ESL Teaching

English is the most widely spoken language on the planet, and there is an ever-increasing demand worldwide to learn it. Teaching English as a second language, or ESL teaching, is thus a field with a great deal of opportunity not to simply earn a living but to travel, interact with new cultures and directly help the lives of others.

What is ESL Teaching?

ESL teaching is simply teaching English to people who do not speak it natively.

Perhaps as many as 1.8 billion speak English, and the majority of them learned it in addition to their native languages. ESL teaching allows native speakers of other languages of all ages to develop reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in the world’s common tongue.

Students seek English teachers for a variety of reasons. A major reason is economical: Professional jobs worldwide require an understanding if not fluency in English, as this is the global language of business. Even businesses from non-native speaking countries hold seminars and workshops on proper business English for their employees in an effort to remain competitive.

Many students have a more general motivation, such as freedom of travel. After all, it is hard to travel to many countries if the only language you speak is, say, Portuguese.

English is also a primary language of diplomacy, and students may seek a career in government, or they may already be involved and are expanding their career horizons.

In native-speaking nations that have an inflow of immigrants, such as the US, Canada and the UK, there is also significant demand for ESL teachers who can help integrate new arrivals to those countries.

What Do ESL Teachers Do?

The nuts and bolts of ESL teaching are fairly simple. ESL teachers help their students learn to read, write and speak English through a variety of teaching methods. What makes this field so interesting is that the circumstances under which someone teaches ESL can vary wildly.

The demand for ESL teachers in the US, for example, is smaller than it is in China, where the population speaks different languages natively. As such, ESL teaching opens you up to many opportunities around the world.

ESL teachers are commonly employed as teachers in language learning centers, where they work with children and adults in full classes and in small groups. In fact, there are entire communities of native English speakers in places such as Busan, South Korea, and Prague, Czech Republic, who make their livings this way. A good ESL teacher could also offer his or her services as a private teacher, working one-on-one with students.

ESL teachers can also offer their expertise to businesses and institutions, whose employees and members need to brush up on specific English skills. This kind of teaching could take the form of a seminar or workshop rather than as dedicated classroom learning.

This is not to neglect the demand at home for ESL teachers. Every day, immigrants from non-native-speaking countries apply for work permits and citizenship in English-speaking countries, and ESL teachers serve an important function in helping these newcomers learn the language and thus integrate more smoothly into their new societies.

Becoming an ESL Teacher

There is no uniform path to becoming an ESL teacher, though a bachelor’s degree in something is a minimum requirement in most cases. A native speaker with a bachelor’s degree in English could arrive in Seoul or Shanghai and at least find part-time work with little difficulty.

For smaller ESL organizations, a college graduate can complete a teaching certificate course in a few months to qualify.

More organized and more secure teaching opportunities will require a post-graduate teaching degree. Many universities offer master’s degrees in ESL, and these are important credentials for anyone who seeks employment as a teacher at the level of big business or government.

Employment Outlook For ESL Teachers

English isn’t going anywhere as a primary global language in our lifetimes, so it is a safe bet that the demand for ESL teachers will continue to grow with the world’s population.

Worldwide data are difficult to pin down with any accuracy, but a good reflection of the opportunities available in the US come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ analysis of adult literacy and GED teachers, under which ESL teaching would most likely fall. The occupation is expected to grow at a rate of 15% between 2010 and 2020, and average pay works out to $46,530 per year.

Important Skills to Develop For ESL Teachers

First, let us mention that fluency if not a native understanding of English are key. If you have read this far, though, you likely meet that requirement.

As with all teaching positions, patience and empathy are important personal virtues for your success. A desire to work with people, especially people from other countries and cultures, is also important.

Finally, understand that you need a great deal of personal flexibility to become an ESL teacher. This field might not land you a full-time job, at least initially, and you might have to piece together an income through personal tutoring, offering workshops or teaching at adult education centers in the evening.

Be patient, both with students and circumstance. The demand for your skills is there, but it doesn’t organize neatly into a 9-to-5 job. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats, and as economies in China, Brazil and elsewhere approach their potential, millions of people will be happy to pay to learn your language.

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