Some questions about teaching English as a second language
December 5, 2008 9:28 AM   Subscribe

I have two TESL/TESOL related questions. 1) Where should I do my training 2) Which are the best places to go given my interests? More inside.

More specifically:

1) Where are the best places to do teacher training in Ontario? I'm 22 years old and have a B.A. I want to avoid a joke school (i.e., Billy-Bob's One Room on the Second Floor of a Shopping Mall Two Weekends' Worth of Training in a Month International Superstar Language Academy, and their ilk). Does CELTA/Trinity TESOL certification = reputable? Coventry House International in Toronto is a possibility, but I'm not 100% sure what I'm doing. I need to start applying soon if I want to get into couses that begin in January!

2) One of the main reasons I'm doing this is to immerse myself in an environment which would make language learning relatively easy while having a means to support myself. In effect, I would be just as much a student as a teacher. I'm interested in learning Spanish and French (although not at the same time, obviously). For those of you who've done it, which countries are best, and how did you go about it? Should I perhaps do a home-stay program to get a feel for the language, and then begin teaching. I may have the finances to pursue that option.

Also, one final question - some of teacher training schools require a phone/personal interview before they accept you. What sorts of things do they ask? I'm sure they're not a million miles away from typical job interviews, but it would be nice to know what to expect nonetheless.

I know this is a lot of stuff to take in, so any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!
posted by Lemon of Byzantium to Work & Money (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Pretty sure CELTA is reputable. I did my training at International House in London about 20 years ago, but it was rigorous and a fantastic experience then, and very well-regarded. IH Toronto appears to be an affiliate.
posted by idb at 9:58 AM on December 5, 2008

The CELTA is as reputable as it gets at an entry level, and it's pretty much the base line - there is not, really, another certificate you could do that would get you ajob with a reputable school that isn't the CELTA or run like the CELTA (ie, Trinity). It's the same course all over the world, so go where it's cheapest; when I did it, it was cheaper for me to fly to Poland for a month and do it there than do it in LA. I did mine at International House in Krakow.

Memail me with questions as you go along: I've been doing it for three years now and keep wanting's a great (if tiring) job.
posted by mdonley at 10:13 AM on December 5, 2008

CLETA is very reputable, but, being a 'grad', I recommend Oxford (Trinity). One of the two is pretty much what you'll need for many ESL jobs.
posted by dawson at 11:13 AM on December 5, 2008

1. CELTA is reputable.
2. Spain and France. Don't stay at home; dive into it. Take your CELTA in the target country.

Go to Dave's ESL Cafe's Teacher Training Forum.
posted by pracowity at 12:22 PM on December 5, 2008

From experience in Mexico/Central America, CELTA, Trinity, and SIT Tesol all have very good reputations. I've heard that CELTA has a better reputation that the others in some parts of the world, and that Trinity has a better one in others, so you'd have to check and see once you decide to go there. But from my experience, any of those three are fine. Any training program that's not one of those three probably does not have as good of a worldwide reputation.

That said, the job market in Central America / Mexico seems to be pretty wide open. I knew first year teachers in great schools with nothing more than an online diploma mill type certificate. I knew teachers with a CELTA who had crap jobs.

Check out Dave's ESL Cafe (linked above) and Transitions Abroad so that you can do some of your own research and get a feel for what countries or regions interest you and then read more old threads to find out what those countries require (no cert, any cert, CELTA, CELTA + 3 years exp, etc).
posted by mosessis at 4:16 PM on December 5, 2008

Well, I'd pick where (country) you're going before you decide on the certification. It varies a lot. Its possible they dont require any or will accept online, which may save you up to a couple thousand dollars and what you put into learning you'll get out of it, so theoretically if youre taking the course because you want to be prepared you might be able to do it on your own.

I also recommend taking the course in the country you'll be teaching in. There are some international companies that offer in person courses abroad, taught in English of course.
Repeat reccommending dave's esl cafe too.

Some interview questions you should be prepared for include the following (and related)
What qualities do you have to make you a good ESL teacher? Why do you want to become one? What levels do you prefer teaching? How long will you be staying here, how long have you been? How would you handle disruptive students? What would you say if your studnets didnt like/agree with ____? How will you deal with bad manners/habbits etc... What classroom activities do you like to use? How would you teach a mixed level class? How do you prefer to do lesson planning/? How would you structure a basic/grammar/convo/test prep /etc class? How do you feel about translating? What texts have you used in the past or are you familiar with? What are cognates/minimal pairs/past participles... any term you might get put on the spot with? How would you teach a lesson on [ex: phrasal verbs]? ...What methodologies are you familiar with? Etc... take a course and/or study up!!!!
posted by nzydarkxj at 7:07 PM on December 5, 2008

I can't give you any help on the TESOL course because I never did one. But I did work as an English teacher in Paris based on my B.A. in English and experience teaching music, and I don't think having a certificate (in that scenario) would've gotten me a better job.

My scenario was that I spent a few months living in a homestay and taking French classes in Bordeaux whilst looking for a job. When I couldn't find one there, I went to Paris, and after emailing 15 resumes I had 10 interviews lined up in 24 hours.

However; Paris is a stupidly expensive city, and I basically wasn't making enough to live on, which was particularly frustrating considering all of the unpaid time I spent on preparation and transport (almost as much again as the time I was actually being paid for). Everyone I know teaching in Paris was either in the same situation or living with a local partner. I didn't have much time to learn French, and as a result I came home 9 months later very broke, and my French is not nearly as good as I would like it to be for that amount of time and money. By contrast, I have a friend who was doing basically the same thing as me in Madrid (with a certificate) and earned about the same amount, but his rent was literally half as much for a nicer place. He lives frugally, but he is still there. That being said, he sent me this article which he felt rang true for him. It rang very true for me.

With 20/20 hindsight, I wish I'd just stayed in Bordeaux (or somewhere comparatively small) and continued to take 15 hours of classes per day until my savings ran out. Perhaps once my French was good enough, I could've gotten a job as a waitress or babysitter or something, and it wouldn't've paid much either, but at least I would've been interacting in French and would've had spare time to continue learning.

I don't know if this is helpful, but I guess my point is that you will find work easily in the big cities, but due to the cost of living it may not be worth it. I spent less money without a job in Bordeaux than I did with a job in Paris. Also, teaching English is not a very good way to improve your second language! The job market is pretty hard for foreigners in France though, so English teaching is at least an area where you have an advantage over the locals. Have you considered being an au pair? The experience seems to be very dependent on how nice a family you get, but in France anyway they have to provide you with a certain amount of French lessons, and if you find a family that is happy to speak French to you, you will learn a lot and have a roof over your head.

Have you looked into some of the overseas territories of France? Like New Caledonia or somewhere? I didn't even think of those when I headed off, but it could be something fun and different. If I did it all again, I would also try very hard to have a job (and support network) lined up before I went. I imagine a scenario where your employer was providing support/accomodation/language classes in exchange for you teaching could work well. I don't know if these exist, but I should imagine you're more likely to find something like this outside of first world Europe.

I would definitely recommend doing a homestay first though. If nothing else it will give you time to get yourself on your feet in your chosen city. My experience with the Alliance Francaise in Bordeaux was excellent, and I also did a short homestay through the Alliance in Lyon which was also good.

Sorry to be so negative, and of course YMMV, but I wish I'd gone into it all with open eyes! I don't regret my time in France, but I wish I had done things differently. Bon chance!
posted by Emilyisnow at 6:49 PM on December 6, 2008

(1) For an entry-level one month qualification, CELTA has the widest currency internationally. A variety of institutions run CELTAs, but every course is externally assessed in person by a representative of Cambridge ESOL. The Trinity qualification is also excellent. Check and double-check anything else - there are some good alternatives, but the majority of non-CELTA/Trinity introductory courses are markedly inferior in content and usefulness.

(2) A lot of countries speak French and Spanish on multiple continents. It might be better to come back with a shortlist of a few and ask for the experiences of people who have taught there.

(3) The interview is mostly to check you'll be able to cope. The full time course is very intensive and they need to be sure you have the language / study skills and work ethic required to get through. If you really want to (over)prepare, getting a copy of Jeremy Harmer's 'The Practice of English Language Teaching' out of a nearby library would help.

And some comments on the other answers:
  • Dave's ESL Cafe is a handy resource, but tends to attract the 'TEFL Whinger' - the people who left their home country because s/he hated it, then found they were equally unhappy where they ended up. Rather than realise that this means they have an overly negative approach to life, a certain proportion of such unfortunate souls go to Dave's and complain about every single aspect of their jobs and the country they're in. There is useful information there, but you need to separate the genuine complaints from the mindless carping.
  • The Slavery of Teaching English article that Emilyisnow links to is a funny caricature of the worst end of the TEFL world. However, I know dozens of people who earn well teaching English and love their jobs, as do I.
Good luck and do ask more questions on the topic as they come to you!
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:35 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older Where/how to find quality Telugu movies?   |   Does anyone sell spring-loaded shelves? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.