Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages

The Job and What's Involved

Teachers of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) help people from different language backgrounds who want to learn English. This includes helping them to acquire speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

ESOL teachers plan, prepare and teach English lessons to groups or individuals. They often prepare learners for special English language exams at different levels. They use a wide range of teaching methods and classroom activities that are designed to give learners the maximum amount of language practice.

In the classroom, ESOL teachers may use the following resources:

- Course books
- Newspapers, magazines and other reading materials
- Computer and e-learning packages
- Interactive white boards
- Audio and video tapes
- Mobile phones
- Cameras and video cameras
- Pictures and flash cards
- Games
- Pronunciation charts

Some ESOL teachers may also:

- Take students on educational and cultural visits
- Provide language support to students in mainstream classes
- Supervise a classroom assistant
- Run specialist courses - e.g. for business people

As well as teaching duties, ESOL teachers also have administrative and record-keeping duties, particularly in the public sector.

Traditionally, there has been a distinction made between teaching ESOL to people living in the UK on a long-term basis, and teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) to short-term visitors. With free labour market movement in the EU, and changes to government funding of courses, the distinction between ESOL and EFL learners has become less precise.

Private sector language learners tend to work towards internationally recognised English language qualifications. Public sector language learners, on the other hand, work towards Skills for Life ESOL qualifications.

Hours vary, but the job often involves working in the evening and sometimes at weekends. Part-time sessional work is very common.

Most ESOL teachers work in classrooms, although some may work in community settings, such as church halls. Most ESOL teachers are based within a specialist department that provides support for new teachers, as well as professional development opportunities.

In the UK, starting salaries may range from around £13,000 in the private sector to around £20,000 in further education. Experienced ESOL teachers may earn £22,000 to £30,000 in the UK public sector.

The highest salaries in the UK may be around £36,000 and this is likely to include some management duties.

In overseas commercial language schools, salaries vary widely. They can be very low, but are usually high enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Salaries are much higher in countries such as Saudi Arabia or Japan, but the cost of living is also much higher.

Accommodation and return flights may be offered as part of the employment package for overseas jobs.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Demand for English language learning remains high in the UK and opportunities exist in both the public and private sector. Qualification requirements are different for each sector.

In the UK, there are opportunities for employment in:

  • Further education colleges.
  • Adult and community education.
  • Work-based learning.
  • Offender learning.
  • Voluntary organisations.
  • Higher education.
  • Private language schools (which are found mainly in London, on the south coast, and in Oxford and Cambridge).
  • Seasonal work on exchange programmes (usually teaching European teenagers).
  • Homestay teaching (where you provide accommodation and language teaching for overseas students through specialist home tuition agencies).

Overseas, there are opportunities with:

  • The British Council.
  • Private language schools.
  • Voluntary organisations.
  • Large industrial and commercial companies, which sometimes have their own English teaching departments.

Self-employment is possible, e.g. as a freelance teacher working for several language schools, perhaps with some private pupils, as well.

Jobs are advertised in The Guardian, Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement and EL Gazette, and on websites such as www.tefl.com and www.skillsforlifenetwork.com.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for courses leading to jobs in private language schools, but most reputable training institutions carry out an initial assessment of personal English language skills and knowledge. Courses in the public sector require a minimum of English language at Level 3. Many entrants in both sectors are graduates.

Positions in higher education usually require a postgraduate degree or equivalent, along with considerable teaching and research experience.

ESOL teaching is often pursued as a second career. Experience of living abroad, or working with minority communities in the UK, is useful.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New entrants to teaching in the public sector must hold, or be working towards, a Generic and Subject specific teaching qualification. The Diploma in Teaching English (ESOL) in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS ESOL) is an integrated course that combines these two qualifications. However, some teachers will study the DTLLS before advancing to the Level 5 Additional Diploma in Teaching English (ESOL) in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

Training can be full time or part time.

Teachers with qualifications in teaching EFL may be able to build on these, in order to complete their Diploma in Teaching English (ESOL) in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

All ESOL teachers in the publicly funded sector must register with the Institute for Learning: www.ifl.ac.uk. This professional body maintains a register of FE lecturers and helps them to maintain their professional standing.

After becoming fully qualified to teach ESOL, all new entrants must apply for the status of Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS). To obtain this, they must demonstrate professional experience, and, in addition to their teaching qualifications, provide evidence of Level 2 skills in mathematics and information and learning technology (ILT). Membership of the Institute for Learning also carries a responsibility to undertake 30 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) every year.

The following courses are generally seen as a minimum qualification to teach English as a Foreign Language in the private sector:

  • Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA).
  • Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Cert TESOL).

The CELTA and the Cert TESOL can be taken full time or part time at centres worldwide. Both courses include a substantial proportion of observed teaching practice with language students.

Distance-learning courses can provide a useful introduction to language teaching, but the opportunity to teach real students is not included in these courses, and therefore they are not acceptable to most teaching institutes.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

ESOL teachers should:

  • Have excellent personal skills in English.
  • Have excellent knowledge of the English language.
  • Have good communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Get on well with people of all ages and from different backgrounds.
  • Have an interest in different languages and cultures.
  • Be confident, creative and self-aware.
  • Have patience and a sense of humour.

Your Long Term Prospects

ESOL teachers may be interested in extending their specialism to the teaching of literacy, and this can be done by taking the Additional Diploma in Teaching English (Literacy) in the Lifelong Learning Sector.

Higher level courses for experienced teachers in the private sector include the Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA) and the Trinity College Licentiate Diploma (LCTL Diploma).

Opportunities for more senior posts, such as course directors or course coordinators exist in both the public and private sector. Some teachers in the public sector may study for postgraduate degrees, or teacher training or management qualifications to improve their career prospects.

Other possible pathways for experienced teachers include writing teaching resources, teacher training and middle/senior management, setting up a social enterprise in the community or starting up a private language school.

Get Further Information

British Council Information Centre
Tel: 0161 957 7755
Website: www.britishcouncil.org

English UK,
219 St John Street,
London EC1V 4LY
Tel: 020 7608 7960
Website: www.englishuk.com

Institute for Learning,
First floor, 49-51 East Road,
London N1 6AH
Tel: 0844 815 3202
Website: www.ifl.ac.uk

Lifelong Learning UK,
5th Floor, St Andrew's House,
18-20 St Andrew Street, London EC4A 3AY
Tel: 0300 303 1877
Website: www.lluk.org

Skills for Life Network,
East Grange House,
Scruton, Northallerton,
North Yorkshire DL7 ORD
Tel: 01609 748900
Website: www.skillsforlifenetwork.com

Skills for Life Strategy
Website: www.rwp.excellencegateway.org.uk/

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