How To Teach English
in the Middle East

Extract from the Introduction
© 2017 by Eric Harrington Woro

Article "A Full-On Guide to
Teaching in Oman" (2017)


I am writing this book for Americans and other native and near-native speakers of English who might be searching for an option to work overseas. Your reasons might be political or personal, or both. As I am writing in January, 2017, with major changes coming nationally and internationally, I can imagine there are many considerations behind your interest in this book. You might already be teaching ESL in your country and be looking for a change. You might be finishing up your college education and be looking for interesting first employment. Or you might already be an experienced teacher overseas, but you’re thinking about the higher salaries offered in the Middle East.

This book offers all the information you need to get started teaching English in the Middle East. Here follow four principal advantages to such a venture. (1) You’re fluent in English and will be treated like royalty by those who strive to learn English. Respect for teachers is extremely high. (2) There are no taxes (for Americans) on foreign earnings. Why the Middle East? (3) The highest paid English teaching jobs in the world, by far, are in the Middle East. Last but not least: (4) As long as the media purports daily to keep Westerners skeptical (or terrified) of Muslims and the Middle East, this marvelous option remains something of a well-kept “secret.” Being a secret, there is less competition for the lucrative jobs.

I won’t deny there is competition. One of my best friends is a Polish woman whose second language is Russian, and she teaches English in the Middle East. Where did she learn English? In school. She speaks perfect English without any trace of an accent. Another good friend, an Armenian polyglot, teaches English at a very prestigious university in the Middle East. She, too, has no discernible accent. Some Indian colleagues of mine speak English flawlessly and are marvelous teachers: young, spirited, empathetic, formidably well-educated, and tireless. Yes, there is competition, and not only from native speakers. But there is still a great demand for English instructors in the Middle East.

Maybe you’ve heard about these lucrative opportunities but have hesitated to apply because, like me (before I went there), you think they are only available to the cream of the crop—those with two college degrees, a TESL or CELTA certificate and ten years’ experience overseas with superb recommendations. That is not the case. Why? Your native fluency guarantees that unless you’re an American with a thick southern accent, you already speak the desired “standard.” Even if your English is “near-native” and sports subtle features of an archaic British variant (from India, or Pakistan), it is usually more than sufficient to meet Middle Eastern needs. If you have a master’s degree and some kind of teaching certification, you don’t even need much experience, as long as you can pass your interview with the prospective school administrator (see Chapter 6). Many Middle Eastern jobs require only a bachelor’s degree.

The truth is, the Middle East is desperate for good teachers—it always has been and still is—and less-than-perfect resumés often qualify quite easily to land a dream job at starting salaries upwards of $4,000/month. Again, I’m talking about take-home, tax-exempt pay. Teach successfully for three months (your probation period) and your renewable one-year contract assures you security in your job and happiness in your new lifestyle.

One more quick point, which just crossed my mind. I can say without hesitation, before fleshing out any more details below, that four years in the Middle East changed my outlook on life more than any other experience of that duration across the rest of my life. It will change you, too—you will be, quite simply, a different person after you go and live there for a while. The changes will be for the better.

Who am I? Why am I qualified to write this preparatory handbook? I am an American who taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to college youth in the Middle East, in a small desert village, from late 2009 to the end of 2013. I have an M.A. in English (1989) and am CELTA certified (2008). I have lived outside the United States for about fifteen years during my adult life, off and on, and that includes teaching stints in Russia, the Middle East, and Asia. Those are the “harder” places to go—ESL teachers worry about going to those places, even if by contrast they don’t worry much about going to Germany, for example, or Italy or the Czech Republic. But they should, and I will tell you why. The United States promoted European unity for more than a half-century, enabling market forces there under a European Union that is now in danger of disintegration. The new American administration seems uninterested in traditional Western alliances established and existing almost axiomatically since the conclusion of the Second World War. Tariffs may be sought on German exports to right the trade balance, and Germany could see substantial declines in its heretofore highly successful export-driven economy (

Europe may not be economically stable enough now to offer attractive employment to ESL instructors. Even amidst an ongoing oil crisis, when petroleum producers have felt the impact on their economies, the Middle East has more to offer. Although I have worked in Germany, and speak both German and French, the truth is that nowadays, even apart from any jingoistic trends that might be underway in America, it’s hardly worth it to try to get work teaching ESL in Europe. How much are you guaranteed to take home initially? $1800/month? You can barely live on it, and visas are notoriously difficult to obtain. You will get twice that income in the Middle East, and you can vacation in Europe every summer if you like. I have friends who work there and enjoy it, but a higher salary promises more opportunities. That is my perspective: I favor a solid, pragmatic approach.

The other reason I’m qualified to write this book is that I know what most teachers’ real concerns are, imagining a stint in the Middle East, and I am someone who is going to give you the straight truth on the issues, including sociopolitical niceties that many would rather not talk about. To take the simplest of examples, how can I assert with full assurance that it’s safe, even relaxing, for a Westerner to live and teach in the Middle East? I discuss this question at length in the book. Are you from India or Pakistan and anxious about racism in Middle Eastern countries? Are you worried about women’s rights and quality of life? Ageism? Crime? Disease? Corrupt governments and police? Being able to transfer your earnings safely to your home country? I address all these and other related matters in this handbook.

The truth is, it takes mostly just common sense and a few specific nuggets of wisdom to travel to, live happily in, and exit easily from, the Middle East.

Eric Harrington Woro
January 21, 2017

from the Back Cover

HOW TO TEACH ENGLISH IN THE MIDDLE EAST is a full-service preparatory book for any native or near-native speaker of English intending to find remunerative employment as an ESL instructor in the Middle East. Drawing upon four years of experience as an English language lecturer at a technical college in a small desert town near the Arabian Sea, Eric Harrington Woro lays out all requisite information for the teacher preparing to make the exotic journey to one of the most fascinating regions of the world. In nine information-packed chapters he covers everything from recruiters and the application process to the pragmatic details of day-to-day living in a Muslim society; effective strategies for the critical phone interview which decides the applicant’s fate; and considerations in formulating lesson plans routinely reviewed by the instructor’s administrative overseers. He gives classroom examples of implementing a communicative approach and discusses need-to-know aspects of teaching ESL to Arab language learners, including important highlights from standard and nonstandard Arabic grammar. Finally, he blends in a fictional snapshot of day-to-day life in a small Arab village, adding descriptive prose to his expository tour de force. Filled with intriguing reminiscence, personal narrative and comprehensive academic detail, this book is a must read for every ESL instructor en route to the Middle East.
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