What’s it like teaching English to adults in Thailand?

If you have decided you want to teach English in Thailand, you may not want to teach kids but may be interested in teaching adults instead.

Is it possible to do that and make a full-time living at it and, what is it like teaching English to adults in Thailand?

My background teaching English to adults in Thailand

Before we get into what it’s like teaching adults in the Land of Smiles, I’ll give  you a quick rundown of my own background.

I started teaching English in a private bilingual school in Bangkok, Thailand, where I worked for three years. During that time, I also taught adult English classes to students all over Bangkok on evenings and weekends. Both at companies and with private students.

After I decided to leave my bilingual school job, I then spent three more years teaching English to adults full-time as an in-house English teacher at an international company in Bangkok.

Followed by three more years teaching part-time EFL classes to adults at various companies around the city.

All in all, I taught English to adults in Thailand for almost 10 years.

Some of the adult students I taught during my years as an in-house teacher at an international company in Bangkok

Teaching English to adults part-time

A huge number of the jobs available in Thailand teaching adults are part-time.

This is usually due to companies not wanting to spend money on a full-time teacher salary, or not really understanding how important it is that their employees learn to communicate in English.

So they sign them up for a few evening classes through a local teaching agency, and that is as much English as these adult students generally get.

Enough to learn a little bit of vocabulary, and maybe improve a couple of grammar points but, overall, quite useless in the grand scheme of things.

Why are Thailand’s English language skills the poorest in South East Asia? Many reasons…

Particularly as these evening classes will run once or twice a week for eight to 10 weeks, and then that is the end of them.

If you want to teach English to adults, however, you are best getting started with these part-time classes. There are many of them around, a slew of local language schools and teaching agencies hire teachers to place in these jobs, and you only have to commit for a couple of months.

If, at the end of it, you decide you enjoy teaching English to adults, you can sign up to teach another class.

At one time, I was teaching classes four nights a week plus all day Saturday, along with 20 teaching hours a week at my full-time job.

Yes, it was hard work, but the extra money was great and I discovered that I enjoyed teaching adults.

Photo copyright – Victor1558 – Creative Commons License

Teaching English to adults full-time at a language school

If you want to teach English to adults full-time, jobs are few and far between, and most are only in language schools.

Head to as many language schools as you can find (Inlingua, International House, AUA, Wall Street etc) and ask if they are hiring. Submit your application, have interviews, teach demo classes, and do everything you can to be hired by at least one of them.

From then on, you will have at least part-time hours at one of these schools, with some even hiring for full-time teachers.

Just be aware, your hours may be spread quite wildly. Meaning, you could start off teaching your first class at 8am, have another one at 10am and then nothing else until 4pm.

You could then be teaching on into the evening until your last class ends at 9pm.

That means a lot of hanging around, and a long day, yet you still may only teach and get paid for 4-5 hours during it.

Be aware of that before you decide this is the type of teaching you want to do in Thailand.

Teaching business English to adults full-time in Thailand 

Full-time jobs teaching business English to adults are very hard to come by. Simply because there are not many of them out there.

When I had a full-time job doing just that, there were just two other teachers working at the same company. Other than those guys, I only knew one other teacher that had a full-time teaching job teaching adults business English in all of Bangkok. I know a lot of teachers and he had been doing it for years.

If you are insistent that you want to teach business English to adults, however, where there’s a will there’s a way I always believe.

That is why I would suggest signing up with as many language schools as will accept you, and start teaching part-time classes. Whether at the school or in various companies the school sends you to. After all, you never know when one of them may lead to a full-time job.

You should also sign up with at least one teaching agency, as many of them place part-time teachers at companies in the evenings.

You may only teach 2-6 hours a week to start out with, but it is a great way to get some practice and to get your foot in the door with specific companies.

If any of these companies do eventually hire a full-time English teacher, the part-time teacher they already have is sometimes the person they think of first.

What is it like teaching English to adults in Thailand?

Fun. Incredibly fun.

In fact, my 10 years teaching English to adults were some of the best years of my life.

After all:

Thai adults want to learn — While a huge number of Thai kids couldn’t care less if they ever spoke English or not, the majority of Thai adults I taught wanted to learn.

Sure, they may not have cared if they were absolutely fluent, but most wanted to learn enough to be able to have an easy conversation. Or to have English skills good enough that they would get that promotion they had been vying for.

Thai adults like to have fun — So classes usually involve game playing, role plays, conversation and other fun activities you can create that will have every student involved.

As Thai adults will usually participate more than Thai children, this can make for a very fun two hours of teaching.

Things to teach in corporate English classes in Thailand

More interesting teaching topics — While most Thai kids are not that interested in politics, current affairs or  subjects related to business, Thai adults enjoy them.

Many Thai adults I taught loved to have conversations about the messed up political situation in Thailand, what the latest gossip was about a famous Thai socialite, or why doing one thing in business offered much better customer service than another.

A huge level of respect — While Thai children are far more respectful than their western counterparts they are, after all, kids.

That means you will have problems with discipline, and be frustrated when it comes to getting them to hand in their work on time.

Thai adults, on the other hand, tend to be incredibly respectful. So much so, they actually stop talking when you ask them to, they listen to the lesson you are trying to give and they do the work assigned to them.

They also bring you gifts and take you on little trips if they like you.

Yep, that was always one of the things I loved about teaching adults — how they were so happy with the classes they would drive across town to get me ‘the best mango in Bangkok’, or arrange to pick me up on a Saturday morning and take me to Amphawa Floating Market for the day with their family, because they wanted me to learn even more about Thai culture.

The atmosphere is better — I just liked the atmosphere in the classroom when teaching Thai adults.

Sure, there was just as much silliness as when teaching Thai children. After all, they are still Thai, and love to have fun.

But I liked that they took the classes seriously, they listened, they worked and they wanted to learn. And they participated in the role plays, conversations, games and other fun activities I had planned.

It made teaching far more pleasant and, to me, much more rewarding.

Teaching adults versus teaching children

Overall, I enjoyed teaching both children and adults in Thailand. If I had to choose just one, however, I would probably go with the adults.

I just enjoy getting more respect in the classroom, having students that for the most part do the work, and feeling like I was actually teaching Thais something valuable.

For me, it was also far less stressful than teaching children, as you rarely have to worry about discipline problems.

In other words, if you do want to teach English to adults in Thailand, I say go for it. It is a lovely experience, and one you will probably enjoy.

Just be aware, finding a full-time job teaching English to adults in Thailand is likely to take you a while to achieve.