Do You Have To Be Bilingual To Teach English As A Foreign Language?

By: john milton


Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) to adults and children working on learning the language is not as intimidating as many people think. One primary misconception is that TEFL requires the teacher to be partially if not fully bilingual. Many popular methods of teaching the English language to people who know little or no English only involve speaking English. Furthermore, working in TEFL often requires teaching native speakers of many different languages. Being immersed in different cultures and learning new languages while teaching can be a huge perk when starting a TEFL career.

Some language learning theories claim that only using the target language is best practice in the classroom with both adults and children, regardless of current ability. Often, teachers will use visuals and gestures to help students understand a new language (e.g. English). For example, an English teacher working with students who know very little English may start by introducing him or herself with accentuated gestures by saying, “Hello!” and waving at the beginning of every class and “Goodbye” at the end of each class. As students progress, the teacher can add more advanced vocabulary such as “Good afternoon,” and “I will see all of you tomorrow.”

Being bilingual when teaching English is not a disadvantage. However, it is not necessary either. One of the best parts of embarking on a TEFL career is that you will have the opportunity to travel and learn about different cultures and different languages in a real-world setting. In fact, another effective way to teach a foreign language is to have students teach you their language. This is especially effective in one-on-one tutoring sessions or in small groups. Instead of lecturing to a class, you can exchange vocabulary with students. For example, you might say, “In English, my shirt is blue,” while gesturing to your blue shirt. Then you can ask, “In Arabic…” and students can respond accordingly. This method of teaching can help break the ice and build rapport with adult learners who might be self-conscious as well as allow you to gain an increased understanding of what the learning process is like for your students. Also, you can easily track student progress.

Teaching English as a foreign language can be a fun and rewarding career for monolingual English speakers and those who speak English in addition to one or more languages alike. Do not let your lack of knowledge of a second language hold you back from earning a TEFL certification and pursuing the career of your dreams. After all, some of the people who are most successful at teaching English fail miserably at learning select second languages.

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The author is offering intensive Teaching English and Teaching English Abroad is an accrediting body of TEFL/TESOL courses and course.

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