Book Review: Teach English Abroad

book cover

Rating:  Two out of five stars

(NB:  This rating would have been higher save for some very unfortunate and misleading legal advice about work visas that could have very serious repercussions if followed in certain places.)

Title: Teach English Abroad: Some Guy’s Quick and Straightforward How-To Guide for Teaching English Overseas Along with Tips and Tricks to Be Successful at It

Author:  Jeremy Rasmussen

Year:  2016

Current price:  $2.99 (Kindle edition)

Bottom line:  An inexpensive introduction to one man’s experience teaching English abroad as a U.S. citizen.  A good list of online resources to get started.  Could be much better organized, and unfortunately contains some misleading information on a critical topic, work visas.  If you aspire to teach English abroad, it’s inexpensive enough to make it worth a quick read, but please be aware of its limitations.

The Good Parts:

  • The U.S.-born author is clearly enthusiastic about teaching English, and has years of experience in three countries (Spain, Japan, and China).
  • Good list of online resources to get aspiring international English teachers started.
  • Upbeat, positive approach is inspiring.

The Not-Quite-So-Good Parts:

  • Some unfortunately misleading information on a critical issue:  work visas.  The author should take a bit more care with making blanket statements about legal issues about which he doesn’t have the expertise or legal background to make authoritative statements.
  • A U.S.-centric approach makes some of his advice limited in application.
  • The author misses a number of opportunities to organize the lessons he has learned into a easily accessible format for readers.  The reader has to extrapolate the important takeaways from the narrative, instead of having the author summarize what he learned in a useful, accessible format.

Review:

This short e-book, written by a U.S. citizen who has taught English in Spain, China, and Japan, gives a quick introduction to how native English speakers can find overseas work teaching their native language.

More a travelogue than a guide, per se, the work takes the reader through the author’s experiences, generally told as a chronological recitation of events about whatever topic is at hand (e.g., interviews, the teaching experience, etc.).  This approach adds a personal touch to the story, but is also ends up creating some missed opportunities to impart the lessons he learned to his readers in a concise, easy-to-reference fashion.  It left me wanting to see brief, bulleted summaries at the beginning or end of each chapter, or something like that.

Where the author does get this right, however, is at the end of the book, where he includes a list of useful online resources for interested people to get started on their research.  If the author plans to issue a second edition, I’d recommend that he take this approach to some of his other content.  He clearly has learned useful lessons, but they can sometimes be hard to pick out of his stories and save for future reference.  Also (naturally), all of the advice here is focused on English teaching.  Those who want to do other types of international work will find the content limited.  (Those who are not native-level English speakers should also pass; this book isn’t written for you.)

Native English speakers from less-developed countries should also keep in mind that the author is a U.S. citizen writing from that perspective.  So when he says:

“Having a passport alone is usually enough to let you travel to most countries and spend a limited amount of time there….”

…he is not thinking of, for example, a Ghanaian national, who would need a visa to enter many nations that a U.S. citizen can usually enter with no visa at all.

This limited perspective also gets the author into more serious trouble when he provides legal commentary on work visas:

“One last thing that is important to note about visas, however, is that once you have one, the company you’re working for can’t do anything to get it taken away.  So, if you’re working for a school and they sponsor you for a three-year visa and you quit (or get fired after only a month into the job, you are still legally allowed to live and work in that country with another school for the remainder of those three years.”

While this could be true for some visas in some countries, it is emphatically not true universally.  Many nations significantly restrict the ability of someone with a work visa to shift employers.  Some (like the U.S. H1-B visa) currently require you to request permission from the government to switch employers (which the government can deny, by the way), while others (like certain UAE work permits) appear to give the employer the right to deny a transfer outright in the initial years of an employment contract.  (Note also that in countries like the UAE, criminal laws and penalties can apply for “absconding” from work — laws that are open to easy abuse by employers, such as the horror story described here.)

My advice, and the critical takeaway missing here is — before you make potentially irreversible decisions about your work status in a foreign country, get a legal opinion from people who have the necessary expertise, like asking your host government’s immigration office or a qualified attorney.  Some people may be very unpleasantly surprised if they do not.

This regrettably misleading information had a significant impact on my review.  Readers who took this advice in the wrong context could end up cutting their overseas experience short or getting into trouble with the law in a foreign country.

All told, for three dollars, those seriously interested in teaching abroad may find this worth the pretty low cost, so long as they keep in mind not to use is as a substitute for legal advice on visas.  Unfortunately, that advice really brings down the books rating.  Also, for those without a specific interest in teaching English, I’d spend my time elsewhere.

Buy:  Available here on Amazon.  (Note that this is not an affiliate link or an endorsement.)

 

 

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