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The ESL Profession
We at Teaching House feel very fortunate because, as English teachers, we have one of the most rewarding and versatile jobs in the world. It is one of the few jobs that you can do virtually anywhere, from your home in the U.S. to the most far-flung corners of the globe. We know this because teaching English has allowed the staff at Teaching House to work where ever we’ve decided to live and also to travel to far-flung places not just to visit, but to work, earn good money, develop relationships with people from many different cultures and backgrounds, learn new languages and develop deeper understandings of the cultures in countries where we have lived and worked.
The reason why ESL teachers find it so easy to pick up work wherever they are based is because of the unique position that English language has in the modern world. English is the language of computers, business, trade, science, education, politics and pop music. It is also the language that is used by 90 percent of the world's airlines and the language an international cargo ship will use to call to shore. International organizations the world over use English as the language for communication, regardless of whether any of the partners are from an English-speaking country.
A Spaniard and Malaysian businessman haggling over the price of rice in Kenya will probably be using English to communicate with each other. English has also become the ‘lingua franca’ of tourism, enabling tourists from all over the world to travel and communicate with different peoples. To those who are seeking work, English has become an important reference on a résumé; those who can speak English find more (and often better paid) jobs open to them wherever they live from Buenos Aires to Beijing. And the place the English language holds in the world is constantly growing. Today, there are more students of English in China than people in the USA. The future for ESL looks bright.
As ESL teachers, we can therefore have a huge impact on people’s lives. Students will often come to our classes late at night after a busy day at work, or parents find the money for their children to study even when money is tight. It is therefore important that we give the very best instruction. Time and money, just like the English language, are commodities and it is not fair to our students to waste theirs. This is why we at Teaching House and the University of Cambridge uphold the very highest standards on our courses and our teachers graduate secure in the knowledge that they are ready to put together worthwhile and enjoyable lessons.
Some Common Definitions
Over time, the number of different acronyms used in the profession has grown. They may seem a little daunting at first, and many can appear to be redundant because they are interchangeable with another, but on the whole they are quite useful.
Below is a brief description of the more common ones:
- ESL: English as a Second Language
- EFL: English as a Foreign Language
- TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
- TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- TESOL: Teaching English to Students of Other Languages
- ELT: English Language Teaching
- CELTA: Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching
- GE: General English (i.e. not ESP or EAP)
- ESP: English for Specific Purposes (e.g., business, medicine, technology)
- EAP: English for Academic Purposes (e.g., university students)
Types of Students
No two students, nor teaching situations, are ever the same. This is one of the wonders of being an ESL teacher. To illustrate the potential range, below we have provided an outline of some example students, their English language needs and what sort of English language courses would be open to in their local area.
- A German engineer who finds work with an American company and needs to brush up on his high-school English. He will probably go to an evening class (often Mon/Wed or Tues/Thurs) at a school near his home or work and study general English.
- A Russian immigrant in New York trying to communicate with her neighbors, understand the staff at the local store and find work. She will probably study at one of the classes run at a local community center or by an NGO in the city. Alternatively, she could enroll in a class at a local college.
- A Japanese student dreaming of studying at NYU. She will probably have studied general English at school, and joined extra classes at a private language school in the evenings or weekends. If she is now at university in Japan she’ll be taking EAP classes during the day.
- A Colombian waiter who wants learn to communicate better in order to increase his tip earnings. He will probably study in a general English class at a local private language school in the afternoons between shifts at the restaurant and try to get as much practice as he can in the evenings.
The CELTA course and different fields within ESL
The CELTA course is primarily aimed at teaching general English to adults. General English is the largest field within English, and therefore the ideal area for our training courses. The skills our teachers acquire on the course are transferable to other areas of teaching. For example, there is little difference in classroom management between a class of students learning EAP and a group of adults learning general English. Where skills are not transferable we have workshops on the course. These cover working with young learners and teenagers; two fields of ESL which are very common and a lot of our teachers go on to work in. The course also covers teaching business English and teaching international exam classes (like the University of Cambridge FCE and CAE exams and the TOEFL test).