These are the mistakes to avoid when teaching English online

Teaching English online has become one of the most in-demand over the last couple of years to many South Africans. For those going abroad (most commonly in countries like China or Korea), the experience not only affords travelling to another country, but also to gain valuable teaching experience – a career that is always looking for prospective employees.

There is a misconception surrounding online teaching in that a teaching qualification is needed. While is recommended to have a teaching qualification from a registered university, it is not mandatory to be able to teach English online and that is simply because of the demand for teachers. A completed TEFL certification takes priority over a university diploma or degree (in this instance).

Teaching online may seem simple but there are a couple of things to take note and be mindful of when addressing students. These are the mistakes to avoid when doing so:

  1. Talking too quickly – Remember that the students depend on you to teach them. The worse thing you can do is explain things or talk too fast for them to understand, and can lead to future communication issues.
  2. Don’t be (too) serious – Teachers are often judged as being too serious. Plan activities or crack a joke to make the students feel a bit more comfortable with you. This will allow them to open up more and increase productivity in the classroom.
  3. Listen, then talk – If a student is having an issue with something, instead of talking first, listen to what they are saying. Pummeling the student with an overload of words will only increase anxiety.
  4. Plan accordingly – Know what your schedule or semester looks like and plan each session in advance. Planning thoroughly just make your job easier.


In case you were wondering, this is what you’ll need to be able to teach English online:

A TEFL certificate – The Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification enables someone with a good grasp of the English language to teach non-native English speakers (which is essentially a foreign language to them) in their own country. A TEFL course in South Africa can cost anywhere from R3 000 to R15 000.

A laptop with a webcam – You’ll need to be able to see and interact with students face-to-face so having a (high-quality) webcam is essential to make avoid any technological issues. In addition, your laptop needs to be compatible with any programs/software and you’ll also need to use a headset with a built-in microphone in order to communicate clearly and to help omit any potential background noise.

A Fast and reliable internet connection – While there are other wireless connections like 5G or LTE, the best to have is an uncapped fibre line. There is a possibility that the employer will ask for you to conduct a speed test during the interview.

Proficiency in English – This goes without saying. Having to be proficient in the English language is a no-brainer. Everything from speech and pronunciation of words need to be clear, which will inevitably be judged during the interview process.

Now that you’ve got the knowledge, it’s time to shop! Head to or your Gumtree app (click for Apple & Android) and don’t forget to use your location settings to find local service information close to home.

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