The Complete Guide to the TaLK Program in South Korea
The TaLK program (Teach and Learn in Korea) is a government-sponsored English teaching program. Successful applicants are placed in elementary public schools in rural areas of South Korea with the aim of furthering their English education.
TaLK is one of the few options for teaching English in South Korea without holding a full Bachelor’s degree. As long as you have completed two full years of university education you can apply. It’s a great opportunity to take a year out from your studies while seeking personal and professional enrichment through teaching.
TaLK offers great perks, including free accommodation, reimbursed round airfare trip and paid vacation, as well as a pretty decent monthly stipend to live off.
Having a teaching qualification is not a prerequisite for the TaLK program. To be eligible, applicants must meet the following requirements.
- Native English speaker
- A graduate OR current undergraduate with at least 2 years of academic completion
- Clean Criminal Background Check
- Meet the requirements for a Korean E2 visa
- Good physical health
From the site:
Native English Speaker
You must have citizenship from either Canada, USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.
Graduate or Current Undergraduate
Bachelor’s degree candidates who have completed at least two full years of their undergraduate education, in any subject, can apply. You’ll be taking temporary absence from your university. If you’re in your final semester of the second year you can still apply, but you’ll need to provide the official transcript indicating completion of the two full years of study, with the eligibility to enter the 3rd year. If you have a full 3 year Bachelor’s degree or above you can also apply. If this is the case, you may want to check out the sister program, EPIK, as you may be eligible for this teaching program too.
Clean Criminal Background Check
You’ll be required to obtain an Apostille National Level Criminal Record Check (CRC). It must be completely clear with no criminal record being stated – misdemeanors and felonies will disqualify you. It must have been conducted within 6 months prior to the day you submit your application.
Korean E2 Visa
In order to teach on the TaLK program, you’ll need a Korean E2 visa. This is granted after certain requirements are met. You can only apply for the E2 visa once your placement has been confirmed by TaLK. They’ll send you an Acceptance Package, which includes a letter of invitation and your contract.
Good Physical Health
You’ll be required to fill out a self-medical check survey as part of the application process. Once you arrive in Korea, you’ll be required to take part in a medical checkup, which includes drug and major communicable disease testing. If you do have a clinical medical condition, you’ll need to submit a note from your doctor or physician stating that the condition won’t impact on your ability to teach in a foreign country.
How is TaLK Different From EPIK?
TaLK is EPIK’s sister program. They are similar in many ways but they also have their differences. TaLK is like an internship during your university degree, where you’re able to gain experience and insight into life as an ESL teacher, whereas EPIK is a full time paid teaching job after graduation.
EPIK will only accept applicants who have completed a 3 year Bachelor’s degree or above and have at least one teaching qualification. TaLK accepts applicants who have completed two full years of university education and without a teaching qualification. It isn’t uncommon for TaLK scholars to use their experience as a stepping stone to join the EPIK program.
The salary is less for the TaLK program when compared to EPIK, but TaLK scholars teach an average of 15 hours a week (about 3 hours a day), primarily after school classes, whereas EPIK teachers work full time.
Salary and Benefits for TaLK Teachers
From the TaLK site:
Teaching on the TaLK program in South Korea will allow you to live pretty comfortably. TaLK placements are in rural areas, likely to be less expensive than cities, so you may be able to save some money too. TaLK scholars receive a monthly capped stipend of 1.5 million KRW (approx $1330 USD).
Within the first month of your contract, you will receive a one-time payment of 300,000 KRW (approx $270 USD).
Free furnished housing is provided by the TaLK program.
Reimbursed Flight Allowance
TaLK scholars receive a flight allowance of 1.3 million KRW ($1,162 USD) each way. Your Entrance Allowance is given to you within the first 5 months of your arrival and the Exit Allowance after leaving South Korea. If you find flights cheaper than the allowance, you can keep the difference!
Paid Vacation Days
TaLK scholars get 7 paid leave days every semester. You are strongly encouraged to use these vacation days during the school summer and winter breaks.
As part of the TaLK program, scholars are provided with travel abroad study insurance paid for by the Provincial Offices of Education.
Government Scholarship Certificate of Completion
Upon successful completion of your contract, TaLK scholars receive this certification from the Korean government. You may wish to use this to apply for further ESL teaching, such as the EPIK program.
One Month Training
Upon arrival in South Korea, TaLK scholars attend a 4 week compulsory training session. This training is intensive, with the aim of providing tools and methods necessary to teach and adjust to life in Korea. This is unpaid, but your meals and accommodation are provided.
TaLK Application Process, Timeline & Location
The application process is extensive and you should only apply if you meet all the requirements and can provide the required documents. TaLK hires in accordance to the public school calendar, with contracts starting 1st March and 1st September.
Where you apply differs depending on your nationality; if you’re a citizen of Ireland or South Africa, or currently reside in Korea, you must apply directly to the TaLK Office. Otherwise, you must apply to the applicable Korean Consulate/Embassy in your home country. All applicants fill out the TaLk application form online, but you need to select the correct local office on the form.
The specific deadlines to apply for the program through the local application offices varies every term, but they typically accept applications from early March to July for the August orientation and September to January for the February orientation. The TaLK Office accepts applications all-year round. If you miss the deadline and your local application offices are closed, you can try applying directly to the TaLK Office – you may be considered for the waitlist or for the next term.
Interviews take place at the designated Korean Embassy/Consulate in your home country after you have successfully submitted your application Parts A and B online. Irish or South African citizens will be interviewed by the TaLK Office.
TaLK scholars can be placed in the rural areas of the following South Korean provinces; Incheon, Chungnam, Gangwon, Jeju, Jeonbuk and Jeonnam. Placement requests are no longer accepted, therefore you’ll be placed at any of the available locations. You’ll find out where your placement is during orientation, as well as which school you’ve been placed in. Expect an elementary public school teaching children.
What’s it Like Being a TaLK Teacher?
TaLK scholars typically teach after school classes with an emphasis on conversational and practical English. Depending on the school, and the demands of the pupils, you may assist and/or teach regular English classes. Class sizes vary from less than ten to more than twenty.
You’ll be assigned to teach fifteen hours per week, Monday through Friday, averaging 3 hours a day. These fifteen hours don’t include class preparation, breaks or transportation. Contracts are for one year, with an option for six months.
Reviews of the TaLK program are pretty similar to reviews of the other teaching programs in South Korea. They seem to mostly recommend the program, and highlight the positives as well as the hardships. The general consensus is that your experience can vary depending on which school you’re placed in. The social and cultural side of the program seems to get a good write up, as there appears to be more of an emphasis on this with TaLK, compared to the other teaching programs.
“Great program to get your feet wet before potentially immersing yourself in teaching English.”
Gooverseas has a fair number of reviews of the TaLK program on their website, where scholars seem to give pretty honest accounts of their experiences, a mix of the good and the bad.
“I would recommend the TaLK program to anyone who wants to gain invaluable cultural experience and knowledge.”
A past teacher has written a blog about the TaLK program, sharing her personal anecdotes and what the program entails.