I'm new to the world of TEFL, but my girlfriend and I are from Colorado, and currently training for certifications as mountain guides. Since this is a seasonal job, usually running from May to August in the northern latitudes, we're left with the task of determining what kind of work we'd like to land ourselves in for the off-season. After some consideration, we settled on TEFL.
The background for this was simple; my girlfriend and I originally come from an area of Illinois with an absolutely enormous Mexican population. In fact, most of the important street signs in particularly Mexican parts of town are posted twice, once in English and another in Spanish. In 2006, in my freshman year of college, I landed a job as an after-school student leader at one of the local schools, and was placed with a 5-6 year old classroom, where, at most, half of the students had a functional command of English. Long story short, the challenge of trying to help these kids develop their English, while at the same time communicate the information necessary for them to work on other studies (math, science, etc.) was soulfully satisfying enough for me to stick in that low-paying position for the remaining four years of my university education. Ever since, I've hungered for a similar experience.
So, after deciding on becoming certified in TEFL, we had, in turn, to decide where we would like to teach. Quite frankly, we're both COMPLETELY uninterested in anywhere in the Middle East Asia (except, perhaps, Central Asia); Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, though I am not in any way downplaying all they have to offer, have never really been of particular interest to me. That said, we are specifically seeking out somewhere where the culture is markedly different than that of the United States, which largely rules out Western Europe; after visiting a couple times, I have seen enough to know that THAT part of the world just isn't different "enough" to give me the experience I hope to have. I figure that leaves most of the old Eastern Bloc, and much of South America and Africa. Africa, in turn, seems limited on EFL job offerings, and the South American market seems relatively saturated. So, after careful consideration, we believe we've settled on somewhere in Northern/Eastern Europe in the old Soviet Bloc.
This is also partly because my Grandparents were pure-blood Ukrainians, and I'd like to get to know a culture that is, at least, similar to what they were raised in/around. So I figure Russia and/or the Ukraine are probably the markets we'll target, although I think we'd both be open to something like Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia/Finland or even Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan. So, with that background out of the way, allow me to get to my questions:
1. How volatile is the EFL market across the globe? Does it happen where, in one year a demand in a particular country (say, in Russia) is high and improving, and, perhaps a year or two down the road, declines or disappears altogether? I ask, because, based on time/money constraints, our current realistic goal for acquisition of some type of EFL certification is probably mid-2015, putting us in the job market in fall of that year, AND, whatever country we decide on, I'd like to practice the language of that country for some time prior to departure, so that we can both maintain our own independence in that country. So I'd hate to spend a year learning Ukrainian or something, and then find out that the market went away in that time.
2. How practical is it to make a livable salary offering private lessons, after a period of building clientele? I keep seeing the "private lessons" option referenced by many active teachers of EFL as a supplemental income. Is it something that, perhaps after establishing residency in a particular nation, could become entirely a source of income for a given individual?
3. What are the differences between TESOL, TEFL, and CELTA? Is there a specific number of hours of classroom instruction and/or student teaching that I should be looking for in a certification program? Is there some type of global/Russian/CIS standard for hours?
4. Are there breaks in school in these countries (Christmas Break, Spring Break, etc.) similar to the way there are in the United States? My girlfriend and I, as evidenced by our career choice of mountain guiding, are avid outdoor enthusiasts, and would love the opportunity to get out and explore the myriad outdoor opportunities these countries have to offer (Caucasus/Altai, Carpathians, Crimea, Baltic Islands, Black Sea, etc.).
5. Of the countries mentioned above, are there any particular places that would be more or less difficult to live on an average teacher's salary?
6. If I were to find a place that I loved and, perhaps, even wanted to move permanently to, are visas extendable permanently in most of these places so long as I am gainfully employed and self-sufficient?
Thank you for your help!!