pretty stressful to manage a classroom full of expressive 5th grade students, but I managed to maintain a humored attitude about it all. That year, I gained some very valuable classroom management skills that will be instilled in me for life. In Asia, as one might imagine, the classroom environment was the complete opposite. My students were very reverent, respectful, and at times, even silent in the classroom. I found myself frequently researching different methods to get them to freely speak up and participate vocally during class. My students warmed up to me mid-year, but it was definitely a challenge, especially in the beginning.
International TEFL Academy graduate, Colleen Contestabile, shares her experiences teaching English in Taiwan in Nankan, Taiwan Q&A with Colleen Contestabile
3. The Hiring Process for Teaching Jobs
The interview process can be a major deal breaker for many prospective teachers as they figure out which country will be the best fit for them. In South and Central America, it’s most common to be hired face-to-face. This means that to gain employment in a country like Argentina, you need to plan on flying there to interview in person, and they will hire you while you’re in the country. This doesn’t mean that you’ll fly back home and wait for your contract to become official (that would be way too expensive!); in most cases you will begin teaching immediately. It also means you’ll go around with your resume to the list of schools that our Student Affairs Department will be providing you, and you will interview in-person. It typically takes anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks for you to secure full time employment.
Whereas in Asia, teachers are typically interviewed and hired in-advance. You will typically interview for positions via Skype or the phone and you’ll be setting up as many interviews as you would like. I always recommend “shopping around,” interviewing with multiple schools in multiple countries, so that you’ll have your pick of contracts, and in the end you can decide which one will be the best job for you. The ability to interview in advance from home will often enable you to be more selective when it comes to selecting a job. It’s a much more structured hiring process in Asia, which for many people, is the most important factor.
4. Perks & Benefits
In Latin America, you’ll be expected to pay for your own flight and accommodation – but you’re certainly not going to be the first foreigner that the school has hired, so they will commonly assist you with setting up things like accommodation, cell phones, and bank accounts. Teaching in Latin America provided me with this amazing opportunity to see a part of the world that many people only dream of, like Machu Picchu, Patagonia, and The Andes Mountains. If you’re looking for an adventurous experience, the opportunity to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment, and you have at least $1,500 in your savings account, then Latin America will be just the ticket!
If you want to pay off student loans or build up your savings account, you’ll definitely want to consider teaching English in Asia. In countries like China and South Korea, schools will typically pay for your flights and accommodation, thus providing you this great opportunity to save, pay off debt, or do what I did – which was travel, travel, travel!
To learn more about these different factors, be sure to check out our Country Chart! This fantastic resource breaks down exactly what you can expect in each of these regions by salaries, visas, hiring processes, flights, start-up costs & more. I recommend making a list of deal breakers vs. things you’re willing to be more flexible on and this should hopefully help you to narrow down your country options. Just remember, this is one of the most exciting decisions you’re ever going to make in life, so stay focused on your goals, and you’ll be hopping on a flight in no time!
Want to learn more about teaching English abroad?
To learn more about teaching English around the world and the TEFL Certifcation to be trained? Contact International TEFL Academy for a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 and speak to an experienced adivsor on your options!
- Taipei to Seoul: 5 Top Cities for Teaching English in Asia
- Staff Report: The Job Market for Teaching English in China
- 17 Insider Tips for Getting a Job Teaching English in Latin America
- Top 5 Countries to Make the Most Money Teaching English Overseas
- Staff Report: The Job Market for Teaching English in Argentina
- 7 Great Resources for Researching Countries for Teaching English Abroad
About the author Felicia Braverman: A worldwide traveler who has taught English in Taiwan and Argentina and surfed on 4 continents, Felicia Braverman graduated from Texas State University in 2007 with a major in Teacher Certification. She spent countless hours in classrooms in North America and then took this experience south to Buenos Aires, Argentina where she taught English in 2008. In 2009, Felicia moved to Taipei, Taiwan to teach ESL to high school students and she has spent the past five years assisting educators with lining up teaching jobs abroad.