Why complete a TEFL course Over the last thirty years linguists


Over the last thirty years linguists have pointed out that, in order to overcome communication barriers we need a functional knowledge of each other's languages

Nicols Ferguson, Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Theory and Practice

Teaching English as a Foreign Language courses (TEFL) prepare future teachers for various classroom situations from handling a large number of students, to dealing with the particular needs of young learners. The course bolsters the teacher's knowledge of the English language not only to promote better teaching skills, but also to enrich the teacher's own experience with his/her native language. A TEFL course is essential to those thinking about teaching for numerous reasons, however three distinct advantages of an organized course, grammar review, phonetics, and lesson planning, are vital to any first time teacher and without the guidance of a course may be overlooked.

One of the most difficult challenges facing native speakers is the understanding of English grammar and the ability to explain its rules. Though this seems a simple task, it is not merely a question of review. Linguist Nicols Ferguson writes of the task, 'Presumably the ability to construct for oneself an abstract grammar of underlying principles is a unique human attribute and a fundamental characteristic of human intelligence. It is now the task of the teacher with the help of the psychologist, to construct the practical conditions under which this natural ability will be put to use' (16) therefore the teacher must also mold the environment (in this case a grammatical environment) as well as explain its underlying principles. A TEFL course not only offers an opportunity for a deeper understanding of English grammar, but also offers the needed tools to create the best conditions for learning, taking into consideration various methodologies as well as different student populations.

Another, perhaps overlooked skill refined through a TEFL course is a knowledge of phonetics. This branch of study is less than transparent, and native speakers may have never had to call on the phonetic alphabet for assistance, yet the students of English will benefit from the incorporation of not only the alphabet, but also other phonetic exercises dealing with pronunciation. Ferguson defines this role as follows 'One of the roles of the teacher'is that of an aural re-educator, training the student to perceive and produce sounds to which he is initially deaf. In order to carry out this role the teacher must first have a clear idea of both the English sound system and the native sound system of the student' (Ferguson 39). Having a deep understanding of certain phonetic principles will greatly increase the effectiveness of the course as well as create an important reference for students to use outside of the class. Not only do the grammar and phonetic units prove useful, but also the lesson preparation training provides valuable information and techniques for a first time teacher. It is important to carefully plan a lesson and to anticipate possible problems. A TEFL course gives the potential teacher the opportunity to create lesson plans as well as to articulate solutions to class situations. The materials generated during the TEFL course may then be used in real lessons.

Clearly, a TEFL course reinforces a native speaker's understanding of the language and begins a foundation for any teaching experience. A carefully planned course introduces the potential educator to particular grammatical vocabulary that perhaps a native speaker is familiar with but may not be able to articulate clearly. A course also incorporates the essential phonetic background of linguistics that aid in the students' pronunciation and reception of the sounds, and lastly a programmed TEFL study yields usable examples and materials for future lessons.

Works Cited

Ferguson, Nicolas. Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Theory and Practice. Didier International: Lausanne, 1972.

Works Consulted

Fanselow, John, and Light, Richard. Bilingual ESOL and Foreign Language Teacher

Preparation: Models, Practices, Issues. Pantagraph Press; Bloomington, IL, 1977.