Do you want to be TEFL or TESOL-certified and teach in Qutang Zhen? Are you interested in teaching English in Nantong Shi? Check out ITTT’s online and in-class courses, Become certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language and start teaching English ONLINE or abroad! ITTT offers a wide variety of Online TEFL Courses and a great number of opportunities for English Teachers and for Teachers of English as a Second Language.
A frequent misconception among many of the uninitiated is that teaching English to additional language learners is easy, and that anyone can do it with minimal to no training. While it might be possible to independently learn the theory required and to hone the necessary classroom techniques, the chances of someone turning up without prior training and immediately slotting into the role of an effective teacher are slim. It stands to reason then that the most effective way to prepare oneself for taking up such a position would be to undertake a course specifically designed to fill in any existing gaps a potential teacher may have, namely, a TEFL course. Of the many reasons why studying for a TEFL certificate might be a good idea, one of the most significant can be found in the distinction between ‘language learning’ and ‘language acquisition’, where language acquisition is used to express the fluid, natural development of a language through exposure, versus language learning which describes the opposite, that being developing a language through focused study (Krashen & Terrell, 1983). Language acquisition is the preferable method of gaining a new language, as language learning can cause a lack of fluency and leave gaps in one’s overall language knowledge. The benefit of studying a TEFL course, then, is that the methods taught will enable a new teacher to better recreate a state of language acquisition. Drawing on the accumulation of various research efforts present in a TEFL course, a teacher will know, for instance, the benefits of elicitation rather than lecturing, and will be properly versed in the optimal way of employing it in such a way as to resemble natural language acquisition. While it is of course possible to learn about elicitation from other sources, it is unlikely that a prospective teacher would know to look for such a concept in the first place, and would be left to their own trial and error to discover it. One aspect of language education often overlooked is the importance of classroom management and organisation. This is undoubtedly an area in which many new teachers would assume they are already competent and therefore would not seek to inform themselves of the pre-established recommended methods and tips, yet a lack of knowledge in this area may manifest itself in many ways. One such error that can be particularly noticeable is a teacher’s manner and choice of body language, as any misjudgements in this field will potentially have profound effects on the success and effectiveness of a class. Several possible mistakes that an uninformed teacher might make may have more subtle effects however, the results of which may go unnoticed and end up being passed off as being due to uncooperative students or simply a bad day. One such technique would be the use of gesture, an aspect of everyday life not likely to draw the attention of a new instructor. The benefits of the use of an open palmed gesture versus a closed finger point, laid out in full in Carol Kinsey Gorman’s The Silent Language of Leaders (Kinsey Gorman, 2011), could shift a student’s sense of comfort, being the difference between an open and inviting atmosphere or a more hostile and intrusive one. As with the aforementioned problem of language acquisition and language learning, information about the preferability of an open palmed gesture is openly available for those interested, but the majority of newly inaugurated teachers would be very unlikely to seek out this material of their own accord. A TEFL course brings many such issues to the fore, ensuring that new teachers have every key theory and technique for creating a productive learning environment at their fingertips. A vital factor of an English teacher’s role is having a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of English grammar. This can be problematic, as when learning a mother tongue, an individual is generally unaware of the subtleties and complexities of their own language; subsequently, if a teacher begins to teach English without a deeper level of understanding of certain aspects of English, they are likely to sow seeds of mistakes in their students, which will eventually become deep rooted and hard to shake when the student reaches more advanced competency levels. The importance of a thorough, standardised knowledge of English grammar in teaching English language has been outlined by Professor Stephen Andrews in his paper Knowledge About Language and the ‘Good Language Teacher’ (Andrews, 2005), where he perpetuates the idea that without such knowledge, the success of students’ efforts must be limited. To illustrate, a usual problem for students learning English is the assertive use of past and future tenses, with students tending to stick to the present simple and continuous tenses. Without private study, the function of tenses can be perplexing for a native speaker and can prove difficult to concisely explain, particularly to a student whose own mother tongue does not contain the same tense system as English. With this in mind, the grammar lessons taught by TEFL courses will assist any struggling teacher when faced with tricky or complex questions from students about the inner workings of English. While a TEFL course may not be strictly necessary, it is certainly a great benefit. A teacher teaching English is of course responsible not only for their own proficiency, but also for the proficiency of their students. The lessons learned in a language class may form the basis of a student’s future experiences with English speaking countries and people, so in this regard, a teacher owes it to their students to first ensure that they themselves are as well prepared and educated as they can be before entering the classroom. The TEFL’s holistic approach, covering not just grammar but also classroom management, body language, and theories of teaching, amongst many other topics, unquestionably makes it an advantage for anyone wishing to give their students a firm English foundation.