Teaching Abroad: A Guide to the Basics
Oct 7, 2008 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 2974 Views
Teaching English as foreign language (or second language) is an excellent option for visiting new parts of the world. Because English is commonly used for diplomacy, higher education, business and technology, English teachers and classes are in high demand around the worldwide.
Knowing how to teach English also provides you with an excellent skill to be used in volunteering. There are opportunities around the world where people would benefit from knowing English, yet they do not have the funds to enroll in classes, or perhaps they don’t have access to any classes at all.
If teaching English isn’t for you, international schools require native English speakers to teach other subjects as well, such as mathematics, science, history, and the arts.
What is TEFL, ESL, EFL, etc.?
There are lots of different abbreviations and acronyms to refer to teaching English. Here is a quick simplifier...
ELT: English Language Teaching or English Language Training
EFL: English as a Foreign Language
ESL: English as a Second Language
ESOL: English for Speakers of Other Languages
EAL: English as an Additional Language
TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
TEAL: Teaching English as an Additional Language
TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
All of the above abbreviations are used for essentially the same thing, however, you may notice that generally ESL is used for non-native speakers learning English in an English speaking country, and EFL is for non-native-speaks learning English in a non-English speaking environment, such as their own country. Moreover, Americans tend to use ESL more, and British teachers tend to use EFL. EAL is an attempt to bridge the gap between the two. Oftentimes people learn English not as their second language, but as their third, fourth or more. Also, EAL avoids using the word “foreign”, which is considered by the more politically correct to have an unpleasant inference.
Do I need a certificate to teach English?
There are many opportunities around the world to teach English without a certificate. However, certification does help, especially if there is an application process involved and positions are competitive.
Do I need to speak a foreign language to teach people English?
Theoretically, to teach English you should only need to speak one language. However, if you are teaching in a foreign country, there is no doubt that some knowledge of that country’s culture and language can make your job much easier, and probably allow you to make your lessons more relevant and interesting for your students. If your students are of mixed international backgrounds, then knowing one or two foreign languages may not be of assistance to the entirety of the group.
There is some benefit to your teaching if you do in fact know a foreign language or have learnt one. By having first hand experience of being a student, you are able to have a more complete perspective of the student/teacher relationship and the trials and tribulations of those you teach. Moreover, learning another language provides you with valuable insight about grammar, such as verb conjugations and tenses, which come naturally to a native speaker. Many other languages use similar grammatical formats as English, and by learning a foreign language you might be able to examine your native language more carefully.
Do I need to speak English as my native language to teach English?
You certainly don’t have to speak English as your native tongue; however you must have excellent fluency and writing skills to start a training course for certification. Oftentimes non-native speakers make the best teachers, however. If you’ve been through it yourself then you are able to relate to what your students will be dealing with.
How long will it take to become certified?
Certification is a pretty quick process, usually taking four weeks or considerably less. You can take the course full time, part time, or through distance learning. There are options to suit whichever method or time frame you prefer.