Monday, April 18, 2016

Teaching English in South Korea

Whether you've heard about it, thought about it, decided you want to do it, or have never even considered it, this blog post is going to give you a thorough look into teaching English in South Korea. 


Pros of Teaching Abroad:

  • Experience
    • Regardless of whether you intend to teach English for the rest of your life, teaching English abroad is a great skill to have! This is an opportunity to teach without going through the extensive accreditation that is required to teach in the U.S. All you need usually is a bachelor's degree in anything (although ideally English or Education) and TEFL certification. Although previous experience with kids is preferred, it's not required. So basically it's an entry-level job. Teaching abroad will not only teach you how to teach, but will also provide skills of living independently in another country and all that entails. 
  • Student Loan Deferral / Money 
    • South Korea is a great destination for student loan deferral. (Deferment is an agreement between the student and the loan provider whereby the student may postpone repaying the loan for a designated amount of time.) This is possible in South Korea since it is the highest-paying Teach English Abroad country in Asia. English teachers can usually make enough to be able to save 30-50% of their salary after expenses. That means that you can save between $800-$1000 a month! Not to mention that the demand for English teachers is always high in South Korea so you'll likely always be able to find a job. 
  • Travel
    • Of course, teaching English abroad is a great opportunity to travel! If you ever had the dream to "travel the world", now's your chance! Schools run on a student-schedule meaning that when students have a break, so will you. On your vacation days you can travel the country you're teaching in or even go to nearby countries! A plane ticket from the U.S. to Japan can cost over $1000, but a plane ticket from South Korea to Japan is often less than $400. So if traveling to other countries is on your bucket list, teaching English abroad (like in South Korea) is a fantastic idea!

Cons of Teaching Abroad:

  • Not a Teacher?
    • If you're only considering teaching abroad because you want to travel, this may not be a good option for you. Teaching abroad means that you are indeed a teacher. You will have to manage a class and teach them English, grade their homework, work in a classroom, etc. There's no getting around that. If you're just in it for the travel, you may become frustrated or unhappy. 
  • English Bubble
    • If your goal is to get better at your target language (i.e. Korean) and think that teaching English in South Korea is automatically going to help you, you're mistaken. Many South Korean schools actually prefer that you don't speak Korean since they want full immersion for their students. Also, especially if you teach in a popular city like Seoul or Busan, you may find yourself in an "English bubble" since there are many expats like you who are English-speakers and don't intend to learn or get better at Korean. There will also be many foreigners that would rather speak English to you--to better their English. So if you want to get better at Korean, or any language besides English, you'll have to work for it. (You could visit some language-exchange cafes, for example).
  • Potential Bad Contract
    • Especially if you're new at this and you don't go through any program or recruitment agency, you may find yourself stuck with a bad contract. Basically, if you don't do your homework/research beforehand and just apply directly to schools, you may end up in a school that doesn't pay you what it should, a school that won't reimburse your flight, and/or just a bad, sticky situation. So if you're serious about this, look at your options. I'll acknowledge some below.



EPIK stands for "English Program in Korea", a program sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education. The EPIK Program was established in 1995 with the mandate to improve the English speaking abilities of students and teachers in Korea and to develop cultural exchanges. Over 600 teachers are placed in the EPIK program each year. 

In order to qualify for EPIK, you need at least one of the following:
1. BA Degree in Education
2. Teaching license in your home country
3. TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate of 100 hours or more (preference to applicants who have a 20 hour in-class teaching component)
4. 1 year of full time teaching experience with the TaLK program

Benefits include:
-Free housing provided by the EPIK Program (utilities not included)
-Entrance Allowance of 1.3 mil won to purchase a one-way ticket
-Exit Allowance of 1.3 mil won or a renewal Bonus of 2.0 mil won for resigning
-10 days of ESL training in Seoul
-Settlement allowance of 300,000 won (This is a “signing bonus” which you receive when you arrive in Korea. This will help you settle in and buy various things you will want as you move into your new apartment!)
-Paid vacation for 18 working days plus 13-15 National Holidays
-Medical insurance and pension, 50% of which is covered by the EPIK Program

-Higher salaries for teachers who choose to work in more rural locations


GEPIK stands for Gyeonggi English Program in Korea. It was established in 2003 to provide English education to all public schools in the Gyeonggi province. There are currently over 1,000 foreign ESL teachers working for the GEPIK program.

Has same requirements and benefits as EPIK. (Basically the difference is EPIK covers the rest of the country). 


Public school positions with the SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) are some of the most sought after in Korea. The program was established in 2005 to provide English education to public school students in the Seoul metropolitan area with the eventual aim to place a native English speaker in every school. There are currently hundreds of ESL teachers in Korea teaching for the SMOE Program.

In order to qualify for SMOE, you need all of the following:
-Citizenship from an English speaking country (Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom, Ireland)
-Native English Speaker

-Bachelor’s Degree from a University or College
-No criminal record
+ one of the following: 1) BA Degree in English, Education, Creative Writing, or English Literature 2) MA in any major 3) TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate of 100 hours or more 4) Teaching license in your home country 5) 1 year of full time teaching experience

Benefits include:
-A competitive salary based on qualifications (2.0-2.7 million won / month)
-18 days of paid vacation
-A teaching job directly in Seoul! If you want to live in a large, bustling Asian city, Seoul is a great choice
-Free housing (utilities not included)
-Reimbursed roundtrip flight
-Orientation and training
-Settlement allowance of 300,000 won
-A completion of contract bonus
-Full health insurance (50% of the costs covered by the SMOE Program)

3. Recruitment Agency vs Program

A good way to avoid a bad contract is to go through a program or a recruitment agency. These things are like a middleman. Usually they'll take care of some fees and technicalities (like making sure you get a good contract and finding a school that is a good fit). 
Recruitment agencies usually don't require any fees, but they only help with getting you a job and possibly visa help. Once you have a job, they back off. Programs, however, will often stick with you from the beginning to the end. Personally, I prefer the concept of going through a program. I like to have that kind of support backing me up. 

1. TeachAway

TeachAway is an international teacher recruitment company that places certified and ESL teachers in positions around the world. 

They also offer TEFL Certification through the University of Toronto. You can choose between a 100-150 certification and the prices vary depending on which you choose. This TEFL curriculum actually seems pretty great since if you choose the higher-hour certifications, it includes 2 units of specialization (i.e. Teaching English to Korean Speakers, Teaching English to Young Learners, Digital Technology in the Classroom, etc). The prices range from $995 to $1495 for these certifications. 

In order to look at potential jobs, you have to make an account on this site. It doesn't cost anything and takes less than a minute so it's worth it. What's interesting is there are often more than just ESL Teaching Jobs on this site.

When you click on a job, it'll tell you a bit about the country and specifics of that job. It'll also tell you what's needed from you (qualifications and requirements) and the benefits of the job. It'll also tell you your start date. However, in order to apply, you have to finish filling out your teaching profile. 

Beyond the TEFL certification, you do not need to pay any fees. When you click the "Apply" button, it literally applies you to the job. So don't click that unless you are fully finished with your teaching profile and have all qualifications for the job. 

2. CIEE Teach Abroad

CIEE offers paid teaching positions for university graduates looking to share their language and culture while immersing themselves in new communities around the world. 

Teaching English in South Korea costs $1,900 in total,  and includes all of the following:
Job placement, enrollment in 150-hour TEFL course (which is $1,000 value), pre-departure and visa assistance, one year of iNext international insurance with 24-hour emergency assistance services, in-country support, orientation weekend in Seoul, airport pickup and transport to your assignment on arrival, cultural and professional development activities, contract completion bonus equal to one month's salary, 15-25 vacation days annually, a furnished studio apartment with amenities, airfare included (usually covered by the school that employs you), and South Korean national medical insurance. 

Basically, CIEE has got your back from the start to the finish. 

CIEE offers free webinars all the time that more thoroughly cover their programs and specifics. The South Korea Teaching program is 1-year long and you can apply in the fall or spring. 

As someone who intends to teach abroad and wants to go through a program, CIEE is honestly my pick. I love the benefits and support they offer and it really seems like the best deal financially, considering everything that's included within the program fee. I've also spoken to representatives that were really friendly and helpful and have heard/read good things about the program in general. 

There are countless other programs and recruitment agencies out there, I've just given you an example of one of each--the two I've most researched. 


1. Online Teaching

Want to teach English while abroad but don't want to make it your full-time job? You can try online teaching! 
You could actually teach other languages and not just English; the minimum requirement is to just be fluent in the language that you're teaching. 
Of course, if you want more students, it's ideal to have any of the following: TEFL certification, major in English or Education, teaching experience, etc. 

There are various sites that help connect you to potential students and/or set up your teaching profile. Here are some I found from a quick Google search: (recommended by many blogposts about online teaching) (recommended by famous polyglots like Benny Lewis)

I've not spent much time researching about this option so I can't give any personal opinions about it. It does, however, seem to be a popular option for many travelers. 

2. Workaway

If you want to teach English but aren't necessarily looking to get paid, then you should check out work-exchanges or volunteer programs. The only fees are subscription to this site (which you need to contact hosts) and any flight/visa costs. Room and board should be covered by your host.

Workaway is an international organisation that enables travelers willing to work as volunteers to contact hosts (who can be individuals, families or groups) wanting help with their projects or activities. Volunteers or 'Workawayers', are expected to contribute a pre-agreed amount of time per day in exchange for lodging and food provided by their host.

You can search for hosts either by location, task, or a keyword. So if you want to teach English in South Korea, you can search Asia-->South Korea-->Show results. 

Currently there are 37 hosts in South Korea but it changes all the time. Oftentimes the South Korean hosts are hostels that need general help in the hostel (i.e. cleaning, reception work, maybe painting, hosting, etc) but also want some kind of language-exchange help. There are also families or people who are simply seeking help with the English language for various reasons.

Basically it's a much more relaxed, unofficial venue of teaching English in South Korea.

3. CHI

Cultural Homestay International's World Explorers Program connects you with a host family to teach English to for up to three months. This is another program that is not paid and is more like a work-exchange. 

In exchange for a clean and comfortable room and full board, all you have to do is share your native language with your hosts for 15 hours per week. These casual English conversation lessons usually run five days a week, three hours a day. CHI provides you with tutoring materials, but most of our hosts that are learning English as a second language (ESL) simply want to practice speaking English with a native speaker. 

Benefits include:
-A screened host family
-Three meals per day with your host family
-Conversation aids to use with the host family for teaching English abroad
-A clean and comforting room
-In-country support throughout your entire stay
-Pre-departure orientation via Skype from CHI
-Letter of recommendation and official certificate upon completion of the program to help build your resume
-Assistance in securing travel insurance, cheap flights and discount travel options 
*You can also get college credit

The cost depends on how long you intend to stay. So for example, the South Korea program is currently $56.63/day if you stay 30 days, $29.98/day if you stay 60 days, and $21.10/day if you stay 90 days. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

7 Things You May Not Know About the LRC

Welcome to the Language Resource Center (LRC)!

Whether this is your first time visiting or you come here regularly, you probably don't know all of the resources we provide. Here's a quick guide to some cool resources we offer that you may or may not know about!

1. Blankets

Do you like napping? Or perhaps do you have a really busy schedule and sometimes find yourself in need of a nap but are too far from your dorm? 

Students have always crashed on the couches in the library and elsewhere on campus, but here at the LRC we like to pride ourselves in having the most comfortable couches! We also now have blankets available! Just look under one of the tables in the lounge and there should be several blankets tucked underneath there for you to use.

2. Electronic Charger

Have you ever taken a break and relaxed in our lounge only to find that your cell phone or iPod is on low battery? No worries! We have a great electronic charger set up in the lounge now so that this won't be a problem for our patrons.

 It's located next to the TV in the lounge. As you can see, there are many chargers connected to it so that many different people with many different kinds of electronic devices can be helped at once!

3. Free Newspapers

If you've been a regular attendee of the LRC, you probably know that we have newspapers in several languages that are free for you to take (no check-out or return necessary!). 

However, for a long time they used to be hidden in the lab. Now they are at the end of the shelf on the right when you first walk into the LRC. Go ahead and browse and see if you can find a newspaper in your target language!


Seasoned patrons of the LRC may also be aware of this resource but may not know how to use it. SCOLA receives and re-transmits foreign TV programming from around the world. 

There are 8 channels available and we have a menu for what they are and when they broadcast right under the TV in the lounge. Feel free to tune into a channel whenever you want! (The TV controller should be on the desk beneath the TV screen).

5. Hole-Puncher & Pencil-Sharpener

These two things seem like necessities in a place like the LRC, but many students often don't seem to be aware of their location. They're both right next to each other on the reserve shelf (beside the consultant's/main desk). 

The hole-puncher may seem a bit strange, but to use it you just have to put in the paper you want to hole-punch and press the button. You'll hear a noise and voila~ your paper is hole-punched! (If you have any questions, feel free to ask the consultant working at the desk). 

6. Pimsleur

We offer many free language software in the LRC that are becoming more advertised as of late. However, Pimsleur still seems to be a bit in the shadows. We currently offer Pimsleur for French, German, and Italian (I, II, II for each language). 

They're in the shelf behind the reserve shelf (next to Room 6A). To check them out, just ask the consultant working at the main desk for the language you're interested in and she'll check it out to you (if it's currently available). 

7. Half-Sheets

Although half-sheets have been a part of the LRC for a while, they seem a bit hidden away and may go unnoticed for many students in the LRC. Half-sheets are halves of pieces of paper that quickly cover all the resources for whichever is your target language. 

So if you pick up a French Half-Sheet, it'll tell you everything we have available for you to check out/etc in French. These papers are free and are located in colorful folders next to Room 6F. 

Well, did you learn something new or did you already know all of that? Hopefully this has either been great help or a good review of some of our lesser-known or better-hidden resources here at the LRC. =) 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Have You Tried These Free Language-Exchanges?

Language exchange is a method of language learning based on mutual language practicing by learning partners who are speakers of different languages. So you exchange your native language (or a language you know well) with someone and in return they help you with your target language (which is a language they know very well). That way both of you are learning something and helping someone else!

There are countless language-exchanges online but I've decided to only highlight a couple--all of which are free. I've listed what I believe are the pros and cons of each one but in the end it's up to you. These sites are free so you can try them all out and simply stick with the one or two that you like most!

(All of these in this list are sites you can access from a computer. Many of them you can also access as an app.)

1. Coffeestrap "A Better Language Exchange. Learn how to speak fluently by talking with people like you."
Pros: Very simple design, easy to get started, connects you to people without much work; easy to start talking to people.
Cons: Must wait for someone in your target language to get online; there's only one page (besides updating your account) and thus can be frustrating; once you accept someone's request, they'll remain in your conversation list, regardless of whether you want to keep talking to them or not.

2. Gospeaky "Find and meet native speakers from all around the world."
Pros: You can select the times you're available to practice; live chats allow you to audio or video call someone, and add them as a "language buddy", there's a "translator bar" to help you; live chats only show you who is currently online; visually aesthetic and easy site to explore; you can schedule meetings with your buddies.
Cons: In live chats you must wait for a potential language-exchange partner to answer an instant message before you can call them; other than that, doesn't seem to have many cons.
Note: Will only show you live chats that are in your target language, if you want to find a live chat in a language other than the one you're learning, you'll have to add it to your target language list.

3. "Learn and practice foreign languages with native speakers from all over the world - for free."
Pros: After you chat with someone, you can recommend them again (so others can see how recommended they are); site shows if someone is online; you can use the search bar to find a chat with someone in your target language; can have multiple chats open at once (tabs at bottom let you easily switch between).
Cons: Search bar isn't that great--only shows you a couple of people that speak the language you type in, and doesn't say whether or not they're online, you're better bet is to just scroll down the 1:1 chats until you find what you're looking for; group chat seems messy.

4. Couchsurfing "Couchsurfers share their homes, cities and lives in profound in meaningful ways, making travel anywhere in the world a truly social experience."
Pros: Lots of groups (easy to find language-exchanges); people from all over the world (likely to find exchange in your target language).
Cons: Activeness in groups is hit or miss; site is not made for language-exchange (simply a byproduct).

5. Coeffee "The friendly language exchange community."
Pros: There are language games (like the old "password" game) that pairs you up with a random partner against two others (you and your partner have to try and guess a word before the other team by the clues you or your partner are giving--i.e. if you're trying to guess "star", you might say "bright thing in night sky"); the search for language-exchange partners shows who is online at the top, if you hover over them it'll tell you what languages they know / are learning, there's also a search bar at the top that can specify your search; can block people if necessary; glossary (dictionary) available during language-exchange chat.
Cons: Site seems focused on this language game rather than on language-exchange.
Note: You can also help other language learners by reviewing phrases for the "password" game.

If you google "language-exchange sites reviews" you'll find many longer (and potentially better) reviews. Figure out which site works best for you and stick with it! Finding a language-exchange partner can help boost self-confidence and make you more relaxed when speaking. ^^

Monday, April 13, 2015

Endangered Languages: "Flogging a Dead Horse?"

UNESCO estimates that the end of this century could see the demise of more than half of the 6000 languages that exist in the world today. Most languages that are in danger of going extinct are those spoken in relatively remote regions, by indigenous populations. The importance of languages and diverse tongues cannot be emphasised enough. 

A Manner of Thinking
Language is arguably the most unique feature of the human species. Although there is no doubt that other species communicate with one another, spoken, signed and written language are unique to humans. As such, it plays a fundamental role in shaping our daily experience. In fact, psycholinguists have found that we perceive things a certain way based on the language we speak and think in. Research on colour perception shows that we can see the colours that we have names for, in our native languages. In English, there are eleven basic hues, from which the spectrum of perceivable colour is named. However, the Himba tribe in Namibia only has five basic hues. While English-speakers distinguish between red, orange and pink, the Himba people have an encompassing name for these hues, serandu. Experiments comparing children from the Himba tribe and England show that people perceive colours based on their culture and language. As this research demonstrates, if a language is lost, a truly unique perception of the world dies with it. 

Perception of the world is one aspect that is lost with a language, but what happens to culture? 

Cultural Coefficient
Globalisation today is a contributing factor to the loss of languages. In our attempts to shrink the world and move towards homogeneity, we lose cultural subtleties that exist in part, due to language. Let's look at example of what is at risk, by travelling to the hills in South India. 

The Toda language is of Dravidian descent, and is related to Tamil and Malayalam. In the last century, the population of the Todas has been in the range of 700-1000 people. However, the exact number is difficult to estimate. The Indian Government identifies the Todas as a Primitive Tribe. The Todas live only in the Nilgiri district in Tamil Nadu, and have a unique lifestyle with many traditions. They are a pastoral community, and live in barrel-shaped houses. Often, their houses are beside "dairy temples," as they trade dairy products, and their religion revolves around the buffalo. 
A Toda woman wearing traditional embroidered clothing (left); Todas live in barrel-shaped houses called dogles (right).

Globalisation and the push for modernisation in India have caused a change in the Todas. Although traditionally vegetarian, many Todas now eat meat. Several of them have abandoned their traditional houses for the more common concrete houses. This move away from tradition in combination with the small population of Todas left in the world has resulted in their language becoming critically endangered. This means that the youngest speakers of the language are currently grandparents or older, and they only speak their language infrequently. The Todas stand out in the Nilgiris because of the way they dress and live. If they adopt modern customs, they risk losing their traditions for good. 

Why Save Them?
It is vital to save languages that are at risk of extinction, because speakers have a unique perception of the world, and cultural traditions that few other people share. Since the human experience is subjective, it is crucial to preserve the very means that make us individuals. Losing languages would also mean that we lose idioms that are not easily transferred between languages. For example, a phrase that communicates a lack of understanding in German is "Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof", which literally translates to "I understand only train stations''. It is analogous to "This is Greek and Latin to me" in English. Imagine losing idiosyncrasies like that!

Intrigued? Take a look at the list of the 25 most endangered languages today. 

  1. Moseley, Christopher (ed.). 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, 3rd edn. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. Online version.