I’ve been asked so many questions about living and working in Thailand, specifically teaching, so I’ve put a Q & A together to answer any questions you may have…
Why did you select Thailand to teach English as a second language?
I decided to go to Thailand for the experience and learning of Asian cultures to be able to eventually save up and travel Asia. Thailand is a great place to start as an English second language teacher, the salary can offer you a comfortable lifestyle, depending on your home stay. I also had friends teaching in Thailand and was told it is a great place to gain experience of teaching. The weather is also great if you don’t mind the humidity.
How did you go about teaching? You see so many things on the internet, how do you ‘choose’ what will be your best option?
I did my TEFL course online through LearnTEFL and it took me about 7 months to finish (learn at your own pace). I got a deal through Groupon at the time, which was a huge discount! Sounds crazy, but it’s completely legitimate. Instead of paying R6000/$400, you pay around R600/$40. Prices may vary now. Most of the online courses are very similar. Make sure they are Internationally Accredited.
I would advise going through a reputable agency where they teach you basic Thai, teaching English as a second language and can help you find accommodation and assist with visas. It makes the transfer much less stressful.
If you have a degree in anything, you can apply for a Non-Immigrant B Visa. This type of visa is issued to applicants who intend to take up employment as school teachers under university level in Thailand. Holder of this type of visa is entitled to stay in Thailand for a maximum period of 90 days. He or she may apply for an extension of stay at the Office of the Immigration Bureau and may be granted such extension for a period of one year from the date of first entry into Thailand. More information is available on the Thai Embassy website.
What if I don’t want to study online?
Another way you could do it, is to do the course in Thailand itself or whichever country you are considering. This way is actually better for some as you get the practical experience too. It helps a lot if you have never taught before. The course is usually one month. Check out Samui TEFL for an idea on what to expect studying here.
*Note that Koh Samui is an island just off Surat Thani, South of Thailand, and is a bit more expensive to live on than central Thailand.
So once you’ve completed the course, what else do you have to do?
What all do the agencies assist you with?
They can place you in a good school and organise a work permit and teachers license. I would highly advise finding a job that can provide you with a work permit then you don’t have to do visa runs every 2 months. Make sure you also do a TOEIC test which is basically an exam to test your English capability. Unfortunately it costs 1500 baht (+-R750/$50) and you have to do it in order to qualify for a work permit. It is worth the money and you save big time in the long run! Visa runs can start to add up.
What about time off?
You definitely need to have enough money to come over and live off until you start earning money from teaching. In Thailand, schools start in May and close in October and then reopen again in December and there are too many public holidays to mention! In the free months you can either save, travel or work in summer schools, learning centres in malls, be a tutor or babysitter to gain experience and cash.
Is it safe to travel alone?
It’s completely different being alone and living here compared to when you are on holiday with friends or family! I felt that when I got here. But you will be A-OK, promise! Having a partner with you does definitely help.
How do you open a bank account here?
You would need a copy of your teaching contract or work permit, passport and not more than 1000 baht to open an account. There are 35 licensed banks in Thailand, so I cannot even begin to tell you where to start, but your work agency can assist you in that, and can even help with a confirmation letter to open an account. Just make sure about this before you go ahead with an agency. I banked with Kasikorn Bank.
Are your teachings understood by the children?
In my humble opinion, I would say around 40% of students understand English conversation. Some students can tell you words around subjects taught but because it’s a second language, they struggle to string sentences together and spell correctly. Engaging with them requires lots of activities, arts and crafts, games and songs. They only learn through fun!
What age group is the best to teach?
This varies from person to person. I taught ages 3 and 4 and it was not as mentally stimulating as teaching 11 year olds. In my opinion, primary school children or even adult classes are preferable.
How long would it take to learn Thai?
Start off with learning the basics. Numbers, left and right, yes and no, please and thank you, hello. It is a sound language so each and every tone is a different meaning. It seems complicated but they basically have fewer words to use for one word, compared to English where for example, another word for ‘baby’ is ‘infant’. They don’t find that necessary. There are many Thai language centres available where you can improve your Thai at a fee. I learnt by speaking to locals, making Thai friends and Googling!
Let me know if you have any more questions in the comment section or share your experience teaching in a Thailand!