Why Teach a Foreign Language, You Ask? Here Are 5 Booming Benefits That Should Be on Your Radar
“What’s in it for me?” you ask.
As you will soon find out, a lot, actually.
Are you considering a career as a foreign language teacher?
Perfect! These are important benefits to be aware of.
Or have you been teaching so long that you know all of the inventive methods? It will still be helpful to refocus and remind yourself of the edge this profession gives you.
So let’s take a look at five awesome benefits of teaching a foreign language.
5 Powerful Reasons Why Teaching a Foreign Language Is Incredibly Rewarding
1. Have Better Pay and the Opportunity for Travel
The thing is, language teachers might generally be paid the same rates as other subject teachers (mathematics or science) in your home country. That may not be good news in the first instance, but bear with me—this gets better.
See, it has all to do with the law of supply and demand. If you live in, say, China, there are practically thousands upon thousands of teachers to compete with, and so the pay may not be so good because supply is really high.
But I invite you to turn your head and crane your neck overseas—where your first language becomes a foreign language. With globalization and internalization in mind, you cannot imagine the huge number of people who want or need to learn your language.
Teaching English is an obvious example. Foreign governments are actually enticing teachers to come to their shores and help educate their populace. And boy do they make their packages enticing. In addition to premium pay, many offer free airfare, furnished housing, a settlement allowance, severance pay, health insurance and pension contribution.
And not only that, but there’s always the promise of an epic adventure in a foreign land—experiencing culture and tasting food not available in your neighborhood deli. Asian countries are competing for English foreign language teachers; Korea’s EPIK and Japan’s JET programs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Speakers of Spanish, German, French, Italian, etc. can also find meaningful opportunities outside their home countries. The United States’s J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program alone annually welcomes 280,000 of the international community to teach, study, conduct research or receive on the job training in the USA. Among their 13 programs is one for teachers, where a participant is given the chance to teach in an accredited school in the United States.
With the headline “Teach your language in the UK,” the British Council has a similar program where fluent speakers of specific languages can work as language assistants in primary and secondary British classrooms.
The world is indeed becoming a global village, where there is an increasingly crucial need for all of us to understand one another. By teaching a foreign language, you can more easily put yourself on the road to travel, and often do that while earning a premium for teaching your native tongue.
2. Meet Awesome Students
We already know that if you want a job that exposes you to a plurality of people, teaching is a great way to go. Because one of the palpable rewards of teaching a foreign language—well, teaching in general really—is that you get to meet a host of different characters and personalities. And young as they may or may not be, you can learn a ton from your language learners.
Because I’ve got news for you: Your students are awesome.
Maybe you’ve got the language bit covered, but do you know half the things that your smartphone can do?
In fact, do a bit of an experiment. If they’re smartphone users, ask your students to show you something cool on their phones.
Chances are they’ll surprise you.
The point is that your students populate a social space that, unless you actively try to peek in, you will probably never see. Their experience is different from yours, so take advantage and learn from their perspective.
And I’m not just talking about learning how to correctly pronounce their last names or learning the latest gadgets hacks. I’m talking about substantive, enduring life lessons you will probably never see unless your students point the way.
Try another experiment: As a teacher, I know you’re used to asking your students plenty of questions. Why don’t you ask them one of these:
What can I do to make this language course better?
How can I improve as a language teacher?
Feedback is crucial to every enterprise. Corporations pay huge sums for interviews, surveys or focus group discussions—just to get the pulse of the public. You merely have to ask your students.
Just try this experiment once and you’ll be reassured that teaching is never just a one-way street. Yes, you’re touching so many lives, but those lives can have an impact on yours in return. If you interact closely with students from different backgrounds and are open to the opportunities this offers, you will find teaching a language to be an infinitely enriching experience.
You enjoy meeting interesting and cool people, right? Well, there they are, sitting in front of you.
You’re gifted with the opportunity to interact with these unique, complex people on a daily basis. Care to learn from them?
3. Learn More About the Language You Teach
There’s an old saying that goes, “The best way to learn something is to teach it.”
You may have gone into language study originally because you found it inherently interesting, so the thought of studying it formally deeply resonated with you. Now that you’re in a position to teach others, you get to continue learning and strengthening your language skills every day.
This may not even register as a reason for teaching, but nevertheless, it’s a wonderful side effect of the job.
What happens when we teach is that we are forced to wrestle with the subject from a variety of angles. In order to effectively transfer knowledge, we first have to clarify and purify our own knowledge. We are forced to answer our questions, relieve our doubts and submit ourselves to an even higher standard than when we were young students. (And then you get to do the same for your students’ questions and doubts.)
When you’re placed in a position of accountability, you’re simultaneously in a place where deep learning will naturally happen.
Teachers are also responsible for sifting through huge amounts of source material ranging from textbooks to workbooks to authentic language usage examples. This exposure allows us to deepen our understanding of the language, giving us the ability to excel in a variety of authentic target language situations such as conversations on a multitude of topics and understanding specialized videos of native speakers.
By teaching a foreign language, you’re speeding up a virtuous cycle where you become better at what you’re doing simply by doing it.
4. Gain the Chance to Diversify Later On
Gone are the days when one enters the workforce shortly after graduation and stays in the same job for 50 years, only to retire in peace.
In today’s workplace, people in their 50s are starting new careers, young people are jumping from project to project and organization to organization. Not only has communication gone mobile, but the concept of work itself has seen workers taking on new vocations and endeavors that weren’t contemplated by folks a generation ago.
So when you teach a foreign language, that could very well just be one rung on a full ladder of multiple careers over your lifetime.
Beyond telling stories, teaching grammar or vocabulary, you will find that teaching language prepares you for a variety of situations. Not only will you get those EQ muscles toned, but you’ll learn how to deal with different kinds of people and personalities, how to manage and finesse a classroom, how to be flexible and think on the spot, and how to get students’ attentions, maintain their interests and lead them—all transferable skills.
In fact, the skill set you master as a foreign language teacher can make you eminently capable of doing a wide host of other jobs—and do it extremely well. You can climb the corporate ladder if that’s what you want. You can also start an organization or business of your own.
And, as discussed before, teaching a foreign language can very well place you in a network of successful and interesting people who, in their own way, are making an impact in their field. These contacts can prove useful when you want to switch careers, when you’re seeking real advice or when trying to get insider info.
Because in some form or another, your students will always be your students. Even years down the line, they will always remember being in your class, and that feeling of respect and admiration for you, their teacher. And this brings me to the final benefit we’ll look at today.
5. Experience the Emotional Rewards of Mentoring
We always have to come back to this one, don’t we?
Because at the end of the day, the absolute, most fulfilling reward of being a teacher has nothing to do with what you have gained, but with what you have given. And sure, you’ll be rewarded with pay, stability and perhaps even chocolate on Teacher’s Day. But it’s simply knowing that you have palpably impacted the lives of your students which often makes teachers come to class day in and day out.
That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
So what’s in it for you?
Like I said at the beginning of this post, a lot, actually.
Thank you, foreign language teachers, for making a difference.