Second Language Teacher

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Second Language Teacher


The world is becoming increasingly globalized--industry, the Internet, media, and international organizations are bringing nations and citizens closer and closer together. Unfortunately, language is still a barrier, and many people are trying to learn two or more languages to help them interact and succeed in this new world order.

Second language teachers teach their native language to adult students. In the US, most second language teachers teach English to newly arrived immigrants or visitors. Many of these teachers also travel around the world, teaching English to people in Japan, China, Europe, and South America. The idea is to develop students' language skills to the point where they can participate effectively in an English-speaking environment. Traditionally, second language programs have been designed to improve listening skills, reading comprehension, pronunciation, speaking skills, writing and composition, and grammar and vocabulary. They also focus on topics that help students participate in their communities and/or help overseas students begin to develop their international cultural awareness.

Second language teachers teach language skills around themes which explain culture. They learn about language and traditions through lessons on renting accommodation, using public transportation, shopping, banking, communication, job searching, and health/medical care. That way, cultural orientation as well as language instruction is provided to help students adjust to American life as quickly and successfully as possible. Second language teachers may take their students on field trips to banks, grocery stores, shopping malls, cultural and job sites, guest speakers and research projects help immigrants learn about their new country and share aspects of their own culture and country.

In other countries, there is less focus on navigating American culture, because while new Americans need to understand this nation's traditions and expectations, students in other countries are learning a second language to improve their businesses and expand their global scope from their homelands. Teachers in these countries may teach the students a language, but here, it is the students who expand the world of culture and history for the instructor, instead.
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  Interests and Skills  
Second language instructors need to be motivated, independent, and adaptable. They should be culturally open-minded, and a knowledge of more than one language is also helpful. They should have excellent reading, researching, and writing skills, be dedicated to learning, and enjoy lecturing on and discussing issues with others. Instructors are also required to be hard-working and organized, with a natural curiosity as well as creative skills. They must also enjoy working with people as instructors and mentors, and should be respectful of all students and their learning capabilities. They need critical thinking skills, good communication skills, and be able to work alone as well as in groups. Other important traits are a sense of humor, a lot of energy as well as patience, and the ability to work with people from other countries and backgrounds.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan and teach classes in your native tongue to new learners
  • Use a variety of instructional techniques including lectures, demonstrations, independent or group projects, field assignments, and multimedia technologies
  • Prepare teaching materials and outlines for courses
  • Prepare, administer and mark student assignments and examinations
  • Organize and coordinate curriculum and course schedules
  • Take care of any other administrative duties that may come your way
  • Second language teachers spend each day working within their own language, teaching its nuances and technicalities to new speakers. They must develop ways to bring the language alive in the classroom. They challenge people to think, analyze, and develop their knowledge of the language, as well as instructing them on cultural differences, and traditions associated with the languages' countries of origin. They travel for conferences, to assist in developing programs and curriculums, and for research purposes. They spend most of each day indoors.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Second language teachers work in classroom settings in public schools, language centers, universities, colleges, community centers, religious buildings, and in offices. They can work all over the world, and are employed by either a language center or the government. They work alone within a classroom or with an assistant instructor. They can work with one student, five students, or 25 students at a time. They work regular hours, or may work part-time. Some may work in the evenings and on weekends, when the students are free from work.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Second language teachers can travel the world, teaching students in many, many countries. They can become liaisons for international organizations, translators, interpreters, or teach people to become second language teachers. They can become certified teachers, and work with students in elementary and secondary schools.

  Educational Paths  
There are no consistent academic requirements for teachers of adult ESL classes. Each institution sets its own hiring policies, requirements and standards. Consequently, required qualifications vary greatly. Employers prefer hiring applicants who have a bachelor's degree and accreditation from the Teachers of English as a Second Language (TESL) association. This diploma program, offered at community colleges and special TESL schools across the country, comprises of 250 hours of course work, and 250 hours of classroom teaching experience.

To work within a school board, you will need a bachelor of education, or a teacher's certificate, as well as some experience working within another language or teaching second language learners.

There are volunteer opportunities for second language teachers through community groups and religious organizations. Consider working with participants in these groups to see if it's the career for you.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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