Long before 1984, Eric Arthur Blair supported himself in Paris partly by teaching English as a second language (ESL). Better known as George Orwell, young Eric was able to use his native English skills to earn a living because there was at least one Frenchman who wanted to learn English.
James Joyce, the author of Ulysses and The Dubliners, taught English at a Berlitz school in Pola, now in modern Croatia, and from 1905 in Trieste.
More recently, JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series of books, worked as an ESL teacher at a private language school in Portugal while working on her first book.
In Trieste, Joyce soon found that giving private English lessons was more profitable than working in a school. Had he been alive today, he would have found the situation pretty much the same. The only difference he would have noticed would have been the ease with which he could find students not simply in his local neighbourhood but worldwide, thanks to an invention that surely would have stupefied him and is, every day, changing the way that students and teachers think about language learning – the Internet.
English long ago established itself as the lingua franca of international business, commerce, aviation, science and now technology. An estimated 90% of the data stored on the Internet is in English. Because the numbers are so vast, nobody can be sure how many people use the Internet at any one time, nor can anyone be sure how many people are learning English as a second language. What we can be sure about is that both groups number in the hundreds of millions. This is great news for anyone considering teaching English as a second language.
If you are a native English speaker from Britain, Ireland, North America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, you possess a commodity for which millions are willing to pay. Considering that you need only a few private students to earn a comfortable living, the Internet provides you with an opportunity, as never before, to choose suitable students from an unimaginably deep pool of eager learners. Until now, the private English teacher has been limited to drawing their students from their immediate neighbourhood, usually after considerable effort spent advertising for students, or considerable time spent building a reputation to secure word-of-mouth enrolments. Now you can cast your net across the entire planet.