Why TESOL? Teaching English as a Second Language

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Whether you’ve got the travel bug and have heard the buzz about teaching English as a second language, want to put your English degree to good use, or simply have a passion for languages, getting your TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification is the first step to start your immersive adventure abroad. Teaching English as a second language is like no other job when it comes to living in another country. At a school, you not only engage in firsthand exchange with your students, but you become part of a community. By the end, your students probably will teach you a thing or two, but in the meantime, to secure most ESL jobs, you’ll need some form of teaching certificate. 

Why TESOL? Teaching English as a Second Language

Perhaps in your initial research you’ve heard several acronyms going around: TEFL, TESL, CELTA, or TESOL. Pretty confusing, huh? Well the good news is that TESOL is the mother-certification for preparation to teach English to secondary language learners located both in native English speaking countries and countries of other majority languages. While the world of teaching English might seem a bit broader and more convoluted than you first thought, here’s your easy answer to the question “Why TESOL?”

So...Why TESOL?

Becoming a TESOL certified teacher is the gateway to teaching English as a second language in high quality schools by being a high-quality teacher making a higher quantity salary. Even though you might be a native English speaker, do you know you phonemes and your third conditional from your first? It’s likely that your students and colleagues will. Perhaps at first they’ll understand as you make light the fact that most native English speakers don’t learn too much about phonetics or grammar in school, however a TESOL certification course will at least prepare you to be familiar with some of these concepts and best practices for managing tricky classroom questions.

If you are a non-native English speaker who is interested in teaching English as a second language, a TESOL certificate is almost a requirement for most teaching jobs abroad. While your quality of English will likely be assessed in an interview with your future employer, the TESOL certificate has become an international standard when it comes to the actual practice teaching English overseas. Other that the more technical aspects of teaching English, your TESOL certificate will give you more practical tips for classroom discipline management, engaging your students in fun activities, and even some hands-on student teaching experience before you step in front of your first solo-class. 

Kids in a classroom chattering and working
A TESOL certification makes you ready to take on rambunctious kiddos.

What to Look for in a TESOL Program

Choosing a program might seem like an overwhelming amount of work, but knowing what to look for can help you to research more efficiently. One of the biggest determinants of the TESOL certification course you choose is likely to be the location. 

Do you already have a destination in mind for where you ideally want to start your teach abroad career? Check for certification programs in the country to receive more location-specific teaching tips, an adjustment period to your new home, and job placement assistance. Are you still gearing up for your big move and just want to explore TESOL as an option? Then look for certification courses in your home city or online.

Beyond the delivery method and location of the course, the extra features that accompany the actual instruction you receive are just as important when making the investment in your career. Firstly, the number of hours of your TESOL course might make or break whether you get hired for your dream job. The standard is 120 hours; however, some courses offer 150 or even 200-hour options for those who crave more advanced learning.

In addition, depending on the specific age group or type of English you want to teach, look out for more specialized courses for test preparation, business English, early education, or adult learners, etc. These additional aspects of your certification will set you apart when it comes to applying for your dream teaching position overseas. 

women sitting at desks listening attentively
You’ll get training for teaching English as a second language to (slightly) more attentive adult learners.

Quick Step-by-Step for How to Get TESOL Certification

To break it down even further, follow these steps to get the most of your TESOL certification

1. Do some soul-searching. 

Before you even start researching, take a moment to consider what YOU want out of being an English teacher and therefore your TESOL certification. Think about those extra features, your destination of choice and their TESOL standards, the age of students you want to impact, and the overall experience you want to have as an English teacher abroad.

2. Hit the books (or more likely, the interwebs). 

Start researching the different programs out there that offer the specifications you desire. While a simple search will yield thousands of results, try the GoAbroad TEFL course directory to filter through the ridiculous number of options out there and save your faves.

3. Make a shortlist. 

Narrow the masses down to four to five programs that fit your needs. Then take the time to scope out their reviews or ask some friends for recommendations to get the real scoop on both the program and the job placement success rate of students afterward.

4. Hone in on the features. 

If you’ve already got some target schools or destinations in mind, double check that the certification options with these programs align with what is required to actually get a job. This means you need to double down on the number of hours of classroom instruction and/or student teaching and any specialized certifications.

5.  Check the course locations and dates. 

What’s your timeline for starting to teach abroad? Many courses offer several options for intensive one month completion, semi-intensive morning or evening instruction, or long-term weekend meetings. The decision depends on how soon you feel comfortable going from being a student to being a teacher and how soon you want to make your big move. 

close up of globe in a darkened classroom
Spin and point. With a TESOL certification classroom doors will open to you around the world.

6. Consider the costs. 

TESOL certification courses range in price depending on the location of the course and what they are expected to provide. Online courses are likely to be the cheapest option, while international programs that include visa assistance and housing will be the most expensive. Look for a program that fits your budget before you start making money with teaching.

7. Make an inquiry/submit your application. 

Most in-person courses will require some form of an application to clarify your intentions and capture your information to sign up for the course. Be honest about your skill level and remember that these courses typically care more about your intentions and motivations than your past experience. That’s why you’re there, to learn!

8. Enroll and start your adventure. 

Once you are accepted or registered for the course of your choice, get ready to dive into your TESOL studies and get excited to change some lives. Enrolling may require a deposit, so be prepared to reserve your spot within a quick time frame after you are accepted into your program.

Recommended TESOL Reading & Resources

Still looking for more information on teaching English as a second language before you commit to a TESOL certification course? Finding it hard to keep all your bookmarks straight? Log in to  MyGoAbroad and start saving your favorite programs and articles. Not only does this tool allow you to compare saved programs side-by-side, you can also find reviews from past program participants. Pay attention to comments both about the instruction of the program and also whether graduates went on to experiences that align with your goals. 

For a deeper dive into the TESOL world and where it might take you, check out these resources:

close up of colored chalk
Talk the talk and chalk the chalk in the classroom with a TESOL certification.

So Really…Why not TESOL?

Getting a TESOL certification is more than just another badge to go on your resume or your LinkedIn profile; it’s the gateway to a new perspective. Even if you don’t envision yourself as a teacher forever, teaching English is a great way to expand your horizons in any field of study as you analyze your own language and engage in direct cultural exchange with people of other cultures. And for those that catch the teaching bug, a TESOL degree will give you a passport to teach in all kinds of environments.

The TESOL door is open, so get started with Step 1 today! Find a program.