Teaching English As a Foreign Language - Do You Really Need A TEFL Cer
Dec 12, 2010 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 2919 Views
Wouldn't it seem like a dream come true to be paid to teach English while living in an exotic culture half way around the globe? You've probably heard that this is a great way to see the world using a skill you already possess, speaking the English language. But is it that simple or do you need to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate? If you picture a fun loving nineteen year old soaking up the local color while getting paid to informally pass along their language skills, you are in for a surprise. In this article we'll take a look at what credentials are usually required to land a job teaching English as a foreign language and, perhaps more importantly, what skills you will actually need to successfully perform this job.
Let's start by saying that the credentials needed to teach English as a foreign or second language (TEFL/TESL) do vary and the need for TEFL certification is not as universal as some TEFL certification schools would lead you to believe. However, it is true that many TEFL job openings do in fact require both a four year college degree as well as certification as a TEFL instructor. Usually the college degree does not have to be in any particular major. It's simply a measure of academic achievement that can be verified by a potential employer. On the other hand, there are some positions that do specifically require a four year teaching credential plus a couple years of teaching experience, but these are the exceptions, rather than the rule.
Within a particular country or region TEFL requirements tend to be fairly consistent. For example, in Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries, job seekers must meet the highest education standards. Many Middle Eastern schools are seeking teachers with a masters degree in addition to a couple years of teaching experience. As you might expect, these are likely to be among the top paying positions and frequently offer the best overall work environment and benefits. Incidentally, in European countries like Italy or Greece, countries in which you may have hoped to teach, visa restrictions make teaching nearly impossible for citizens outside of the European Union. Eastern Europe however, does not have this constraint. The bottom line is that each country and each particular teaching position has its own set of requirements and you will need to be sure you meet them before accepting any position. By the way, in all locations, you would be wise to thoroughly investigate current security concerns before traveling. The U.S. government site travel.state.gov/travel is a good starting point for checking out safety and security issues around the world.
So let's return to the question that tends to dominate many conversations about teaching English abroad, and that is, whether or not you really need to go through the certification process. Since getting a TEFL/TESL certificate takes both time and money, the question is worth investigating. Well the answer is, if you are creative about seeking out TEFL/TESL opportunities, you can find teaching positions where you don't always need a four year degree or formal certification as a teacher of a foreign language. These positions tend to be more abundant in South America, Mexico, and parts of Asia. But is this really the point? Perhaps a more relevant question to ask yourself might be "Do I possess the skills to actually teach grammatically correct English to a non-English speaker?" Give this question some serious thought. Imagine it is your first day in front of a group of people who are looking up at you, don't speak English, and are counting on you to change that.
Consider the following questions:
•Have you ever stood in front of a class and taught anything?
•Can you explain the underlying rules and grammatical concepts behind the sentence structure that you have "organically" learned to use?
•Do you know how to make a coherent lesson plan in order to carefully structure teaching the concepts you'll need to convey?
•If you have students who "just don't get it", how are you going to handle the problem?
•Can you explain,for example, when it's appropriate to use the subjunctive mood?
•Can you easily create exams that are a fair test of the material you need to teach?
These and related questions are important to consider. Simply possessing the ability to speak proper English does not mean you understand, and can articulate, the principals behind your knowledge. Often the skills required to successfully teach any subject are under appreciated because a good teacher makes it seem so natural and effortless. Would you really want to be facing a group of students without having the extensive toolbox a trained teacher possesses? I know I wouldn't. I think this is probably the more important issue to keep in mind when considering the value of getting formal TEFL/TESL certification. Teaching a language is a specific skill. It just makes sense to arrive at the job fully prepared.