When you think of ESL classes, you most likely conjure up images of a few foreign students in one classroom who share the aim of learning English for some reason or other. This, however, is a more superficial view and there’s a lot more to ESL teaching than meets the eye.
That generalized view of the ESL classroom is just one kind of ESL program and it goes by the name of General English. This is where you’re most likely to start out if you’ve never taught ESL before. So, what can you expect to be teaching and to whom?
The great thing about teaching general English courses is that the people you could be teaching are really diverse. Basically, you could expect to teach across the spectrum of ages from 12-70 (and yes, it’s possible that you may get the odd senior citizen who wants to brush up on his or her English skills.) Expect also to see any kind of professional from teachers to nuns and generally, you can expect interesting and varied lessons.
ESL language schools will usually offer a number of different levels that cover all practical English skills such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The typical general English class will last between 45-60 minutes give or take and sometimes a bit longer with a short break in between.
Of course students need good marks to get into university, but if they’re non-native English speakers who are looking to join an English programme, they’re going to naturally need certain levels of English prior to being accepted which they have to prove with an exam. In some cases students have enough English and don’t require ESL courses, but in other cases they’ll need to brush up on their academic English skills before taking their proficiency measuring exams. As a teacher in this case, you’d be required to most likely give intensive ESL lessons that focus on academic English.
Academic ESL teachers are usually required to have higher ESL teaching qualifications, and if they’re teaching a more specific course for let’s say Engineering, they’d most likely have a background in that said subject as well.
ESL exam prep courses are very popular. ESL exams can be taken at any age and level to measure their ability and in some countries there’s almost an obsession with having students pass such exams, so if you’re prepared to prep students intensively, this could be the right path for you.
Popular courses include City & Guilds, Pearson’s and not to forget the old favourite, Cambridge. Teaching such courses can be pretty demanding, but if you’re familiar with the various exams, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
What’s ESP? ESP simply means English for Specific Purposes. Such courses are especially designed for ESL students who wish to improve their English in certain professional areas. These are often combined with university courses and there are a number of different courses offered depending on the area where you live ranging from English for Economics to Medical English – there’s even a course for Flight Attendants too.
Perhaps the most popular ESP courses are more general along the lines of Business English. Such courses are common in all areas of the world especially in Asia where the demand for English in the business world is rapidly increasing.
This is somewhat of a branch of an ESP course, but because of the great demand they also fall into their own category. To teach this, you really need to be in the know of business practice and it involves teaching anything from formal business vocabulary to more specific communication skills. Due to the demand and the necessity of learning Business English, these courses are usually intensive. You’ll not only be teaching them practical English skills, you’ll also be helping them to develop their critical thinking skills in English and depending on the nationalities you’re teaching, cultural awareness.
English Summer Camps are usually intensive 2-6 week courses that are full on. Such camps are run throughout the world and obviously the UK is one of the hottest destinations for English summer camp teachers and students for obvious reasons. You’ll be expected to teach children from all backgrounds and nationalities in a boarding school setting. Classes are run in the morning, however, you’ll also be expected to take part in afternoon activities, excursions and in some cases you’ll even have to take on extra pastoral duties too.
This temporary work is at times exhausting, but they’re usually well-paid and not only this, teachers are provided with full-board as well.
These kinds of camps are most popular throughout the summer months; however, it’s not uncommon for such intensive English language programmes for kids to run through other big holiday periods such as Christmas and Easter.
As the name suggests these lessons are usually 1-on-1 ESL lessons or made up of just a few students who wish to work towards the same goal. Students don’t commute to a special ESL school, but instead they receive private ESL tuition in either their own home or yours depending on your individual arrangement.
Courses are tailor made to the students’ needs, and it’s necessary for you to have some ESL teaching experience to be able to plan and create your own courses depending on the individual’s needs and wants. Perhaps they need to work on formal essay writing or it could be they need to work on basic grammar skills, whatever the reason is for the lesson, the teacher needs to be flexible and knowledgeable in a number of different areas. A well-established ESL teacher with experience can often make a healthy living just teaching private ESL courses; however, there’s no real job security, so it’s always a good idea to have a plan B.
If you’re really game you could sign up to become a homestay tutor in which you’ll be required to host an ESL learner, teach them, and also help them learn other practical English in an informal manner through your daily life experiences with your own family.
As you can see there are a number of different kinds of ESL teachers and ESL learning environments and you’ve got to always bear in mind that each individual ESL student learns English for a different reason and no ESL learner is the same.
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