Teaching English in Korea - Anyone done it?

I’m thinking of signing up to teach English as a second language in South Korea.
Has anyone done this? If so, any advice/tips?

How do you teach English to somebody if you can’t speak Korean?


I taught English in a handful of different countries and have had friends who taught English in Korea. They said it was similar to what I taught.

It is called, among other names, “Aural/oral Education” which means that it is sort of a mini-submersion within the language while the student is in the classroom. I have learned a couple of other languages this way and it works.

This is more an IMHO question than a factual one, so I’m moving it over there. - Jill

I’ve taught in Taiwan. I’m assuming it’s pretty much the same in Korea. The students have generally had the basic grammar & vocab. Unless you’ve studied grammar fairly well, they may know more of that than you, but it’s going to be mostly about usage. You’ll probably teach conversation (possibly composition), which isn’t too hard if you’ve got a good book. It takes a certain amount of energy, though. Be careful about committing yourself to too many hours a day until you know how much you can handle.

I imagine the Korean you’ll really wish you knew is for getting around outside the classroom.

Should be fun, though. Go for it.

Look for the poster named AstroBoy14, I believe he has been teaching English in Korea for a few years now. I also know goboy used to live in Korea, but I’m not sure if he was teaching English there. Also, you could probably search for some of either of their threads where they have mentioned it.

Yep, I used to teach conversational English in Korea at a private language school, called a hagwon in Korean. Astroboy14 teaches at a university, I believe. You didn’t say what level you’re teaching, but there are some rules to live by.

  1. Check out your prospective school’s rep by checking Web sites like Dave’s ESL Cafe. Korea’s ESL scene is notorious for the number of dodgy schools that hire teachers then exploit them with delayed pay, split shifts, and getting illegally jobbed out to offices and schools. It also helps to talk to a teacher currently working at the school. conversely, there are chains like Pagoda, YBM/Sisa, and Wonderland that treat their teachers relatively well.

  2. Make sure that the school covers housing and airfare.

  3. Get your visa BEFORE you leave. Some schools tell you to fly to Seoul and then they’ll send you to Japan to get a quickie work visa, but that can backfire on you. The school can just hold your illegal status as a threat to shop you to Immigration if you cause trouble, like insisting on being paid on time.

  4. Bring ESL materials with you, like flash cards, board games (Scrabble and Boggle are gold!), and elementary exercise books.

  5. You are not there to explain grammar rules, so you do not need to speak any Korean. In fact, speaking the native language in an ESL classroom is a bad idea. Koreans have English grammar taught in classrooms from Grade Three, but they are not taught to use it in conversation. Your job will be to help your students acquire spoken fluency.

6)Be prepared for serious culture shock. Koreans are wonderful, generous people, but they are also seriously xenophobic and they tend to view foreigners (i.e., you) as being not quite real. More importantly, Koreans don’t see a contract as being an ironclad document that binds both employee and employer. Instead, they value the relationship between the worker and boss as paramount, so being a “people person” will serve you better in dealing with your boss than insisting on your rights.

Let me know if I can be of any more use.

My friend’s sister went over to Korea last summer to teach and hated it. Way too much of a culture shock for her. Mostly it was the harassment from men that made her leave early. And even worse than the Korean men were the American soldiers!
The way she told it, white women are a rarity over there, and the few you do see are typically Russian prostitutes. So essentially she was treated with the same respect as the average whore.
She tells one story where she had gotten food poisoning in a restaurant and had to run outside to vomit. Mid-vomiting a GI was trying to get her to leave with him. She had to stop throwing up just to convince this guy that she wasn’t drunk, she was just sick, so he didn’t have a chance.

On the other hand, my sister has taught sign language for two years in Thailand and has had only positive things to say.

Then again, I don’t know if the OP was from a male or female, which may or may not make a difference.