More graduates are learning to teach English to avoid economic gloom at home

The recession has spiked interest in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), as a way of earning money quickly while indulging a yen to travel.

That's certainly the message from language schools around the UK that offer the TEFL training courses needed to get started in this line of work. "Looking through the reports coming in, I would say that demand has gone up," says Huan Japes, a chief examiner at Trinity College in London, which accredits and oversees about 100 languages colleges in the UK and in more than a dozen places around the world, including Argentina, Bali and Japan.

"There's anecdotal evidence that recent graduates are enrolling on courses to get a teaching qualification to enable them to go and work abroad."

This picture is endorsed at the British Council, which employs 2,000 English language teachers in 50 countries around the world. The language teaching section of its website (www.britishcouncil.org) has seen monthly hits rise from 8,000 to 14,000 in the past two years.

"The timing couldn't be better," says Graham McCulloch, head of English teaching at the council, "Before the credit crunch we were facing a teacher shortage. Now we are seeing far more interest from students coming out of university, many of whom have £20,000 of debt hanging round their necks."

The global demand for teachers of English is enormous. The British Council reckons there are about two billion people learning the language worldwide, and for a growing number of reasons. Growth areas include students wanting to study at universities in English-speaking countries, and people wanting to learn legal or business English.

Becoming part of the workforce satisfying that need can be a surprisingly swift process. In little more than a month, you can find yourself at the front of a classroom explaining points of grammar that you may not have explicitly learnt yourself at school.

Although there are numerous starter TEFL qualifications, and corresponding accrediting bodies, the two most popular and commonly accepted ones are the Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) awarded by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (www.cambridgeesol.org) and the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Cert TESOL) awarded by Trinity College in London (www.trinitycollege.co.uk) – no relation to its namesake at Cambridge University.

Studying for, and acquiring, these qualifications usually entails taking a full- or part-time course at a language school, of which there are hundreds around the UK. The reputable ones will be able to show that they're accredited by one of the two main umbrella organisations, and demonstrate that all courses include a substantial chunk of time where students practice teaching English to a real class, observed by experienced tutors. Fees for courses of this kind vary, but generally hover around the £900 mark. Schools based abroad also offer these courses – Spain is the most popular with British students – but in taking one, you'll have to factor in travel and accommodation expenses as well.

Katie McDonald, 36, who was awarded a business degree in 1995, completed the full-time Cert TESOL course at St Giles College in Eastbourne in June this year. She'd been made redundant from her job at an accountancy practice and is now teaching English full time at the same school, taking class groups and one-to-one sessions.

"I found it one of the most stimulating things I've ever done," she says. "I was never taught grammar at school and it has been fascinating to go back and analyse my own language."

One of her fellow teachers is Florence Hamilton, 21, who finished her degree in philosophy and psychology at Durham University this summer. She had planned ahead and done the Cert TESOL course at St Giles in her summer holidays last year, aware that the economic climate might not allow her to get a job in clinical psychology straight away. However, she's now discovered a passion for teaching her own language to foreigners.

"I don't consider this a fill-in job, because I enjoy it very much and I can now see good career progression," she explains. "I've got some lovely students and I really love the energy they give me."

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