Teaching English as a second language is challenging for at least two reasons: a lack of exposure to the target language and the need to be able to demonstrate competence in using that language. Teaching English as a secondary language involves the integration of learners from different cultures and backgrounds who may not all share the same native languages. One of the most common reasons for teaching English as a secondary language is for international travel. When traveling internationally, it can be difficult to know which country to visit or which language to use for communication while there are differences in many aspects of life, including language.
Many schools provide ESL (English as a Second Language) programs in an effort to attract international students. For many schools, the benefits of ESL are obvious: an ability to live and work in an English-speaking country, exposure to another culture, and the potential for better job prospects in the host country. Some schools also offer a bi-lingual curriculum in an attempt to build multilingual competency. Unfortunately, these benefits are not always enough to make up for the costs of ESL lessons and living in a new country, especially if the student is not enrolled in ESL teaching certification programs or if the school lacks access to well-trained and talented teachers experienced in working with young children who need teaching support.
In the United States, the ESL program known as TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) is the most widely recognized ESL teacher certification program. This program allows teachers to teach individuals or small groups of people in an American-sounding accent and use a dictionary that includes words from the English language. For example, rather than “You drank the milk” or “I ate the bread.” teachers may work with this kind of vocabulary list, but not if they must immediately and accurately translate between their native tongue and the English of the United States. Most American English teachers also do not fully understand or appreciate the value of cultural awareness when teaching English abroad, which means that they may work with vocabulary lists like this, but may not provide appropriate resources for students to use while learning English.
Other TEFL programs are available, however. For those who are open to the idea of teaching English abroad and who have experience of the difficulty of teaching English in a foreign country, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification may work to their advantage. However, a more thorough understanding of what is involved in teaching English in a particular country is necessary before moving forward with a program such as this. As many language educators know, TEFL courses can take six months or longer to complete. And those who are certified as English teachers in other countries may find that their American peers are the best teachers at the beginning of the course because they already know the culture and language and can adapt and speak the language quickly.
On the other hand, there are some American teachers who have made studying the English language more of a challenge, possibly as a consequence of living abroad for many years. For these teachers, the culture shock of teaching someone's native tongue can be compounded by the difficulty of communicating in the foreign language. But for many ESL teachers, being able to effectively communicate with their students after they return home is key to maintaining the teaching career and keeping their relationships with their former students strong. And for those who have made a commitment to the study of the English language, the challenge of teaching English abroad may just be one of the most rewarding aspects of their ESL career.
For those who are thinking about teaching English as a second language, the first step may be to look for an accredited English Language Class or an ESOL Certificate. ESOL certificates are less important than the TEFL or TESOL certificates, but they do help to demonstrate that a person has studied and passed an English speaking class. The American TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Test was developed by the Council for Higher Education and can be taken online. There are also . . . . . . many free courses that can be taken to help those ESL teachers who wish to take the next step toward certification. For those who already have a certification, there may be ways to get the word out that you are certified and can now teach ESL.