Why teach English as a second language? Here are 4 ways teachers make a difference.

woman sitting a laptop for why teach english as a second language article

Worldwide, more than 1 billion people speak English as a second language. 

For some, the motivation to learn English stems from a desire to satisfy their curiosity; they want to discover more about a language and culture that is different from their own. 

But for many, there are more measurable goals.  

Being able to communicate effectively in English opens doors. It can set you on the path for success in your future career, give you the confidence to develop your entrepreneurial instincts, and makes it easier to migrate overseas in search of new opportunities. 

Where there's a need, there's a market, and ESL is a big business, with schools, e-learning platforms, recruiters, and of course teachers, all benefitting from what is now a multi-billion dollar industry. 

Teaching English as a second language is booming, and qualified ESL instructors are in demand because their skills are helpful to people who know how valuable a strong command of English can be. 

Teach Away wanted to learn more about how teachers make a difference in the lives of their students and gain a greater insight into why ESL matters to millions of language learners around the world.  

We spoke with key stakeholders from three leading ESL providers: RVF International, BEILS Turkey and the Bilingual Program - Hungary.

We asked them to share their thoughts on why English language instruction is important and how teaching has positively impacted their own lives. 

You will gain a better understanding of: 
1. Why English teaching matters.
2. The benefits of learning English as a second language. 
3. Why bilingual children are often more culturally aware. 
4. What makes teaching English a rewarding career choice? 

1. Why English teaching matters.

English is the language of business, and increasingly, global companies are learning that having a common corporate language improves communication between departments who might not be based in the same country, let alone the same building. 

Improved communication usually leads to a more productive workforce, resulting in a more streamlined business not restricted by language barriers.

But, if we steer the conversation back to teaching, how does this impact both ESL instructors and their students? 

According to Cristina Toledo, a Teacher Trainer in Budapest with the Bilingual Program - Hungary, quality English teaching is crucial because networking is vital, especially when so many of our interactions are now virtual. 

The Budapest-based Bilingual Program - Hungary team for teaching ESL article

“By working together with our students and our fellow teachers, we’re able to build our students’ confidence levels, help them achieve their language goals and build lifelong connections,” said Toledo.  

With research showing that as many as 80% of jobs are filled via personal and professional connections, the ability to communicate effectively in a shared language can help us quickly build relationships with valuable contacts.  

“Walls come down, defensive guards are dropped, and connections and common understandings are made when we speak the same language,” enthused Harrison Fowler, CEO of RVF International, one of Spain’s leading teach abroad programs. 

“Teaching English matters because being fluent in the English language is a bridge to limitless opportunities in our ever-growing globalized world and economy.”

But, teaching English has a more ethical purpose because it can also facilitate stronger cultural ties. 

“We fear what we do not know and do not understand,” pointed out Fowler. “Learning English is a truly great way we can introduce respect and understanding into a world that needs not forget those timeless values.” 

2. The benefits of learning English as a second language.

When we talk about the benefits of learning English as a second language, we often frame it as a ticket to landing a corporate role with a major company or a route into overseas international education. 

This makes sense because many English language learners have followed those exact pathways, and we often connect learning with wealth and career aspirations that might otherwise be closed to us. 

But learning English as a second language can also empower those whose ambitions are more practical. 

Verissimo Toste, Education Manager at BEILS Turkey, has taught English to students whose language proficiency allowed them to study abroad and doctors who were able to partake in exchange programs with international hospitals. 

However, Toste is eager to point out that it's often people working in service-based industries who benefit from studying the English language. 

“In my own experience, even in more simple jobs related to the hotel and restaurant industry, I have taught students [who] by learning English were able to work in larger, international restaurants.”

Taking a more practical approach to learning English also involves immersing yourself in the language as much as possible. 

But, how does ESL help students in their day-to-day communications? 

According to Yaneke Paulay, a class teacher with the Bilingual Program - Hungary, the learning in her classroom helps students understand and appreciate cultural references that they're exposed to daily. 

“My students regularly tell me about how they understood a reference in a videogame or advertisement or other forms of media because of something we learned in English class,” said Paulay. 

Understanding and consistently using nuanced language and idiomatic expressions in English serves an important purpose because it can reveal a higher level of language competency - an attractive trait for employers in countries where English is not the first language. 

Indeed, Paulay is keen to point out that “even within Hungary, many jobs don’t just prefer but require a knowledge of English.”

Despite this, she believes that student motivation for learning English is still linked to how much time and effort teachers are prepared to put into their classes.  

“I think that having an English teacher who sparks students’ enthusiasm for learning makes all the difference in how fluent they become,” she said.

3. Why bilingual children are often more culturally aware.

Much has been written on the importance of cultural awareness in a teaching context. 

For ESL instructors, learning how to implement culturally aware teaching techniques is a crucial first step toward developing more inclusive classrooms that welcome people from diverse backgrounds.

Although older students often have a variety of reasons for learning English, and different targets, the parents of young learners usually have a clear goal: they want their children to become fluent English speakers. 

For Dana Palojtay-Thiessen, a senior kindergarten teacher in the Bilingual Program - Hungary, what she loves most about her job is that working in a bilingual program gives her the opportunity to witness first-hand how exposure to different cultures supports the social development of her students. 

“The Bilingual Program has given me great insight into how bilingualism affects children’s lives. Seeing how naturally they are able to switch from one language to another is fascinating.”

The ability to speak more than one language, often out of necessity in a bilingual classroom, not only improves children's problem-solving skills; it also encourages them to take an active interest in their classmate’s cultural backgrounds.  

They can learn about songs, movies, folk tales, and idioms without worrying about translation, making for more powerful cultural exchanges. 

The key to becoming more culturally responsive is that what we have in common is just as important as our differences.  

ESL teachers also play a vital role in facilitating this because they bring something unique to the classroom: a personality and a cultural identity that contrasts with their students. 

Palojtay-Thiessen believes this exposure to different cultures and personalities helps “bilingual children to see how people from two completely different cultures [can] work together, despite having differences.”  

4. What makes teaching English a rewarding career choice?  

What is teaching English as a second language? 

On the surface, this might seem clear-cut, but for many, teaching ESL is far more than just instructing students on the mechanics of the English language; it can be a life-changing experience. 

Teaching English has allowed Verissimo Toste to "gain a greater appreciation of our world.” 

We tend to see things through our personal lens and accept "the othering" of different cultures that often occurs within the media as truth. 

For Toste, who has more than 35 years of teaching experience, travel has encouraged him to see things differently. 

“I have better understood the human element behind new stories,” said Toste. “As I travelled to the Middle East, South America, Asia, Africa, as well as Europe.”

“I’ve discovered that having a common language [English] became the key that allowed for sharing of ideas and experiences, [which} showed me that we are all much more the same than we are different.” 

Cristina Toledo also recognizes the effect travel can have, citing “getting to live abroad and travel” as “perks of the job,” but for Toledo, it is her work that gives her the most pleasure. 

“It’s the students that have made the biggest impact. Seeing them improve and grow, and move on, it’s so satisfying.” 

For Toledo, it’s no exaggeration to say that teaching ESL overseas has changed the direction of her life.  

“The connections I've made through teaching have made me who I am today, and I hope that this is reflected in my classroom and my relationships with my students.”

Work with RVF International, the Bilingual Program - Hungary, and BEILS Turkey.

Working with RVF International at a glance:

  • Hiring fluent English-speaking language assistants and ESL instructors with a bachelor’s degree. No prior teaching experience required.
  • Work with K-12 students.
  • Four-day workweek in most regions (typically Mondays or Fridays off).
  • Earn between €700EUR to €1000EUR per month depending on the region.
  • Assistance with the entire process of securing your Spanish visa.

The #1 teach abroad program in Spain, RVF International is an international education and exchange company based out of Madrid.

If you have an adventurous spirit and a love for teaching and education, RVF International is the perfect choice for English language teachers.

In addition to helping you every step of the way to get you teaching in Spain, you will also earn a competitive salary.

rvf international logo for why teach english as a second language article

Working with the Bilingual Program - Hungary at a glance:

  • Hiring Licensed Teachers, University Graduates, and EFL Instructors with a Bachelor’s degree and TESL/TEFL certificate.
  • Earn a competitive salary of  $1200 - 1250USD a month. 
  • Housing allowance is provided on a monthly basis.
  • Offers year-round training opportunities and opportunities for advancement.

The Bilingual Program is a private, non-profit, tuition-based educational enterprise that operates in Hungarian state educational institutions. 

Operating in one high school, five primary schools and two kindergartens in Budapest, the Bilingual Program offers a unique learning environment for teachers that wish to feed their wanderlust, teach EFL as well as subjects (e.g. history, science, math, art, PE, etc.) and all the while gain experience working alongside experienced Hungarian teaching professionals. 

The classrooms are interactive and communicative, with a focus on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). 

bilingual program hungary 20 year anniversary logo

Working with BEILS Turkey at a glance:

  • Hiring TESL/TEFL certified ESL Instructors with previous teaching experience. 
  • Monthly salary up to $1200USD.
  • Opportunities for remote teaching and paid professional training and development.
  • Online platform content and lesson plans are provided.
  • You can create a flexible schedule for yourself (many lessons held later afternoon and on weekends).

BEILS, also known as the Burlington English International Online Language School, is a unique education platform that offers online English learning for students all over Turkey. 

Its professional staff are experienced teaching experts that engage students in learning the English language. 

With BEILS, you can make a difference for students all over Turkey by working from the comfort of your home.

Now is the right time to start your teaching career. 

Are you considering a career switch to teaching? 

Now is a great time to start researching TEFL certification courses because there are so many opportunities for qualified ESL instructors. 

The shift to remote work means online learning is booming, and with countries learning how to navigate the complexities of the global pandemic, international travel is beginning to pick up, meaning even more options are now open to ESL teachers. 

Visit Teach Away today and learn how you can become certified to teach ESL online or overseas in just a few short weeks.