In between travelling the world and planning my next journey, I often dreamed up ideas of how I could fund my trips and ways of being able to travel forever. The idea to teach English abroad often popped up and I became increasingly curious to know more.
In 2012, I was living in New Zealand and the NZ dollar rose significantly against currencies worldwide, which opened up the opportunity to really consider making the leap and do a course to Teach English to speakers of Foreign Languages…
I invested time into researching which course would be best for teaching English abroad, where and why. I discovered that the varying course costs in New Zealand, Australia, USA, UK and Canada combined with the costs of living and average wage were comparatively high against the options for India, China, Asia and the East. A range of qualifications were on offer and of varying reputation and entry pre-requisites. These ranged from an intensive 1 week TEFL course (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), right through to the comprehensive 4 week CELTA program (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults).
I decided that to maximise my career opportunities and pay scale, I wanted a qualification that would be recognised worldwide. I searched for a recognised program endorsed by a reputable institute and the results led me to the CELTA program offered at Language Link in Hanoi, Vietnam. A short and simple process ensued; an online application, a Skype interview and pre-course assignment task and I was accepted. I paid my deposit, confirmed my acceptance, got on the plane to Vietnam and before I knew it, I was doing it!
Learning in Hanoi
Hanoi has a reputation as a bit of a haven for ex-pats looking for and living the dream. Renowned for its French colonial charm and cultured ancient history, set amongst beautiful parks and tree-lined boulevards, I envisioned myself studying in the Paris of the East quite easily. What I didn’t realise was how much this experience would touch my heart, make me lifelong friends and become one I would never, ever forget.
Why study for your CELTA qualification abroad?
Studying abroad is a fantastic way to experience living in another country. Basing yourself in one place, and really living it, allows you to get involved in the local neighbourhood and community and develop a level of insight and understanding you won’t achieve if you’re just travelling through.
The course costs and living expenses are far less expensive than back home, whilst the direct experience of classroom practice and teaching experience from a non-native speaking country becomes an added bonus to your CV, as employers look for points of difference in your skill base. You also get to spend your free time exploring new and exotic horizons, eating incredible cuisine and learning how to combat crossing the Vietnamese streets amongst chaotic traffic (which in itself leads to a new level of self-esteem and confidence!)
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Hanoi and she still holds my heart to this day. I never felt lonely in this vibrant, romantic metropolis that offered everything from chaos to calm. I found apartment rental cheap and easy to find, a big ex-pat community for socialising and ensuring any feelings of homesick were quickly washed away. Hanoi felt like home.
Café culture is strong here, with the best place to people watch, drink coffee and eat French fusion being Hoan Kiem Lake or one of the many terraced haunts in the Old Quarter.
This city has an enticing nightlife with clubs, bars and street life coming alive as the locals drink Bia Hoi (fresh beer) out of plastic cups on street corners while playing traditional games. Literature and history are high on the list of things on offer, with many museums, art galleries and temples rivalling other Asian cities. Perhaps one of the best things about Hanoi is the close proximity of stunning places to; the famous World-Heritage site Halong Bay and her cluster of thousands of islands allows an escape to water and beach beauty, or an overnight train to Sapa set in quintessential green terraced rice fields will give you a glimpse of rural Vietnam and witness the traditions of the colourful and kind Northern hill tribes of the Hmong and Red Dzao people.
How can I find work after completing my course?
To teach abroad, you don’t need to be a formally qualified teacher, but for better contractual perks and pay rates many employers have set requirements that include a TEFL or CELTA qualification, University Degree and experience of teaching at some level.
The benefit of studying for a CELTA qualification at a recognised and accredited institute is that they recruit for teachers on completion of each program intake. This can be advantageous for several reasons, as you already know the teachers, students, resources and facilities of the school.
Part of the program provides a comprehensive list of websites and resources to look for current vacancies, as well as tips and tricks on what to look for in securing a good job, what hours to expect, what working conditions to avoid and what demographic you will be teaching. This is particularly valuable if you are committing to longer term placements. Language Link Vietnam offers a rebate on your course fees if you take up a position with them, which was a great added bonus for the finances.
If you have a TEFL qualification then you can use the TEFL website. This is a great place to start as you know you’ll be going to a respected school or business, get paid and usually also get accommodation included in the deal!
What other work could I try in Vietnam besides teaching?
If you want to experience Vietnam but don't think teaching is quite right for you then you can still experience Vietnam by volunteering. These packages are only for a short time, making it more feasible if you have a big round the world trip planned. Real Gap offer a great package to volunteer in a local school teaching English which can be booked through me. Or have a look at these other options working with children that I can book for you:
- Childcare volunteering in Vietnam
- Community work with kids in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tours and accommodation in Vietnam
We can also book your tours around Vietnam, accommodation and day trips – just call us or request a quote by email. This fascinating country has so much to see and do, so if you only have a short amount of time, heading to Vietnam on a small group tour will ensure you don’t spend your precious time and days booking buses and finding cheap hotels, and ending up left hanging to see more. They offer a fantastic 15 day tour which takes in all the highlights of Vietnam for a first time visitor including Hanoi and Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh and the Mekong Delta, leaving the only decision making you need to do - how to have fun!
You might also be interested in
The Cambridge Delta (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is an advanced teaching diploma for teachers of English as a Foreign Language.
My Delta (overview)
I completed Modules 2 and 3 of the Delta in June 2013, getting a Pass in the former and a Merit in the latter. My Module 3 speciality was ‘Teaching Exam Classes’ and the course I created was designed to help IELTS students improve their reading and writing skills. I did Module 1 in December 2013 and got a Distinction.
My Delta certificates 🙂
I have written a large number of posts related to the Delta, and have a dedicated category on my blog.
To help people find out more about the different ways that you can do Delta, I have interviewed various people about how they did it. They also offer their own tips on how to make the most of the course.
While not part of my Delta Conversations series, Adi Rajan’s post reflecting on his Delta covers a lot of the same ground, and is worth reading so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. He did all three modules simultaneously on a full-time face-to-face course in Bangkok. Adam Beale wrote about what he has taken from the Delta in the immediate aftermath of Modules One and Two.
If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about the competition, the closest equivalent to the Cambridge Delta is the Trinity DipTESOL.
Dave Dodgson has written about different aspects of the DipTESOL: using a Moodle/online course review, face-to-face teaching practice/reflections, written exam, research projects, the phonology interview, the course in general and the Dip versus the MA.
Gemma Lunn has also written about her DipTESOL experience, and shares links to all of her posts.
Peter Clements has written about perceptions of the Trinity DipTESOL. For what it’s worth, I think that it can be a more practical qualification for those wanting to go into management, providing your employers understand that it is a Delta equivalent.
I have written a couple of posts to help people who are doing the Delta:
- Preparing for the Delta – things to do before you start, for example books to read, and things you can learn to do to make using Word easier.
- Useful links for Delta – links for each part of the exam, and general links for the whole course.
This post shows you how I approached preparation for the Module 1 exam, including how I laid out my answers for each task.
I found it very difficult to find examples of assignments to know the kind of thing I needed (not) to write/produce as every assignment is different, and Cambridge prefers not to put the temptation to plagiarise in people’s way. I know that this makes it a real challenge to produce a good assignment, but the drafting process and the work you do with your tutor will make your work better.
I have listed the areas I chose to focus on to give you an idea of the spread of assignments you might expect to do during a course. I’ve also given you my grade and some of the feedback I got.
Module 2: LSA 1 – grammar: conditionals
- essay – pass
The tutor said it was a clear pass, with a well-supported analysis. To get a merit I needed to add more critical commentary to my reading in the analysis and use a wider range of sources. In terms of the teaching ideas, it relied too much on learner-generated output (also a problem in my lesson) – I didn’t really include any more traditional ideas. My evaluations of the activities were also a bit weak.
- lesson plan (first conditionals) – fail
My lesson was pitched at too low a level for the students, the timing was unrealistic and I relied completely on learner-generated output for the target language, within a very weak context. My task set-up, grouping of students and use of information gathered while monitoring were also poor. Despite this, the tutor said ‘it had the potential to be a useful and effective lesson’ as a lot of the planning was strong (my note: just the procedure that wasn’t, which is a fairly major oversight!). I tried to make it learner-centred and to include some guided discovery, but didn’t really know how to do this well. I managed to be flexible and add extra activities, but did not predict any of the problems mentioned above.
Module 2: LSA 2 – listening: transactional listening
- essay – pass
The analysis is clear because of my use of headings and sub-headings to signpost important areas. I used a wider range of texts than in my first essay, which made it stronger. The activity evaluations were also stronger than in LSA1. However, the descriptions of the activities needed to be clearer and more detailed, so that anybody could reproduce them. There also needed to be stronger link between the analysis and the activities. The contexts I described did not cover a wide enough range, for example I did not cover different levels.
- lesson plan – pass
My choice of materials meant that this lesson was much more successful than LSA1, and it felt like a pass while I was in the lesson (I knew I’d failed LSA1 after about 20 minutes of the lesson!). I was also much more responsive to the learners, and there was clear evidence of learning. I’d found out more about guided discovery by this stage, so that thread of the lesson worked better than in LSA1 too. However, I still had problems with task set-up (this was a recurring theme throughout my Delta), and my monitoring was still not completely effective.
Module 2: LSA 3 – writing: discursive essays
- essay – merit
This was my strongest piece of work for module 2 ‘due to its depth, accuracy and organisation’ as my tutor said. I managed to identify and use key sources effectively (which I’d found difficult in my previous two LSAs). There was a clear line following through the whole essay, linking the problems and solutions to the analysis clearly. I shouldn’t have focussed on the writing process as one area in itself, as this restriced the solutions I could offer in terms of learners editing their work.
- lesson plan (writing paragraphs) – fail
As I said in my post-lesson reflection, I was way too ambitious about how much we could get through in an hour. I should have asked students to write their paragraphs in a previous lesson, then used the hour to analyse, improve, and re-write them. Because they spent so long on writing their initial paragraphs, there was no time for them to re-write them, meaning I didn’t hit my aim. The lesson plan ‘was detailed and contained some very useful elements and activities’ but I didn’t show the flexibility I needed to to still be able to achieve my aim. I also ended up focussing on written discourse, rather than writing skills, which falls under systems: discourse analysis, rather than skills: writing. As with LSA1, I pitched the lesson wrong, but this time the students needed a lot more support than I expected, and my tasks were too complicated. I also had problems with task set-up again. The moral of the story: test out your activities on other students – don’t make your LSA the first time you’ve ever used them.
Module 2: LSA 4 – lexis: multi-part verbs
I don’t know the separate grades for the essay and lesson as it was externally assessed, but I passed Module 2, so I must have passed at least the lesson!
I felt much more confident with the essay than I did with any of the others, because I finally felt like I knew what kind of document I needed to produce. I read the tutor comments on my previous LSA essays and used these to help me make sure I ticked all the boxes Cambridge wanted.
- lesson plan
I did a diagnostic test before I taught the lesson to show me exactly which of the verbs the students already knew. This made a real difference when it came to writing about my students in detail, as I really felt I knew what they needed to learn. The lesson felt good while I was teaching it, and I was pretty sure I’d passed. I think you can normally tell whether the lesson was a pass or a fail. For merits and distinctions, it’s probably guesswork (I didn’t get any, so I don’t know how they feel!).
Module 2: (Professional Development Assignment) (pass)
- experimental practice lesson – grammaticization
I only realised about 5 minutes before writing here that my tutor put comments on my document after the lesson – don’t forget to check what your tutors wrote to help you with later assignments!
This was an interesting part of the course for me, adding an extra tool to my repertoire, although I haven’t used it a great deal in the year since I did the assignment! I didn’t include scanned examples of what the students actually produced, which would have been better.
- PDA reflection and action stages 2, 3, and 4
I didn’t do anywhere near as much work on this as I would have liked to due to time restrictions, and some of my evidence was a bit cobbled together. However, I think it was by far the most interesting and useful part of the whole course, and I wish it was weighted to reflect this more. It is a very valuable process to go through. The fact that it is only a pass/fail assignment means it can be somewhat neglected, which I think is a real failing in the course. (rant over!)
Module 3: Teaching Exam Classes, with a focus on improving reading and writing for IELTS students (merit)
- Part 1: 4,500 word essay, needs analysis and diagnostic test results, course proposal
- Part 2: all other evidence in appendices
I don’t have any specific feedback about Module 3. To get to the point where a merit was possible, I handed in two drafts, although neither of them were anywhere near complete. Make full use of any draft/commenting facility you have available. I’d have gone completely wrong if I’d stuck with my first version!
Please note that all information about the CELTA on my blog is my personal opinion or the opinion of the writers, unless otherwise stated. It does not constitute anything officially sanctioned or recommended by Cambridge.
A final note
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions. I’m afraid I can’t share my assignments as there have been plagiarism issues. What I have written here is just my interpretation of the requirements, and you could do it completely differently – keep checking back with the criteria and with your tutors. Good luck!