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TESOL

English is a complicated language, so teaching it to non-native speakers requires special training. The acronym TESOL is used to refer to the process of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Teachers can study in a TESOL program for certification to teach English in English-speaking countries.

TESOL Meaning

TESOL is an acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. People in an English-speaking country who want to teach English language learners need to attend a TESOL program and earn a TESOL certificate. This experience is different from learning to teach English to native speakers, which typically focuses on teaching academic writing in English or analyzing English literature.

TESOL, Teacher, StudySmarterFig. 1 - TESOL stands for teaching English to speakers of other languages.

TESOL Certification

To teach English to speakers of other languages, teachers need a TESOL certification. This is the case even if they are already teachers in another field. To obtain a TESOL certificate, students enroll in a TESOL program that includes anywhere from forty to one hundred and fifty hours. Completing this program often requires a student-teaching component, in which teachers in training must gain hands-on classroom experience.

Most TESOL certificate programs require a high school diploma and fluency in English. However, aspiring TESOL teachers should check the requirements for any English teaching positions they are applying for. Some companies may require a TESOL certificate and a college degree, while others only require a TESOL certificate.

TESOL certificates do not expire, so once you earn one, it will last forever!

TESOL Program

To earn a TESOL certification, one must attend a TESOL program. These programs range from certification programs to Master's and Ph.D. programs and typically cover the following domains of study:

Grammar and Phonology

To teach English, TESOL teachers need to have an in-depth understanding of English linguistics, even if they are native speakers. Aspiring TESOL teachers thus study key grammatical concepts and terms and communicate them to others. TESOL students also often study syntax, rhetorical analysis, and discourse analysis.

Second Language Acquisition

When teaching a second language, teachers must understand Second Language Acquisition (SLA). SLA is the process by which people learn a language that is not their native language. Theories of SLA have roots in the work of the American linguist Stephen D. Krashen, who posited that language acquisition requires "meaningful interaction with the target language" and outlined five hypotheses of the acquisition process. 1

TESOL, Books, StudySmarterFig. 2 - TESOL teachers need to study SLA theories and curriculum development.

1. Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis

The acquisition-learning hypothesis posits that acquisition is an unconscious process while learning is conscious. For instance, consider how children learn their native language when they are very little. They are acquiring language unconsciously in their household. This is different from learning a language, which is a conscious process of trying to understand meaning and form.

2. Monitor Hypothesis

The monitor hypothesis states that learners must know a language's rules and form. To consciously learn grammar rules, the learner must understand the rules and form of the language and have the opportunity to apply them in conversation.

3. Natural Order Hypothesis

The natural order hypothesis posits that language learners learn the grammatical structure of language universally. In other words, learning a language's grammar is a bit predictable. Krashen developed this hypothesis from a study of morphemes by Heidi Dulay and Marina Burt, who posited that some morphemes are predictably learned before others when learning a second language.2

4. Input Hypothesis

The input hypothesis states that language learners acquire language when they receive interesting information that is a bit more advanced than their current comprehension level.

5. Affective Filter Hypothesis

The affective filter hypothesis states that the learning environment must be free from stress and negativity for English language learners to learn effectively. This is important for teachers to understand, as embarrassing students or having a negative attitude can make students less likely to learn.

Curriculum Development

Once TESOL students understand the theories and strategies behind teaching English to non-native speakers, they need to know how to apply these lessons when developing a curriculum. They need to learn how to break apart the information into different units for their students, designing and using evaluations to assess their students' progress.

For instance, many lesson plans in beginner-level English classes begin with the introduction of vocabulary words and simple concepts and then consist of small roleplay, like ordering at a restaurant or introducing oneself to others. When planning lessons like this, TESOL teachers should identify the lesson's topic, objectives, materials, and estimated time frame. For instance, a lesson plan might look like the following:

TopicImmediate family
LevelBeginner - A1
Aims
  • To name immediate family members
  • To ask others about their family members
  • To spell family vocabulary words
Time60-70 minutes
Material
  • Lesson plan
  • Worksheet
Procedure
  • Introduce names of immediate family members
  • Show pictures on the board
  • Write each vocabulary word on the board, and elicit questions for spelling.
  • Remove the words from the board and have students fill out worksheets, labeling family members.
  • Introduce phrases about family members, such as "I have two brothers." and "Do you have siblings?"
  • Write out phrases on the board.
  • Ask students to describe their family using at least three words from the lesson.
HomeworkAsk students to write a paragraph in English describing the makeup of their immediate family.

Classroom Management

Whether teaching English online or in a classroom, all TESOL students need to understand the basics of managing a classroom. TESOL programs thus usually involve hands-on teaching experience and an assessment of teaching with learners present. TESOL teachers need to know traditional classroom management skills as well as strategies for communicating with students who are still learning the language of the course. Students of all ages might be hesitant to speak the new language or reluctant to converse with one another. Teachers need to cultivate an inclusive, welcoming environment despite these challenges.

Some classroom management strategies for TESOL courses differ depending on the students' age. For instance, for TESOL courses with elementary-aged students, TESOL teachers must study elements of managing elementary classes, such as behavioral management. In courses with adults, TESOL teachers should strengthen different skills, such as establishing rules and maintaining authority with other adults. Many adult TESOL courses take place online, so some TESOL teachers must also learn how to organize a virtual classroom.

Most TESOL programs allow students to study at a flexible pace. For instance, if you work full time, you can do a part-time TESOL program in your free time.

TESOL Methodology

In order to be a TESOL teacher, one must understand TESOL methodology, the set of instructional practices and principles for effective teaching. TESOL methodologies vary based on the classroom location, size, age of students, and individual teaching style of the teacher. Common TESOL methods include the following:

Learner-Centered

As the name suggests, the learner-centered method focuses on the learners' autonomy. Teachers employ methods such as active learning, where students have discussions among themselves, debate concepts, and work together to learn.

A TESOL teacher has students turn to the student next to them, introduce themselves, and explain where they are from in English. This helps the students learn about introductions while applying their own experiences and perspectives.

Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP)

In the PPP methodology, the TESOL teacher presents English vocabulary and concepts and then follows the introduction by allowing the students to practice.

A TESOL teacher presents the communicative purpose of the phrase: "When I was your age…." English language learners then use teacher-provided prompts to complete sentences with the phrase.

Demonstration Method

Teachers who use the demonstration method communicate ideas and concepts to students by using visuals.

A TESOL teacher demonstrates how to introduce oneself in English with the use of videos.

Difference Between TESOL and TEFL

TESOL, plane, StudySmarterFig. 3 - TEFL stands for teaching English as a Foreign language.

An acronym that is similar to TESOL is TEFL, which stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Both TESOL and TEFL refer to the process of teaching non-native English speakers, but TEFL is typically used to refer to teaching them in countries where English is not the official language. For instance, English is considered a foreign language in China. An English speaker who travels to China and teaches English to Chinese residents is a TEFL teacher. On the other hand, if one teaches English to non-native speakers in the United States, one is not teaching a foreign language but rather the country's primary language. Thus, in this case, that person is a TESOL teacher.

TESOL - Key takeaways

  • TESOL is an acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
  • To earn a TESOL certification, one needs to attend a TESOL program.
  • TESOL programs typically teach English linguistics, theories of second-language acquisition, classroom management, and curriculum development.
  • TESOL methodologies include learner-centered; presentation, practice, and production; and demonstration.
  • Both TESOL and TEFL refer to the process of teaching non-native English speakers, but TEFL stands for Teaching English to speakers of Foreign Languages.

1 Stephen D. Krashen, Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. 1981.

2 Heidi C. Dulay and Marina K. Burt, "Natural Sequences in Child Second Language Acquisition." Language Learning. 1974.

Frequently Asked Questions about TESOL

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages 

Getting a TESOL certificate is a worthwhile investment for those who want to teach English to non-native speakers in English-speaking countries. 

A TESOL teacher teaches English to non-native English speakers in an English-speaking country. 

A TESOL certificate is a certificate that allows teachers to instruct English language learners in an English-speaking country.

To get a TESOL certification people need to attend a TESOL program. 

Final TESOL Quiz

Question

What does TESOL stand for?

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Answer

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages 

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Question

What does TEFL stand for?


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Answer

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

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Question

True of False? TESOL and TEFL can be used to mean the same thing. 


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Answer

False

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Question

Who developed the five hypotheses of second language acquisition?

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Answer

Stephen D. Krashen 

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Question

What SLA hypothesis has to do with the learning environment? 

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Answer

Affective filter hypothesis 

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Question

True or False? TESOL teachers only work online. 

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Answer

False

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Question

True or False? TESOL certifications never expire. 

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Answer

True

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Question

Aspiring TESOL teachers need to study all of the following except: 

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Answer

English linguistics 

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Question

You are going to Korea to teach English. Which certification do you need?

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Answer

TEFL

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Question

Which SLA hypothesis has to do with the universality of learning grammar structure?

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Answer

Natural order hypothesis 

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Question

What TESOL methodology emphasizes the use of visuals?

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Answer

The demonstration method 

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Question

The PPP methodology stands for presentation, practice, and _. 

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Answer

production 

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Question

TESOL students often study, syntax, rhetorical analysis, and _. 

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Answer

Discourse analysis 

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Question

People who want to teach non-native English speakers in English-speaking countries need a _ certificate. 

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Answer

TESOL

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Question

A TESOL teacher has students turn to the student next to them, introduce themselves, and explain where they are from. What methodology is this teacher using?



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Answer

Learner-centered method

Show question

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