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Studies & Degrees in Teaching English as a Second Language

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Teaching English as a Second Language Study Programs

English as a second language, or the most commonly used abbreviated term – ESL - refers to the teaching of students whose native language is different from English. ESL teachers employ a variety of methods and techniques to achieve the goal of teaching students of all nationalities the English language.

ESL teachers firstly assess the competency that the student already possesses in the language, and then either place them in a small group with other students, or assist them individually in separate hours, or during normal classes. In most cases, as an ESL teacher, you would start with basic English language skills to reach advanced skills that will enable the student to move to a regular English class. You would also assist the regular classroom teachers in designing special learning programs for students who experience difficulties with the English Language. ESL programs are available for both adults and elementary school pupils, so you would be required to adapt your teaching methods to the age range of students.

Personal Qualities

As with any teaching job, qualities like patience and excellent communications skills are vital. Other qualities include:

  • Creativity – often teachers have to find and employ their own methods when dealing with difficult students
  • Good presentation skills
  • Open-mindedness and acceptance of cultural differences
  • Excellent time-management and organizational skills
  • Ability to take on an individual approach towards students

Study Options

In order to practice the profession of an ESL teacher, you need to gain the corresponding ESL certification. This can happen by earning a degree from various colleges, universities, and online schools that have gained accreditation by language and teaching professional organizations. There are a number of training organizations offering certification, like Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Teaching of English as an Acquired or Additional Language (TEAL), International Accreditation of TESOL Qualifying Organizations (IATQuO), and Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL); each of these have their own standards and requirements.

What should be kept in mind, though, is that in case you gain an online certification, it may not automatically meet the requirements of prospective employers, and you may be required to take further tests. When researching the right course, you should look for subjects like linguistic fundamentals, teaching methods and materials, cross-cultural communication, and second-language acquisition, on top of the mandatory grammar fundamentals, pronunciation, and punctuation.

Career Options

Options for an ESL professional can be very diverse and interesting. One possibility would be to work abroad, helping students in international schools, or non-native students in the UK or the USA. Overseas employment could be especially rewarding for bi-lingual ESL instructors, who are greatly sought after by universities, high schools, and elementary schools.

Domestic teaching can also be considered if you have gained ESL certification. In this case, some of the challenges involved when instructing a group of international students are alleviated, as you would be able to use your own language to explain more complicated concepts.

Online instruction is also a widely-spread choice, and you can do this as a part-time job, on top of other employment you might have. Last but not least, ESL professionals can specialize in Adult Migrant Teaching, helping newly arrived migrants not only with language, but also with cultural barriers. In this case you can work for the government, for private organizations, or for various educational institutions.