Teaching English as a Second Language: Important Points to Consider
- June 6, 2016
- Posted by: TESOL Direct
- Category: Teaching Abroad
Teaching English as a Second Language abroad can take various forms; however, the initial training should be much the same whichever course title is used. These days, whichever course description they have, there are minimal differences between good initial training courses.
There are three main acronyms with regard to initial teacher training.
TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language
This title has commonly been used to describe a course where the teachers go on to teach students who are learning English as the main second language within their country, as is the case in many Commonwealth countries such as India, Pakistan, Zambia, Tanzania and Nigeria, to name just a few.
TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
This title has commonly been used to describe courses where the teachers go on to teach students who are learning English as a useful world language, as in the case of Germany, France, Japan, Korea and other countries. However, many people today feel that the word ‘foreign’ is not appropriate and does not best describe what the teachers do, so in many countries TESOL is becoming the preferred option.
TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Many teachers today feel that this best describes what they do and many initial training courses have adopted this title. It covers all situations where teachers are teaching students/pupils/adults to speak English.
Generally speaking, it does not matter about the course title, although TESOL is becoming the dominant title around the world.
Full-time – one month
Initial teacher training for people wanting to teach English abroad is either a one-month, full-time programme or its equivalent by distance learning, which is 150 hours. A one-month, full-time course of training costs between about £1,200 and £1,500 and the most popular courses are those run by Cambridge (CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, but also described as a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Trinity (TESOL – Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Some centres offer their own training but the quality of these will vary. Some centres employ trainers with only 2/3 years of experience and this is inadequate for a trainer. Short courses, such a weekend courses, are a total waste of money and cannot count as genuine training, although they could be described as a brief introduction to teaching English..
Distance training – 150 hours
There are a number of distance training options and they vary in content and quality. Some are very good but there is evidence that some are very poor. When choosing a distance-learning course look carefully at the qualifications of the trainers (many sites have no indication about this at all) as well as their experience. It is also important to ensure that initial training courses by distance learning are accredited by a reputable accreditation body with skills and experience with teacher training courses for English language teachers. Sites offering distance courses which focus on beaches and a carefree lifestyle are unlikely to provide effective training. Similarly, centres that offer courses in bulk through other sites should also be viewed with great caution because training courses costing around £50 can never provide effective teacher training.
TESL, TEFL, TESOL Teaching practice
A great deal of emphasis has been placed by some course providers on teaching practice. Certainly it can be helpful, but it can also be extremely stressful and, in some cases, a quick way to destroy a trainee teacher’s confidence. Where trainees are required to follow particular procedures to the letter, and can be failed if they do not do so, then a loss of confidence is very likely. What is sometimes forgotten is that observing good teachers in operation can be a far better way to gain good teaching skills and confidence in the classroom. An eclectic approach to teaching practice is arguably a far better one than just a few short hours of stressful classroom activities watched over by a box-ticking assessor. Any good distance course should provide opportunities for teaching practice (and/or teaching observation) although some trainees may not be able to take up these opportunities because of cost or geography. However, they will still be able to go on to get teaching posts at home or in other countries.
Where you can teach?
There are teaching opportunities all around the world, as well as your home country. Whatever the title of your training course, and whether it was a face-to-face course or a distance-learning course, jobs can be found. Nowadays, most opportunities are to be found in China, Europe, Japan, Korea and some South American countries. Having a passport from an English-speaking country is helpful, although even Americans can sometimes find problems getting a teaching post in Europe. Non-native speakers can often find teaching positions in their own country but may find more difficulties in other countries unless they are at near native-speaker level. A degree is useful but not a requirement in most countries.
What sort of teaching?
The teaching environment can vary and teachers can work either for volunteer organisations or for commercial companies. If you wish to work for a volunteer organisation make sure that it is a well established organisation with a history of providing genuine support in developing countries. Avoid companies that charge you a significant amount of money to work for a short period of time in a developing country as you may find that the company is gaining far more than the developing country. With regard to teaching, some people in Korea have found themselves simply helping with pronunciation, with very little real teaching. In other countries, teachers can find themselves being asked for advice by other teachers. In some countries there is an emphasis on teaching young learners. Some teachers may find themselves teaching primary-aged children in a rural primary school with limited resources and in these circumstances the title ‘Teaching English as a Second Language’ may seem to be somewhat inappropriate. Most people will find themselves teaching in cities and in such cases they may find themselves either swamped with work and struggling to keep going, or scratching around for enough hours to pay the bills. It is important before leaving to work abroad to try to sign up with a reputable organisation or a reputable school.
There are many teaching opportunities around the world but to ensure that you are fair to both yourself and your students don’t cut corners with a cut price/cut quality course but make sure that you complete your certificate with a reputable provider, whether that is a face-to-face course or a distance-learning programme.