Why complete a TEFL course: Why do you need a TEFL course, if you already know how to teach a foreign language?
This is a question I’ve asked myself. I'm looking at it from the point of view of an established foreign language teacher.
For years, I’ve been thinking about learning to teach English as a foreign language. I’ve wanted to teach more than just French, so I could find more work, and because TEFL appealed to me. As a French teacher—which is a foreign language, of course—my thought was that I already knew how to teach a foreign language. At times I was even thinking, “Why do I need a course? Shouldn’t I just be able to jump into teaching ESL without additional schooling?”
I tried not to be naive in thinking “I could just take all the French teaching and do it in English.”
Well, after actually completing a TEFL course, now I know why anyone wanting to teach English as a foreign language really should take a course. Even if you’ve already taught a foreign language, you should do it.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Brian D.
How well do you know English?
To begin with, you’re now dealing with your own native language, not the foreign language you’ve been teaching. And you can’t just translate back.
So, how well do you know English? After all, you grew up with it, and you speak it every day. But do you know if well enough to be able to explain it clearly to a non-native speaker? Well enough to discuss all of the different ways we use the language? Well enough to answer a student’s question about the difference between “I ate” and “I have eaten” in English?
Yes, you’ve taught language, but how much English grammar did you have to explain to your native English-speaking students, beyond the basics (nouns, adjectives, verbs…)? Being a native speaker isn’t always enough. A TEFL course will spell it all out for you, and give you thoughtful lessons to walk you through the topics. As far as the grammar is concerned, you’ll learn parts of speech, how to form them, how to use them and possible problems, along with levels of language and how different types of learners learn (young, old, beginner…), potential problems and more. You can’t always get all of that from just looking at grammar books.
Even if you know English grammar rather well, do you know how to teach it to non-native speakers? There again, the course will help with that.
Also read: 5 Keywords to Increase Your Confidence in the Classroom as a Teacher
Get professional guidance
Next, why should you take a TEFL course if you’ve already learned how to teach a foreign language? Even after you’ve done if for years? You’ll get professional guidance. You’ll learn from professionals in the field who will help get you ready to step into the TEFL classroom. They’ve been there, and they can prepare you for it.
You’ll be more successful with getting your students ready to speak in English.
So you know a lot about teaching a foreign language, yes, and even about working with students. But how does it differ from teaching your own language to students who may or may not have had any exposure to it? And what if you don’t know their native language—how do you teach English to non-native speakers when you can’t ever fall back on their native language? Are there different ways to conduct the class given the different nature of the course?
A TEFL course will help you use what you know to figure out what you still need to know, and then you’ll learn it. Covering methodology, for example, will help you look at what you’ve done before and how to adapt it to fit the EFL classroom. It’s possible that you haven’t done enough of what the ESA method calls the Engage phase, and now that you’ve read about it in the TEFL course, you’ll be more successful with getting your students ready to speak in English. Or, perhaps you haven’t done the 3x3 method with oral drilling, and you now that you’ve read about it you see how that can really help you.
Being a native speaker is not enough
And finally, you should know that most potential employers would prefer to see TEFL/TESOL credentials. You may have already noticed this from looking for jobs.
Yes, you may have taught French for years and gotten pretty good at French grammar. But, you haven’t taken any TEFL courses, so how much do you really know about the field, except that it’s treating English as a foreign language? Once again, being a native speaker may not be enough. Potential employers would rather see that you’ve had some schooling in TEFL methodology, and can handle different types of class dynamics. They’d like to know you’ve been prepared to take good care of their students.
Also read: Top 5 Skills Teachers Need To Set Their Students Up For Success
Your credentials say a lot about you.
Another point regarding credentials is that students and parents like to know that their teachers know what they’re doing. Your credentials can say a lot about you. How confident would you be in your biology teacher if you found out he just had a degree in sociology and no biology background?
It’s understandable that foreign language teachers don’t want to feel like their experience isn’t enough. I’ve been there myself. But the reality is that teaching English as a foreign language is just different enough that the additional schooling is very important. You can’t rely on natural talent alone. And just try to convince a potential employer that you didn’t take any courses, but you feel like you’d be good at it! Taking a TEFL course will prepare you for teaching English to non-native speakers by helping you learn how to teach your own language’s grammar. It will give you professionally designed lessons covering methodology, teaching to different types of learners, classroom management, and much more, as well. A TEFL course will also give you the credentials you need to find good work and get into the classroom.
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