How to Avoid Overseas EFL Teaching Job Scams

(guest post by Susan Taylor)

Vacationing in a foreign country is wonderful, but it isn't always fulfilling enough. You may visit a new place, completely fall in love with the land, the people, even the food, and want to experience those things on at least a semi-permanent basis. Teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) is one way to do that.

Unfortunately, many EFL teachers can find themselves victims of job scams, which can not only cause them to lose a lot of money, but can sour them on the entire overseas experience, causing them to speak out about their negative experiences. Complaints like this are especially frustrating because language instruction can be a wonderful experience, especially overseas. If you decide to pursue an overseas EFL teaching job, be on the lookout for these red flags.

Thieves

Up Front Payment Required


It's very rare that you should have to pay any kind of fee for any kind of job, let alone an EFL job. You're the one applying to do the work in order to be paid. Why should you have to pay anything before you get there? Disreputable employers, or scammers posing as EFL employers, will tell you the payment is to cover your travel costs, or for an orientation you must attend before you can begin teaching. 

Sadly, this very thing happens to many hopeful job seekers. One such story involved a woman who lost $2,500 when she wired money via Western Union for travel costs and rent fees with the promise she’d be reimbursed by the employer. When they received it and then asked her for more money, she became suspicious, and found out it was a scam.

Huffington Post columnist and author, Julie Gray, wrote an article about a very similar experience in which she described how even though she considers herself quite savvy, she still fell for a scam. It can happen to anyone.  As the instances above illustrate, if you pay that money, you'll likely never see it again. And you’ll still have to cover your travel. Be suspicious of any company that requires payment up front when you apply for a job with them.

 

It's Too Good To Be True


It's not difficult to find out the average pay for an EFL teacher in your country of interest. That information is available from multiple sites on the Internet, such as EFL businesses, and EFL support sites and forums. Just like most other teachers of any subject, EFL teachers don't go into that career field to become rich. 

Part of the compensation is the opportunity to live in a foreign country, and to interact with the culture and people there.  If an EFL company offers you what seems like an outrageous salary, or one that's much higher than what other companies are offering in the same area, it's probably a scam.

 

Questionable Web Sites


Just about anyone can build a Web site these days with just a little know-how and a Web host. In the cases of Internet scams, it's become the equivalent of a layperson hanging out a shingle that claims they're a physician. Fortunately, there are some things to look for that will help you identify EFL scam sites. 

First, look at the URL. Does it end with an unusual extension you've never seen before? Not to say that all sites with those extensions are questionable, but it's definitely a something to examine a little more closely. 

Also, is the site well designed? Are there a lot of spelling and grammar errors? Is the domain name unrelated to EFL? Any or all of these factors should tell you all you need to know about that supposed EFL employer.

 

Poor English


Think about it. You're applying to English schools to teach English. Doesn't it stand to reason that the people who work there would be very familiar with the language, and would have excellent English skills? One or two mistakes are probably nothing to be alarmed about. You can find errors on a lot of Web sites or advertisements written by people for whom English is their first language. But if the materials you're looking at are rife with errors, there's something wrong. 

It may also help for you to be more familiar with the native language of the country you’re attempting to teach in. For example, if you’re talking with a school in Spain and are worried about the reputation of the program, send out some tweets to people in the area and check teaching groups on Facebook for more information. If you’re rusty on the language of the country, audio-based programs help quite a bit. In this scenario, brushing up on Spanish will help you communicate, be more aware and maybe even help your instruction.



What other advice would you give to a newbie TEFLer?

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