ESL Training Opportunities

Any prior experience teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) will qualify you for a more prestigious position and a higher salary.

This is especially true in Japan. There are several schools listed below that offer short-term ESL training courses. If you aren’t able to attend one of these courses before setting off for Asia, we recommend gaining experience in your local community. You can volunteer for the literacy program at your local library or tutor foreign students in conversational English. Any background with ESL you can add to your resume will be beneficial. At the very least, try to sit in on an ESL class.



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The field of English as a second language is rife with confusing acronyms, and teachers themselves are often confused about what to call their profession. TEFL, TESL, CTEFLA, and TESOL are the most common designations and are often used by teachers interchangeably, even though they have slightly different meanings depending on who’s being taught. ESL schools usually distinguish between the terms, though, so it’s good to know the difference.

TEFL (pronounced “tee-ful”) stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and correctly refers only to teaching English to pupils who are in a non-English-speaking area, such as Japan, Taiwan, and most Asian countries. English is often studied in this context for business purposes.

TESL (“tee-sul”) means Teaching English as a Second Language, and describes the teaching of English to non-native students in countries like America, where the students need to learn English to function in everyday society. TESL can also refer to teaching English in a country like Singapore or Hong Kong, where English is an official language but most residents have a different first or “home” language such as Mandarin Chinese that they use in the home or in most social situations.

TESOL (“tee-sawl”), which means Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, is a good catch-all term, since it refers to just about any kind of English teaching as long as it’s to non-native English speakers.

This term can be confusing though, since it also refers to TESOL (the organization, which has the same name but is the world’s largest organization of ESL instructors, with thousands of members worldwide. Visit their website for membership information:

RSA – CTEFLA (CTEFLA for short) stands for “Certificate for Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults” and is the recognition given to graduates of the Cambridge certificate program. This program originated in England and is the most widely recognized EFL program in the world and courses are offered in most countries. Courses last either one or two months. Instruction focuses on basic methodology and is aimed particularly at English teaching in foreign countries (EFL).

CTEFLA programs are typically offered by private training institutions in North America and this certification seems to be most valued by private English schools, including in Asia. We’ve noted schools below that offer the CTEFLA program.

Many universities and colleges in North America offer diplomas or master’s degree programs in TEFL or TESL. Most expect applicants to have a bachelor’s degree or be currently enrolled in an undergraduate program. Diploma programs are generally for one-year, and master’s are usually for two or longer. In some cases, diplomas can be used as credit towards a master’s degree. These programs use a different curriculum from the CTEFLA certification. The diploma and the master’s degree are also widely recognized in Asia. If you are thinking about teaching ESL at the university level when you return to North America, then you may want to consider a master’s program.

Even if you don’t have the time to complete a teaching English program, you should review several English-teaching course books before you leave home. The educational testing service at Princeton University offers a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for all non-English-speaking people wishing to study in America. Language schools seek North Americans with some expertise in this area, so familiarity with the test will help you in your Asian job hunt. See the “Teaching English” section at the end of this book for teaching tips and a bibliography of useful materials.

For a list of schools that offer courses in teaching English as a second or foreign language, click ESL Schools.

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