• David Mullens

English Teaching Qualifications

Updated: Oct 27, 2018


Question: So what qualifications should my teacher have and why should I worry about it? Answer: Well its all too easy to think that if your teacher is English mother tongue, they will be good at teaching you English. This is a classic mistake as teaching is a profession that requires both knowledge and appropriate training to allow your teacher to pass on and drill information so that is retained; indeed the teaching of English to foreigners is subject to specific qualification for teaching English as a Second Language as the challenge is very different to that of teaching English to native speakers.

In the Italian system of schools the method, almost invariably used, is to work from Italian towards English, using text books that typically assist you to translate the language; text books that are either translated from an original English text or written by Italians (in both cases full of mistakes); text books that are typically not at the right level for the student.

The result is a lack of confidence in use of the language and an accent which, when exposed abroad can seem almost comical. Indeed if you are in a business situation, you are at an immediate disadvantage - in my own experience, having taken teams of Italian senior managers abroad, when placed in a foreign environment, they often present themselves badly due to this lack of confidence, poor preparation and basic difficulties with pronunciation. This is in noticeable contrast to the quality of English spoken in say Germany and Holland, not to mention the Nordics. Q: Why is this? A: Well, essentially what happens is that during school years an inappropriate and too academic method of teaching is used, indeed sometimes you study Shakespeare which, while a noble pursuit, is actually of little use in a day to day environment - if you learn the subtle meanings through the translation, rather than the original language.

It would appear to be the height of academic excellence, and indeed in the context of European literature and thought, from the Greek authors onwards, has academic value as a separate subject, whereas in the reality of language learning it is of little practical use.

While an academic approach might be appropriate for Latin, French or even German, it does not work at all well with English, as while the first three have fairly clear rules of grammar and pronunciation this is absolutely not the case, with English - a language full of irregular forms and pronunciations. Q: So what does this mean? A: Well if your teacher can speak English - even if they can speak it very well - but has not learnt the varied approaches to teach English, they are at a real disadvantage. It is rather like a mechanic trying to repair your car with just a screwdriver and no instruction manual. They may even know the theory but boy is it hard for them. Typically a good teacher will have lots of pre-prepared materials to assist learning and to make the classes interesting and to reinforce learning. Q: So what qualifications should my teacher have? A: Well there are just two with widespread acceptance. They are the Cambridge CELTA (Cambridge ELT Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and the Trinity TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). They are recognised by the UK government as being equivalent, though the TESOL has the novelty of putting students in the position of having to learn another language (not English) so that they can experience first hand the issues of being students. (SIT TESOL is also good though rather rare in Europe).

Both courses are intense and it is not sufficient to be able to speak the language to be able to gain entry to the course. For instance in our example of 20 native English speakers only 6 were allowed on the course.

For futher good information about TEFL qualifications: http://www.tefl.net/teacher-training/qualifications.htm

Why to avoid people without TESOL or CELTA: http://edition.tefl.net/articles/training-articles/avoid-tefl-course/ Q: What about the famous language schools? A: Well some of these use TESOL and CELTA trained teachers, but they seem to hamper them with a methodology (often very rigid) used to reduce costs (i.e improve profits). Very few students that have gone this route come away satisfied though they may well have thinner wallets... David Mullens

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