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Become an ESL Teacher 

Historically, the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher would do most of the instruction – including different subjects like history, science and mathematics – for a group of students who spoke a different language, other than English as their primary language. Some students never took regular classes with native English speakers. Gradually, the education philosophy has encouraged the ESL teacher to prepare the students to an advanced stage of fluency so that the students can then take regular classes with the native English speakers.

With a large immigration population, the United States has extensive needs for the ESL teacher. These educators have the primary task of teaching English to the English Language Learner (ELL), who usually speaks a foreign language as his or her primary language.

Historically, the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher would do most of the instruction – including different subjects like history, science and mathematics – for a group of students who spoke a different language, other than English as their primary language. Some students never took regular classes with native English speakers. Gradually, the education philosophy has encouraged the ESL teacher to prepare the students to an advanced stage of fluency so that the students can then take regular classes with the native English speakers.

With a large immigration population, the United States has extensive needs for the ESL teacher. These educators have the primary task of teaching English to the English Language Learner (ELL), who usually speaks a foreign language as his or her primary language.

ESL Teacher vs. Foreign Language Teacher
One of the key differences between an ESL teacher and a Foreign Language teacher is that ESL teachers might be teaching members of a group that speak a variety of different languages (i.e. Chinese, French, Spanish and Swahili). This is a challenge in order to convey the meaning of the instruction to the students – usually basic English words, pictures and non-verbal symbols are used to convey the meaning to ELLs, so they can learn more complex English words.

ESL Students

An ESL teacher might be the primary teacher for foreign students. For students with more advanced English skills, the ESL teacher might be an auxiliary educator assisting with homework and other more complex tasks like reading and writing. Eventually, the successful educator is able to teach students enough English to satisfy fluency requirements, so ELLs can take most of the same classes as native English speakers.

Beginning, intermediate and advanced English are taught step-by-step so that students develop a basic foundation of vocabulary, verbs, nouns and connecting words for creating sentences. Pronunciation can be challenging since there is such a diversity of different accents in the ESL class room environment. There are many standard forms, lessons and tests which can assist in this teaching curriculum.

English is the most widely spoken second language in the world, and in nearly every part of the world English as a Second Language teachers are widely sought after. For anyone considering working in the ESL Teacher field, it can be a rewarding and interesting career. To become an English as a second language teacher, there are several common ways to achieve certification.

TEFL Certificate: In the United Kingdom and much of Europe, the standard certificate for becoming an ESL teacher is completing a TEFL course. These courses can be completed in as few as four months, or as long as eight months depending upon how intensive the course is. Some schools now offer TEFL courses online as well. Because every school has different requirements in their TEFL course, it is important to check that the program is certified and accredited by an educational body.

Degree programs: Many colleges offer degrees in English, with supplemental minors in education or English as a second language. For a potential ESL teacher who is interested in making a career out of being an ESL teacher, investing in a degree program is a better choice than simply taking one or two courses. In the United States, this is the most common training for ESL teachers. Degrees are offered from the Associate’s Degree level all the way through post graduate work in the field. The most common degree programs for those who are interested in becoming English as a Second Language teacher are in English, Education, English as a Second Language and Applied Linguistics.

Work Experience: Many ESL teachers find jobs without much in the way of formal education. International schools will often advertise for ESL teachers in which the primary qualification is a high level of English proficiency. Organizations such as the Voluntary Service Overseas, (VSO) and the United States Peace Corps will also train volunteers in how to be ESL teachers once they are recruited into the program. There are also many short-term positions in schools and camps overseas that will provide on the job training to anyone who is considering becoming an ESL teacher.

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