What is an ESL teacher?
Globalization and the increasing demand for English speaking professionals all over the world, especially in emerging regions, has brought about a new, steadily growing sector: English as a Second Language (ESL).
An ESL teacher is, therefore, an educator who works with English Language Learners (ELLs) whose native language is not English. The goal of the ESL teacher is to help the students reach a certain level of fluency in English, on both a spoken and written level.
ESL educators are not to be confused with foreign language teachers. ESL teachers do not share the same native language and are specifically trained to offer explanations and directed teaching methods to non-English speakers. This teaching style is mainly focused on repetition, drills, demonstrations, and visuals.
ESL Age Groups
Often wrongfully interpreted, an ESL teacher does not necessarily work with children. In fact, the student age group can cover all ages, from kindergarten through university level and beyond. You often encounter English language academies that specialize in a certain age group, for example, an institution specifically for children or another designed to help business executives improve their English skills for international business communication. Therefore, the role of the ESL teacher can vary from case to case which requires instructors to be flexible and adaptable to new situations.
In general, you can find opportunities to work as an ESL teacher anywhere on the map, even in your home country where groups of learners whose native language is not English may include migrants or refugees. However, the majority of ESL teachers work in countries around the globe where English is not the official language. Popular ESL countries include China, South Korea and Thailand in Asia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and South American countries such as Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina.
ESL educators might work in classrooms as main instructors or they may cooperate with other primary teachers in a supporting role. On the other hand, ESL teachers often have local supporting teachers who are able to help the ELLs in their native language to ensure smooth communication.
Qualified ESL Teachers
Many undergraduate or graduate programs offer certified teacher preparation programs to become an ESL instructor but the most common way to become an accredited educator is to obtain a TEFL or TESOL certification through a specialized program. Most commonly, ESL programs are available both online and in-class and can sometimes even be combined. Prices vary greatly depending on the type of program you choose but can start as low as $190. The basic requirements necessary to secure an ESL teaching position depends on the region you want to work in. However, it is worth mentioning that many language institutions, both private and public, require a certification of at least 120 hours.
When asking teachers why they pursue a career in teaching English as a second language, the responses usually come down to similar reasons:
Huge money saving opportunities
Living a comfortable lifestyle
Being able to explore foreign cultures
Being able to pay off (college) debt
To improve skills for further career opportunities
As the number of new teachers taking the adventurous step of working abroad continues to rise, so does competition for jobs in the most popular ESL countries. Therefore, it is important that you stand out from the crowd by offering the employer a qualification that clearly demonstrates your commitment to your new teaching career. An accredited TEFL certificate from a respected course provider will certainly do that and so set you on your way to becoming a successful ESL teacher at home or abroad.