The following comprise some of the most frequently asked questions I receive on teaching English in Colombia. While not a complete listing, the responses do provide some brief insight into EFL possibilities here. I have lived and taught in Colombia since 1995 and am currently teaching at a large university in Cali.
Q: Do you have a list of EFL schools in Colombia or know where I may find one?
A: You will find some helpful information for teaching English in Colombia in an online article published by Transitions Abroad magazine at: http://www.transitionsabroad.com/publications/magazine/0205/teachcolumbia. shtml
Q: I am particularly interested in spending time in Cartagena. I wonder if you might be able to advise me or point me in the right direction.
A: In Cartagena you can contact any schools there directly when you arrive since it's a relatively small city based solely on some tourism. Unemployment is very high there unfortunately. You should contact regular primary and secondary schools as well.
Q: I'm beginning to get the impression that perhaps Cartagena may not hold many opportunities. Does your comment about unemployment being high there imply that there's not much call for English teachers (to adults) in the town? I'm not being very successful searching for adult educational establishments in Cartagena.
A: With nearly 80 per cent unemployment, Cartagena might not be right for you. Beggars, thieves, con artists and a massive army of poor constantly surround you. You certainly can't go to the beach that the city is famous for because there they know you're a “tourist" with disposable dollars and you'll be absolutely miserable after the first 500 or so beggars have beseiged you in less than a couple of hours. Not much of a vacation spot now, I'm afraid. Sorry.
Q: I understand you have written a series of articles about teaching English in Colombia, could you point me in the right direction?
A: Your best opportunities will be in Bogota, the capitol, with more than 75 schools, universities and institutes from which to choose. Cali has about forty such options. If you'd like to be on the coast, you might try Barranquilla. The language institute at the university there is hiring EFL teachers on a continual basis and is online. It's the Universidad del Norte site in English is at: http://www.uninorte. edu. co/english/int_relations.html
Q: What is the best time of year to go to look for work in Colombia?
A: As far as looking for work is concerned; July to August you should be pounding the pavement. The next best time frame is in early to mid January. Another critical period for job-hunting is May to June. Most importantly, choose where you want to live and work, or make a pilot trip to uncover essential facts, leads and information on a couple of cities.
Q: How much money do you think I should have before I travel to Colombia?
A: Try to have enough money to tide you over at least three months of savings to give you some breathing room, but even one month of savings might be enough if you find something fairly quickly. Just look at the exchange rate of U. S. dollars to Colombian pesos. Factor in the cost of living per month and you’ll likely find an approximate amount of savings that are necessary. You can compile a more accurate figure by checking out www.tefl.com for their Bogota city cost guide.
Q: Is there anything else you might suggest to me as a newly certified EFL / ESL teacher?
A: After a bit of tenure in Colombia you'll have other options, especially if your Spanish is passable. Also consider Spain, Mexico (my favorite), Ecuador, Chile and other Spanish-speaking countries. If you're not set on one of those, Turkey, Indonesia and China, along with other Asian countries pay very well and offer good opportunity for newbie native English speaking EFL teachers.
Q: Are your other articles available to read online?
A: Let me know what you have in mind and I might be able to offer some more specific suggestions. But for even more information on ELT, you might want to visit my English language teaching and learning blog online at: http://bettereflteacher. blogspot.com/
Also, my articles online at EzineArticles.com are cataloged at: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Larry_M._Lynch
These should keep you interested, busy and informed for a while. Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an ELT Teacher Trainer, English language learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. He has published more than 350 articles and academic papers and presented at numerous EFL teacher training and TEFL conferences throughout North America, South America and Europe. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org