Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language

Overview of Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language

Teaching English as a second or foreign language is an increasingly popular and in-demand career field and area of study.  The postsecondary study programs are generally listed at accredited colleges and universities under education and focus on areas such as linguistics, cultural understanding, Spanish, French, other languages, communication, reading and writing.

Curriculum for Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language

The length of required ESL courses that teachers must take varies from state to state.  However, the required ESL course training in some states generally range from 20 undergraduate semester units or 10 graduate semester units.  Acceptable ESL courses at some state education departments are Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), Linguistics, Bilingual and bicultural studies and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Associate degrees, Bachelor degrees and Master degrees in TESOL and TESL are offered at postsecondary schools.  Teachers can also get a Doctorate degree in Applied Linguistics.  If teachers only have education degrees they can get certificates in TESL or TESOL and teach English as a second or foreign language in many school districts around the country. 

Furthermore and according to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics teachers who can fluently speak two or more languages, increase their chances of earning quality employment.  As the country continues to become increasingly diverse, both in culture, ethnicity and language, the ability to teach English as a second or foreign language becomes increasingly paramount.  In fact, some accredited colleges and universities have English as a Second Language (ESL) institutes.  Courses offered at ESL institutes include:

  • Beginning and elementary reading, writing, speaking and listening
  • Intermediate and advanced reading, writing, speaking and listening
  • American society
  • Culturally speaking
  • Business writing
  • American literature
  • Oral communications
  • Modes of communication
  • Grammar and writing
  • Sounds of English
  • Writing research papers

Education Levels and Far Reaching Benefits for Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language

To teach ESL in classrooms, many states require teachers to have at least a Bachelor of Education degree.  Keep in mind that some states like New York, require all teachers to get a Master of Education degree or a Master’s degree in the subject they teach in classrooms (e.g. history, English, social studies, math).  Teachers must also take and pass state teacher certification licensing examinations. 

In and beyond the classroom, teaching English as a second or foreign language programs benefit teachers in a variety of ways.  For example, teachers who complete intensive ESL courses can:

  • Prepare their students to achieve success in and outside the classroom
  • Give their students language tools so they can take the tools home and teach other members of their family how to speak English
  • Expand communication tools for all students in ESL classrooms
  • Understand and appreciate diverse cultures and languages
  • Better understand how to communicate with others when traveling abroad
  • Equip their students to land quality employment after they graduate from school
  • Build their own and foreign speaking students’ self-esteems

As previously noted, teachers who are certified or licensed to teach English as a second or foreign language have improved job opportunities compared to teachers who do not have the certification or license.  They can also earn higher annual salaries.  In fact, the Bureau reports that English language and literature teachers earned an average salary of $74,800 as of May 2008. However, the average salary that all teachers, regardless of the subject they taught, earned as of the same time period was $58,830.

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