Teaching English as a second language (TESL) requires a strong grounding in English grammar and vocabulary. It also takes knowledge of methods for teaching non-native speakers. In addition, you'll need to know how to choose appropriate material and activities when planning lessons. Most teaching positions require qualifications like the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) or Trinity TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificates. For those qualified, work is available in a variety of educational institutes in both English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries.

Teaching Methods

The Communicative Approach is the most common method. This approach focuses on meaningful communication, rather than precise grammar and usage. In the Audiolingual Method (ALM), students learn by memorizing phrases in order to learn common patterns in the language. The Total Physical Response method teaches by having students respond physically to language. This may include miming, gesturing or dancing and is usually for younger students. With the Silent Way method, students work out grammar rules based on example sentences. These and other methods each have their pros and cons, so most teachers use a mixture.

Types of Classes

The average ESL course runs for three months and meets twice a week. For those who want to learn faster, there are intensive courses that may last four to eight hours a day. Some learners choose private lessons for more personal attention. In addition to general English, there are English for Special Purposes (ESP) courses that focus on vocabulary and language skills needed in one particular field, like the business or medical fields. Courses typically follow a single course book specially designed for speakers of the official language where the course is taught. Teachers choose appropriate supplemental material and activities for each lesson, such as worksheets and games.

Material and Techniques

Teachers choose materials for teaching essential English skills in ways that suit a variety of learning styles. Textbooks, worksheets and graphical material provide practice in writing and grammar and appeal to visual learners. Material for listening practice comes on cassette tapes, CDs or in videos and includes monologues, dialogues and songs. Role plays and activities like pyramid discussion help build conversation skills. Kinesthetic learners can work with cut-out pictures or words, or use blocks and clay to build models. Some teaching methods also require specific tools. For instance, the Silent Way uses colored Cuisenaire rods to represent parts of speech.

Teacher Qualifications

Employers typically require qualifications beyond being a native English speaker. The basic requirement is a four-year degree or higher, although not necessarily in English or education. Many will also require TESL certification. The two main TESL certificates are the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and the Trinity Certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Online courses are available, but the resulting certificates may be rejected when competition is strong. Additionally, employers may require several years of classroom experience. Foreign-language knowledge is not always required. Non-certified native speakers sometimes lead supplementary conversation classes.

Job Opportunities

Public schools, colleges and universities, private language schools, multilingual kindergartens and language summer camps are all potential employers. Giving private lessons from home is another option if you have working rights in the country. For native English speakers, competition is generally lower in non-English-speaking countries. Requirements vary by country and are usually related to the level of competition for teaching jobs. Recruitment companies can, for a fee, secure interviews with potential employers. Another option is to send a cover letter and resume directly to the school.