Teaching English to Adults vs. Kids: What, Where, and Why?

When you think of teaching English as a Foreign Language, do you picture yourself in front of a class of children, adults, or a mix of both? Did you know that the age group you prefer to teach can factor into your choice of teaching location? This overview of teaching ESL to adults vs. kids answers the who, what, where and how of teaching these age groups!

Teaching Young Learners

Overview: Some people are afraid teaching kids will be too challenging, but there are actually many advantages to working with young students.

  • Elementary-aged kids, especially, have an unbridled enthusiasm for learning and are always ready to jump in and play any fun English game you present to them.
  • Young learners tend to lack the hang-ups of adults, so they are not shy about pronouncing new words or afraid of looking silly in front of the class.
  • It’s easy to see substantial progress in young learners’ English level since they are able to absorb so much so quickly.

Countries where it’s common to teach young learners: The main region where teaching jobs involve working with children is Asia, in countries such as China, South Korea, and Thailand. Another region where TEFL jobs often involve teaching kids is Europe.

Teacher Feedback: Kimmy taught young learners in Hungary.

“I taught at an international kindergarten— it was a blast! It was a summer camp, so each week, we had a different theme. One week, we learned about cooking; we cooked all sorts of different foods at the school, and at the end of the week, we all got to go to a sushi restaurant. My students were 5-6 years old, and they were fascinated by the sushi restaurant. That summer, I grew so close to the summer camp students because we got to learn and discover new things together. They were wonderful students, and I loved teaching them!”

Teaching Adults (Business English)

Overview: If teaching kids is not for you, there are plenty of EFL positions available that focus only on adult students. While your students will often be professionals (this is referred to as teaching Business English), it’s possible to have students from all walks of life, including college students or retirees! Some advantages to teaching adults are:

  • You’ll spend less time on discipline and class management and more time on learning.
  • Adult students come from various professions, industries, and educational backgrounds, providing interesting topics for class discussions.
  • It’s usually possible for EFL teachers to befriend students, allowing more opportunities for cross-cultural or language exchange.


Countries where it’s common to teach adults/Business English: The main regions where teaching jobs involve working with adults/adult professionals are Central and South America and the Middle East.

Teacher Feedback: Wes Choc is a BridgeTEFL graduate who taught adult students in Ecuador.

“… my classrooms were made up of bartenders, stewards, waiters, chefs, engine room staff, and tour guides. Conspicuously eager to understand more than what they already knew, I was always well-received with smiling anticipations each day and perfect attendance. This was indeed enjoyable ‘work’.”

Teaching a Mix of Students

If you can’t decide between teaching ESL to adults vs. kids, you can get a TEFL job teaching classes of adults and classes of young learners!

Countries where it’s common to teach all ages: Europe and North Africa are the main regions where both young learners and adults are taught, but certainly in Asia (particularly Japan and Indonesia) and Latin America there are positions in which you may teach all ages as well.

Teacher Feedback: Meredith is a BridgeTEFL graduate who taught both adults and children in Japan.

“The students overall are who I look forward to seeing each day. The adult students are usually very open to talking about themselves, and the classroom provides an opportunity for both learning English and engaging in conversation about each other’s cultures. The kids I teach are very funny and energetic, they are always eager to use what English they do know and talk with me during and outside of class!

To take your TEFL certification to the next level, specialize in Teaching Young Learners & teens or Teaching Business English via a targeted, online BridgeTEFL Specialized Certificate in these subject areas!