What is this perceived superiority of native speaker language teachers over non-native speaker teachers?! if someone has studied the language in significant depth with sufficient qualifications then no one should be judging them and preferring a native speaker over a highly-qualified, enthusiastic and passionate non-native. Although English is my first language there is ABSOLUTELY no way I would be able to go out and teach it solely on the basis that “i am a native speaker.” Even if I had training in TESOL, that would absolutely not mean that someone who is not a native speaker of English couldn’t do the same job and do it even better than me. Just because I am a native speaker does not mean that my English is rich and excellent and to an extremely high level. I have seen MANY non-native English speakers with significantly better skills in English than me. Being a “native speaker” doesn’t automatically qualify anyone to be a great language teacher. Passion, enthusiasm and qualifications, however, do.

Give non-native speaker teachers a chance to live their dream and work in a career that makes them happy and are vividly passionate about.

Five TEFL Resources

If you have any websites you’d like to share, feel free to send me a message

Linguistics Jobs: Interview with an ESL teacher

Jennifer MacDonald is the Head ESL teacher at Dalhousie University. She has a BA in linguistics and an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I talked to her recently as part of the linguistics jobs series.

What do you do as an ESL teacher?

I’m the head ESL [English as a Second Language] teacher at Dalhousie University, so I do a combination of overseeing the curriculum and administrative work in the department as well as teaching itself. We do a lot of EAP at Dal - that’s English for Academic Purposes. A lot of the students we work with have been admitted based on their marks but they don’t have the background in English yet so we help them with that, and then we also do ongoing courses for current students. We have partner programs with various international agreements and programs that Dal has. It’s actually a very exciting time to be teaching ESL on a university campus because Canadian universities have been aiming to increase international enrollment these days since domestic enrollment is declining.

Keep reading

Do you have any tips/recommendations for getting certified and finding somewhere to teach?

here’s the Big List of Important Things About TESL:

  • I went through Oxford Seminars for my certification. They have information sessions all the time, you’ll just have to look into when and where it would be, when it’s closest to you. They also are a 100-hour certification, which is what a lot of schools are now looking for. It makes you more marketable. It’s expensive, but keep in mind that with the course you’re paying for: (1) all of the books and resources, and (2) the lifetime placement services. Which…
  • …is what I used to get my current position. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. If you get certified and then decide you want to wait another few years to be placed somewhere, you can always come back! You have people who can match your skills to the countries you want to go to, and you’ll have somewhere to ask all kinds of questions when such things come up.
  • I thought it might be more reliable and safer than going through things I found myself on places like ESLcafe.com, which isn’t required to vet the job opportunities it posts. Until I have more experience of what I should expect and what I need to look for, I’ll probably just use the placement services. (though Dave’s is useful to talking to other ESL teachers and trading tips!)
  • Be patient. It took about six months for me to sign a contract, but in that time I did interview with a lot of places. And that helped! I had no idea what I was doing at first, but by the time I interviewed with my current school, I really knew what to expect and how to answer in a way that made me look good.
  • It’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing. I did my demo lessons today, and my boss gave a lot of constructive criticism, and while a lot of it was “ah shit, I should have remembered that”, a lot of it was “Oh. Huh, yeah that’s a good point.” You’re human, and you just happen to be in charge of the education of smaller, more impressionable humans. And that’s terrifying, but be easy on yourself. Like with any job, you won’t know what to do at first, but then you’ll figure out a groove that works for you. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m taking over some classes tomorrow. And I’m terrified. (I feel like I wouldn’t be as scared about screwing up if I was starting a class fresh, instead of taking over in the middle of someone else’s plans?) But I’m also like “Just cool it, it’ll be okay. It’s a learning process for everyone.”

So one resource, like I mentioned above, was Dave’s ESL Cafe. It’s good for talking to other teachers about what their experiences are, ,where to avoid for what reasons… All good stuff. Just take the job postings with a grain of salt, and research a school if you’re able to.

That also being said… if you’re given an interview and they give you the school beforehand, research the school. For example, in Korea there are so many terrible private schools. There’s actually several websites with continuous updates about which schools to avoid and why. (some should be taken with a grain of salt because people are lazy and blacklist a school formaking them do work, and also just because one school that’s within a… franchise? of schools is bad, doesn’t mean that every school in that organization is bad. Just that one particular school) Not only do you want to know what you’re getting into, but you also want to have some background knowledge about the school in case they ask. It’s like any job really.

Another general resource is the TEFL Reddit. It’s just fun to browse and share information.

Other useful information:

  • Have your bachelor’s degree. So many places will not consider you if you don’t have at least your BA/BS/B…whatever. In addition to the TESOL/TEFL/TESL certification. (also Oxford will not certify you without your bachelor’s degree)
  • Research the countries you want to go to. Climate, how much they pay, will they pay for your flight, will they pay for your housing, will they give you a food stipend/health insurance/assist with housing/etc, cost of living… Can you save money or are you going to be living paycheck to paycheck? Can you send money home? Will you be able to pay your bills? (like, I will have to send money home to pay my student loans. Korea pays enough that I can do that and still live a reasonable lifestyle) Vacation time? What are the school vacations? Can you springboard from where you’ll be to other places you’ll want to visit? Etc.

So this is a hugely long post, but I’m really hoping it helps!!

Why everyone who works with language needs linguistics

Someone on a blog I read the other day posted this question, asking for advice:

Does anyone know any tricks to know when English -ed is pronounced as [d~t] as in “begged” and “knocked” versus [ed] like “petted”? Some of my students have issues and I don’t know how to help them.

(I haven’t linked to the actual blog because I don’t want to seem like I’m criticising them personally.)

You might think that people who teach language know linguistics. Most people seem to think that linguistics *is* teaching languages. In fact, lots of linguistics graduates go on to do language teaching, but they are far outnumbered by language teachers who don’t have a linguistics background. TESOL MA programmes frequently have a core linguistics component, but people who’ve chosen to do TESOL but not linguistics are probably not that interested in linguistics anyway.

The reason I mention this is that the question above is taught on any first-year linguistics course as the absolute go-to example of phonologically-conditioned allomorphy in English. Typically, we point out that native English speakers do this subconsciously and consistently, and it’s an example of how there are rules and we can discover them by careful investigation, as well as to teach the theoretical concept.

Of course, speakers of other languages with different rules will not do this subconsciously, because the rules of their language might not automatically force the same result as English. They’ll need the rule taught to them. The fact that someone who (presumably) is teaching English doesn’t know how to explain this simple fact is quite shocking to me, but I doubt the asker is alone. A few basic linguistics classes would make life as an English teacher so much easier, I can’t even imagine why it wouldn’t be standard.

Teaching English with No Lesson Plan

Yes, you’ve received a phone call to come in and teach with no time to prepare your lesson…PANIC!! There can be times when you may need to teach a lesson with no materials. As English teachers, we always strive to plan good lessons, but sometimes things can go wrong on us and we need to think quickly, improvise and go and teach ESL classes with little or no materials.

Read on…

There can be a number of reasons why teachers may have to do this. You might find yourself being asked to cover a class for a sick teacher at short notice, you may have looked at last week’s schedule by accident or the photocopier might jam up on you.

Whatever the reason you need to teach with no lesson plan, there is no need to panic and you can still have a great class.

Here are some ideas if you have to teach a class with no lesson plan or materials:

The Greatest Invention Ever

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Get your students into pairs and ask them to write down 15 inventions that changed the world e.g. soap, mobile phones, glasses, paper, scissors, the internet. Give them a few minutes to think and then take 2-3 inventions from each pair and write them on the board. Try to fill the board with at least 20-30 different inventions.

Now, explain that the class needs to find the one invention that has changed the world the most and become ‘The Greatest Invention’. Students must come to the board one by one and rub out one invention which they think is least important still on the board and explain why. This will create a lot of talking once they start rubbing out certain inventions and you can encourage this debate. Keep going until there is one remaining invention. This is a fantastic speaking class without any materials.

Mixed Dialogues

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Divide your class into pairs and give each pair of students eight strips of paper. Ask them to write an eight-part dialogue between two people, with each part of the dialogue on a separate piece of paper. Lower levels can just use one sentence on each paper. Higher levels can write more. If you want to help your students out, you can give them a topic i.e. two people having an argument on a first datean angry customer in a supermarketa lady asking for directions in her car, etc.

Once they have finished writing the dialogue, pairs should mix up the strips of paper and hand them to another group to try and put together.

Once the dialogue has been put in the right order, the new pairs can practice the dialogues or perform them in front of the class. Depending on how long your ESL class is, you can keep swapping up the dialogues multiple times and get lots of speaking, reading and comprehension practice.

Again, this English class with no materials is easy to set up and just requires paper.

Random Story Words

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Write around 10-15 words on the board. Make them quite random, for example, bus, India, plastic bag, bicycle lock, thief, underwear, tennis ball, etc.

Now ask students to write a story with some of these words in the story. They should use as many words within the story as they can and encourage them to be imaginative.

Students can then read out their stories and if you have enough time, you could ask them to role-play the funniest stories.

It needn’t be stressful!

Teaching English with no plan or materials can be a whole lot of fun and it is good to have a few ideas up your sleeve for when you least expect it. New teachers will especially find having to teach English with no plan very daunting and stressful, but actually you can sometimes have a fantastic class with no materials.

Good luck!

Stuart Allen

ESL in China!

Remember toinvite your school colleagues to ESL in China today.


So you want to teach English as a language? Awesome. Teaching English, abroad or at home, as a language opens many doors. It can give you the chance to travel and experience different cultures, earn some extra money and/or experience, and looks great on a resume.

As one of the hardest languages to learn (with 44 sounds and only 26 letters + with English being non-phonetic, you bet your knees, it’shard), as a potential teacher, you’re probably wondering what kind of teaching qualification you need in order to get the position you desire: TEFL, TESL, or TESOL?

Thankfully, all three of these certificates give you qualification needed to teach English to students. The easy part is deciding what you plan to do with it: travel or not? 

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language): This certificate allows you to seek an English teaching job in another country with non-native speakers. So if you want to see China, Japan, France, or Brazil, this is the certificate for you. The TEFL is highly recognizable so no need to worry about that. I suggest you make sure you get at least 120-hours of training as that is the most expected standard for schools and language institutions. (side-note: I will post more information on how to get this certificate later and what employers are looking for later)

TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language): This certificate is designed for teachers who wish to teach to foreign students living in an English-native speaking country (i.e. USA, Canada, or England).  You will not be able to use this abroad. Positions you can seek include working as a language support teacher at public/private schools or as an instructor at a private language school or as a private tutor. (side-note: if this is something that interests you, unfortunately I cannot help as I am only familiar with the TEFL certificate. That said, please check out this site as it will give you the basic information needed: http://study.com/esl_teacher_requirements.html

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of another Language): This certificate is newer and provides the most ease as to whether you wish to teach overseas or at home. That said, this certificate covers a wider range of topics and does not study them in-depth as compared to the other certificates mentioned above. Here are a few links to TESOL certificate providers: 


This is just an overview of the 3 certificates. Please do your own research in order to choose the right certificate for you! 

If English is indeed the first truly international language, it is also a subject of controversy. English has been recently described as both an “alchemy” (Kachru, 1986) and a “Trojan horse” (Cooke, 1988). For Kachru, “knowing English is like possessing the fabled Aladdin’s lamp, which permits one to open, as it were, the linguistic gates of international business, technology, science, and travel. In short, English provides linguistic power” (p. 1). For Cooke, on the other hand, English is a language of “cultural intrusion… in a very real way, English is the property of elites, expressing the interests of the dominant classes” (p. 59).

This debate is important for teachers of English internationally: If we are implicated in producing and perpetuating inequalities in the communities in which we teach, we are accountable for our actions. Clearly, as Judd (1983, 1987) and Walters (1989) argue, teachers of English should be aware that teaching is a political act. Judd argues that the teaching of English as a second or foreign language can (and should) raise moral dilemmas for teachers. Are we contributing to the demise of certain languages or linguistic communities? Does the teaching of ESL or EFL serve to entrench the power of an elite, privileged group of people who may have little interest in the welfare of the majority of the people in the country? Do teachers of ESL sometimes participate in a process that “nurtures illusion” (Judd, 1983, p. 271)? Cooke (1988) is less tentative than Judd in his conclusions:

Faced with the doubts that seem to me to characterize English as a world language, I would argue that as teachers of EFL we need to be very aware of the potential dangers of English, and take them into account in preparation and teaching. (p. 60)

thatvillainromeo asked:

To add to your English major success stories, I walked out of my BA in English and into a fantastic job teaching ESL in China! (With a pit stop to get a teaching cert obviously). They really love English majors out here and I'm so happy that I get this amazing opportunity to see the world and meet new people! I cannot recommend it enough for any BAs who aren't sure what they want to do- it makes for a great gap year at least!

I’m glad you landed such a cool job and that you’re loving it!

While I obviously didn’t choose to do this myself, I think spending a year teaching English abroad sounds like such a neat thing to do after graduation.

Teaching English as a Second Language: Giving New Learners an Everyday Grammar

This guide examines the concepts that most often confound ESL students, whose confusion can generally be reduced to one very basic questions…

I cannot recommend this book enough for any (future) TESOL teachers! I love using discourse in classes, its so important and this book not only introduces that concept in English classes but backs it up with great linguistics background!

The Race!

This is a fun, fast-paced warmer which will give your lessons this week an excellent start. In a nutshell, groups have to write down seven things from a category you give them.

What to do

  1. Divide your students into teams and have them sit in small groups.

  2. Choose one person from each team to come to the front of the class.

  3. The teacher shows (not speaking) a piece of paper with a category on it. This should be appropriate to age and level. For example: 7 animals, 7 Things You Do Before Going to Bed, 7 Items of Clothing, 7 Sports, 7 Oscar-Winning Movies, whatever.

  4. The students then have to run back and tel their group the category and their team writes down seven items in this category.

  5. The first team to finish is the winner.

Job done!

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Stuart Allen

ESL in China!