Back to Adult and Vocational Education Teachers details

Teaching English as a Second Language - Overview


Teaching English as a second or foreign language programs prepare people to teach English reading, writing, and speaking skills. Students learn to manage English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. They also learn to train English language teachers.

If you've ever learned a second language, you may have experienced the thrill of seeing signs in that language that you could actually understand. Or maybe you passed people conversing in the language, and you pick up on a few things they were saying.

The knowledge of a second language can be like a key that unlocks the door to a whole new world. Likewise, not knowing a language - especially in a place where that language is predominantly spoken - can feel like standing in front of a closed door.

People who teach ESL aim to alleviate this feeling. And if you've ever had a teacher who was obviously brilliant at, say, calculus, but was not so brilliant at teaching it, you probably know that the same can be the case with teaching a language. Sure, you may have learned English as a baby, but teaching it involves several steps and approaches.

You don't just teach the grammar of English; instead, you try to put the grammar into a context that a student can understand. You might come up with sample dialogues that deal with situations that your student might actually experience. You also teach your students the cultural and social lessons intertwined in the English language.

It can be exciting to step back and view a language in these ways. And if English is your native language, you may have taken these aspects for granted. If you appreciate both the joy and difficulties of learning another language, and would love to lead others through this process, then ESL teacher education may be the program for you.

As a student in this program, you study linguistics and learn about the different ways that people in different age groups learn a new language. You also study methods to teach English, including the design of a curriculum and teaching materials. You get to practice using these methods as well.

Over 100 schools offer programs in ESL teacher education, sometimes also known as TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages). The most typical degree you can earn is a master's degree, which usually takes five to six years of full-time study after high school.

Some schools offer undergraduate ESL teacher programs in conjunction with a program such as elementary teacher education or a liberal arts interdisciplinary major. Getting a bachelor's degree generally takes four years of full-time study.

You can also earn a doctoral degree, which takes nine to ten years, or a graduate certificate, which, like a master's degree, takes five to six years.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Back to Adult and Vocational Education Teachers details