Speak English, and you can talk your way around the world. By Susan Griffith
The fact that you are reading this suggests you possess a skill that could easily find you work abroad: English as a mother tongue. Thousands of students have decided is better to give than to receive (instruction). So instead of heading back to college this term, they are going abroad to teach English instead. Every morning the streets of Seville, Santiago and Seoul are thronged with people rushing to their English lessons. The demand for instruction or just conversation with people who speak English as their mother tongue is enormous.

A great many young Britons are setting off about now to capitalise on this market. The cautious and well organised ones do so under the wing of one of the specialist organisations that arrange for students in their gap year to teach English in Nepal, China, Bulgaria, Mexico or one of a score of other countries. Applications for these placements normally have to be made a year in advance, so now is a good time to think about the next academic year.

If you want to start wandering next week rather than next year, arranging a job in advance is still possible. A few agencies accept applications on a rolling basis. For example, an agency called Teaching Abroad can send people at very short notice to Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, India and (from February) Ghana, to teach English while living with a family. The standard arrangement is for the mediating organisation to charge a fee (say pounds 600-pounds 750) for arranging a job and accommodation and providing local back-up. Travel expenses are extra.

Mostly (but not always) you need some sort of qualification for teaching English as a foreign language - TEFL in the jargon. Chains of language schools abroad sometimes interview teachers in Britain, and most of them expect some kind of TEFL profile. There are exceptions: for example the Nova Group, a major Japanese chain of language schools, has a London office that recruits teachers with a university degree year-round.

In less developed countries, schools come and go, and tend to choose their teachers from the bottomless pool of native English speakers on the spot, who also come and go. Knocking on doors is the approved method. What many jobseekers find is that as private language schools around the world become more aware of recognised qualifications (principally the Certificates offered by Cambridge/RSA and Trinity College London after an intensive one-month course), many are more suspicious of backpacker English teachers.

However, those who can present an authoritative image often meet with success. An ability to make a class interesting and to remain patient in the face of slow progress are two key qualities that employers are looking for rather, than methodological sophistication.

The norm is for a new arrival in town to increase the number of teaching hours very gradually. Getting three hours of work a day (early morning and early evening) is usually the easy part. As a freelancer, it is difficult to do more than subsist at first. Freelance teachers must be prepared for frequent holidays and last-minute cancellations to cut into earnings. It may be worth considering setting up as an independent tutor and offering private lessons at a rate that undercuts the institutes.

It may be necessary to consider less familiar destinations. Here are my top six, with a few tips on how to get a job:

Cambodia now has a booming commercial market supplying English language training. Rent yourself a bike for the day and have a spin around Phnom Penh. There's a school on practically every corner, many of which want to hire native English speakers. Casual teachers earn about pounds 4 an hour in a country where you can live comfortably on pounds 6 a day. TEFL qualifications can double or treble this amount.

Every issue of Venezuela's English-language paper, the CaracasDaily Journal, carries job ads for English teachers. Surprisingly, opportunities also exist on the popular resort island of Margarita.

Korea absorbs huge numbers of foreign teachers at countless private language institutes (called hogwons) in the capital, Seoul, and Pusan, Korea's second city. Having some letters after your name makes the job hunt easier.

Bulgaria is one former Eastern bloc country which has not surrendered to the free market, so there are virtually no commercial language schools. However, the Ministry of Education is promoting an exchange programme through Teachers for Central & Eastern Europe, whereby graduates from the English-speaking world spend at least one term in an English-medium secondary school.

Turkey is a good choice of destination for fledgling teachers. Not only are there a great many jobs, but these jobs are often part of a package that includes free accommodation and a free return flight as an incentive (sometimes much needed) to complete a nine-month contract. Employers generally want to see a university degree and a TEFL certificate of some kind.

In Thailand, dozens of private language schools can be found around Siam Square in Bangkok, with a very high turnover of native-speaking English teachers. The basic hourly rate in Bangkok starts at 150 baht (just less then pounds 4) which is somewhat higher than in Chiang Mai and less-visited Thai cities.

Teaching Abroad, 46 Beech View, Angmering. West Sussex BNI6 4DE (01903 249888); Services for Open Learning, North Devon Professional Centre, Vicarage Street, Barnstaple, Devon EX32 7HB (01271 327319) - recruits graduates to teach in schools in Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia; Teachers for Central & Eastern Europe, 21 V 5 Rakovski Blvd, Dimitrovgrad 6400, Bulgaria (00 359 0391 24787) - appoints native English speakers to teach in English language secondary schools in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia; Nova Group, Carrington House, 126/130 Regent Street, London WIR 5FE (0171-734 2727)

Susan Griffith is the author of Teaching English Abroad. The third edition will be published by Vacation-Work next month, price pounds 9.99.