Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know

How to Qualify

There are essentially two "tracks" for qualifying as an English as a Foreign Language teaching professional (ELT). One is the Certification track, which requires you to study and pass a series of certification program in conjunction with observed, critiqued teaching. There are three levels to this track - I have all three. Each of the “levels” is higher and more difficult than the previous one. The CELTA or TEFL certificates are the first and lowest levels of this route. Next is an INSET or practicing CELTA often conducted in conjunction with your employment at a school or language institute. It could also be a Business English teaching certification frequently called a “Cert. TBE”. Finally there is the Trinity College Licentiate Diploma (LTCL Diploma in TESOL) or DELTA for those who aspire to the higher levels of knowledge and English language teaching application – and are also a bit suicidal. CELTA is an acronym for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TESOL is an acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Get used to the jargon, you’re going to need it.

The Academic Track

The second track is an academic one. That is the person gets a teaching or language / linguistics - related degree, then proceeds to an MA or MS degree and perhaps finally to a PhD or other terminal studies degree. This track can be done with little and sometimes no actual in-class teaching. This used to be favored but now is in more of a decline due to its impracticality in North America and Europe. You could have an advanced teaching degree without workable teaching and class room management skills, you see. So it's very difficult now to get a teaching position without actual class room teaching experience. This is one of the reasons you should attend a TEFL program in person, intensive or not.

My Strongest Piece of Advice

My strongest piece of advice is this: You MUST get a CELTA or a TEFL teaching certificate. Without it - with no teaching degree and no experience you can't work. A CELTA intensive program will take only about 5 weeks full time but will pay for itself in less than a semester. Look around in your state or local area, there should be an available program. Be sure to get your English language teaching certification in the USA, the UK or Canada, etc., not in a non-English-speaking country if you can help it. Some countries “frown on” TEFL certificates from programs in non-English speaking countries.

Online TEFL Programs

First, many online TEFL programs are not internationally accredited so you may have problems in many countries if this will be your only teaching credential. An online program may also not have as stringent requisite for observed and graded teaching. As a matter of fact, some may not even have an observed class room teaching requirement at all. You simply won’t be prepared to walk into a class room to teach a group of learners whom you can’t talk to in their native language. Not only will you be (rightfully) scared to death, but may fall completely flat on your whatchamacallit. Any good CELTA or TEFL certificate program will provide you with immediate "hands on" experience in working directly with EFL learners.

Second, online TEFL certifications are NOT accepted in several Latin American, Asian and European countries. For example, the Colombian Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and most high-level schools, institutes and universities WILL check this out thoroughly. You very likely won't be able to work legally with only an online TEFL certificate. Be sure to inquire about this first, before you plunk down hundreds, or thousands, of your hard-won dollars.

Think carefully on this. Otherwise you may well be wasting your time and money.

You MUST Be Properly Certified

If you're going to teach English as a Foreign Language, you MUST be properly certified to get a decent job with a good salary. Without proper certification, you will be exploited by unscrupulous school and institute owners who know you can`t do better than their $2 or $3 per hour salary offers. You can't live off of this unless you work 50 to 60 hours per week in many countries, likely working six days a week too.

Your standard of living will be the lowest.

Forget any travel, you’ll be more worried about eating everyday.

And please, don’t you dare get sick.

Benefits? Are you kidding?

Want More No-Nonsense Information?

In this article I can barely scratch the surface. You can get some additional information by going to www.ezinearticles.com and doing a search there for my name, “Larry M. Lynch”. You will then be taken to my free article postings on English teaching. Finally, don’t get me wrong, I’m not “knocking” any organization’s TEFL program. You just need to scrupulously check and compare what you’ll be getting and if it’ll be accepted where you’re planning to teach. With more than 17 years in the field working on both sides of the interview table, I’ve seen far too many things go wrong which could have been avoided by a more careful scrutiny of TEFL training programs. Yes, most internationally certified CELTA or TEFL certificate programs cost more and are far more difficult to successfully complete to boot, but, as the saying goes, you usually get what you pay for.

Most good CELTA and TEFL programs also provide job
placement assistance.

But that’s a topic for another article.

Let me know if there's anything else I can help you with. Good luck.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. For more information on entering into or advancing in the fascinating field of ELT send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need To Know” send an e-mail to the author with "free ELT Ebook" in the heading. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail: lynchlarrym@gmail.com

Could Computers and the Internet REALLY Replace TESOL English Teachers?

A Controversial Question

At ELT English seminars, workshops and TESOL conferences, one question I’m frequently asked is whether I think computers will eventually replace English teachers. I flash back to the film “Matrix”. In an early scene, our neophyte hero “Neo” is learning Kung Fu by being plugged in to a computer. Scant hours later, he opens his eye, sits up, and announces, “I know Kung Fu!” The ensuing scenes depict how an older, more experienced mentor (a.k.a. a teacher) follows up by evaluating young Neo’s “skills”. “Show me”, the teacher asks in typical fashion. Now if you’ve been following along with me so far, you already have a clue as to my asnswer to these teachers’ question.

Computers replace a human English teacher?

Are you kidding?

“Ain’t no way, Jose.”

But English teachers, don’t totally relax just yet. What I think we DO need to do is to “re-invent” a portion of the concept of “school”.

Here’s what I mean.

Reinventing the Concept of School

Schools, at virtually any level, will need to be virtually and interactively linked to an extensive array of external resources. This means that the “traditional” board, markers and OHP will need to give way to additional, integrated resources that expand the classroom environment to an almost unlimited degree. I mean the works; audio, video, internet, webcams, IM, TXTing, chat, e-mail, RSS, even real-time multi-media input feeds. The classroom and its students would be linked to additional resources like:




Government facilities

Science, technology and medical centers



Other learning Institutions

In this way, students would more normally utilize learning activities such as web quests, inter-active dynamics and virtual tours to expand and deepen their knowledge on principles and concepts. The learners would no longer be limited to the knowledge, resources and facilities available at the institution where they attend classes. Instead, the world, literally, is their classroom.

Impact on Learning

How would this directly impact learning?

Well, if you’re learning computers, wouldn’t direct access to Microsoft Corp. materials and training be a real boon? Technology students would doubtless derive immense benefit from direct links with MIT (http://web.mit.edu/), Cal Tech (http://www.caltech.edu/), or Lucent Corp. (http://www.lucent.com/) Engineering students would thrive on access to NASA located online at: (http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html), Boeing (http://www.boeing.com/), Westinghouse (http://www.westinghouse.com/home.html), Dupont (http://www2.dupont.com/DuPont_Home/en_US/index.html) or a host of other high-tech corporations.

Law, Government, Human Rights and Political Science students would be at the top of their game hard-wired into Federal, State and local government databases, or FBI (http://www.fbi.gov/), the London Metropolitan Police (http://www.met.police.uk/), the CIA (http://www.cia.gov/) and ATF (http://www.atf.treas.gov/ ) databases with their accompanying local, regional and national resources. Health majors could be up to date with real-time events in Pathology, Epidemics research, natural disaster response resource information and population health threats through the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/), medical and health networks or the UN (http://www.un.org/).

The possibilities are almost endless.

So, I agree that the “traditional” approaches to teaching and learning, not only English and other foreign languages, but numerous other fields as well, will continue to evolve to serve the needs of learners, business and educational institutions. With CBL (Content-Based Learning), well-prepared TEFL English teachers, armed with knowledge, skills and continually developing technology, have nothing to fear from computers. Technology is yet another powerful tool in promoting the acquisition of new knowledge and skills, now and in the future.

What do YOU think?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Using Songs as Authentic English Language Texts

In English as a foreign or second language teaching (EFL, ESL), if you ever need to come up with an authentic English text of any kind, i.e., newspaper, magazine, movie clip, etc. that you need to present to the class and you’ve been powerfully influenced by music your whole life you might chose to take the song approach. You'll be okay using a popular song as authentic language text - which it certainly is. I'd go with popular songs, like "Imagine" by John Lennon, which have more appeal. You can get some additional mileage out of the song using cultural aspects as well as some others. Profiling, doing a biography of and discussing John Lennon as an example in this case.

Here are some ways to go about it.

Select and Concept Check the Lexis

Be sure to select at least six to eight key lexis (minimum) from the song. To aid in concept checking you should create a series of short exercises such as:

• a True - False exercise
• a short matching exercise and perhaps
• a fill in the blanks exercise

In each of these exercises you’ll be using the lexis (vocabulary) you've chosen. You might also try to find a few pictures or photos to visually - graphically illustrate both the key lexis and themes or phrases from the song. You can also prepare a re-order exercise using the song lyrics by cutting the lyrics into strips, mixing them up and having the learners re-order the lyrics line strips of the song by listening to it.

Re-Ordering Sequences

Play the song again afterwards to have learners check their re-ordered sequence. Try to have a picture or drawing that represents each of your chosen lexis for you to use to help elicit the key lexis from the learners before they hear the song. For a REAL test of this system (which I regularly use, by the way) is to find and use a song that you think the learners don't know!

You'll get kudos for this one for sure. It’s especially effective when the class is multi-cultural; that is, composed of learners from different countries and diverse language backgrounds. (Russia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, and so on) Using a snappy but “unknown” song will help to ensure a ample amount of “learning” on the part of your students, in more ways than one.

Finding Unique Songs

So how would you find such songs – easy; just check out songs from other genres, songs sung in other varieties of English and popular songs from past eras aka “oldies but goodies”.

Some suggestions you might consider include:

• country and western
• oldies from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s
• jazz vocals
• soul or rhythm and blues songs (especially from previous eras)
• comedy songs
• Bluegrass songs
• Folk songs
• Ballads

Process Need Not Be Difficult

If you don’t have the time or inclination to do the extra preparation you can just go with the activities I've mentioned for your presentation. The process needn’t be overly difficult at all.
Let me know if you need any further guidance or some actual exercise examples.

I’ll be happy to send you some.

Good luck.

Larry M. Lynch is an Intellectual Development Specialist, ELT Teacher Trainer, expert author, photographer and experienced world traveler who teaches language at a university in Cali, Colombia. He helps language teachers to improve their skills and develop dynamic language classroom teaching techniques. His writing has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape from America, Mexico News and Brazzil magazines, in addition to hundreds of online websites. He is the author of the astonishing new English language teaching system; “The BREAKTHROUGH! English Language Teaching System: Dynamic Techniques & Strategies for Teaching English to Any Learner Anywhere in the World”.

For no-obligation information, questions or comments send an e-mail to: lynchlarrym@gmail.com After today your language teaching will never be the same.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

English Teaching Tips from Sponge Bob Square Pants

Practical wisdom can be found in some of the most unexpected places. Today, wisdom bubbled up from a pineapple under the sea. I suddenly realized that everything you’d want to know about English language teaching for your EFL learners can be taught by Sponge Bob SquarePants and his friends. When you teach your young learners, secondary school, adult or university student classes, which of these characters are you most like?

Mr. Krabs:
This crustacean is focused on one thing and one thing only, making more and more and more money. Only a cartoon could actually have dollar signs drawn in his eyes. He thinks of no one, only how he can benefit. Is your teaching focused on you or on the learners? Are you providing guidance and practice or do you have blinders on, thinking only about how you can benefit or get through an English class session? If your classes are like a sales commercial, are teacher-centered or full of course book exercises, you just might teach English like Mr. Krabs.

The smallest creature in the sea is also one of the sneakiest. He’ll do anything and hurt anyone to steal someone else’s work (the Krabby Pattie secret formula). Write your own English class materials. Prepare your own lessons. Don’t be like Plankton. Don’t copy and paste someone else’s work, edit it, and try to pass it off as your own. You will be caught, and it just isn’t worth it. Take the same amount of effort and work on your own thoughts and ideas. Plankton never gets away with his schemes, either. He’s on Plan “Z” and is still pathetically failing at his attempts to steal the secret formula.

Sponge Bob’s best friend, the starfish, has a good heart, but isn't the brightest creature in the sea. Does your teaching make you sound like an expert? Are you providing valuable lessons or just pushing out from the book exercises and activities as fast as you can? Always double check for student interest and interaction. If you're challenged by limited experience or teaching skills and knowledge, start attending English language teaching (ELT) seminars and workshops to get new insights. Or slow down, get some good reference materials then read them before you start the next week’s classes. Consider going for some advanced training in ELT like a CELTA, or TEFL postgraduate studies.

Squidward is B-O-R-I-N-G. When teaching classes, are you a Squidward? Do you just give what’s “in the book” or are you finding a fun twist to make your classes more dynamic and keep learners willingly coming back for more? Take time to make your classes stand out from the many other dry, boring classes out there that your learners must attend by injecting your personality into your classes or just having some fun while teaching.

Sponge Bob:
This little guy always tries to do the right thing, and is a hard worker. He may not always end up getting the results he hoped for, but he bounces back and tackles his work with a renewed vigor. Sponge Bob works very hard, he's a good friend, he always thinks of others, and tries to have fun no matter what he is faced with. Hardworking, friendly Sponge Bob is the guy to be when teaching English classes.Although this is a sort of silly lesson in English as a foreign language teaching (EFL), I hope you'll remember the important messages our underwater cartoon friends have taught us.

1. Teach your classes to help your learners, not only with dollar signs (paycheck) on your mind.

2. Prepare your own classes. Don’t just copy others’ lessons or only “follow the book”.

3. Prepare your class lessons carefully, and provide valuable learning experiences.

4. Be interesting and dynamic in your teaching, not boring.

5. Be a “Sponge Bob”! Hard work and persistence genuinely pay off.

Follow these English teaching tips and before you know it, you'll develop a reputation for having informative and dynamic classes and you too will be a King or Queen of the sea.

*Article concept adapted from “Article Writing Tips from SpongeBob SquarePants” by Nicole Dean at EasyArticleMarketing.com

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Using Toys as Educational Tools for EFL

Children love to play. Who can deny it? So why not use this universal characteristic to provide and promote English language learning as well? If you do, you can hardly go wrong. What child is going to say, “Teacher, I don’t want to play”? Sure, it’s ultimately possible – but so is a force five tornado in South America or an “Armageddon-level earthquake in Tibet. Just don’t hold your breath while you’re waiting.

Toys of all types and kinds are available worldwide. Why not turn this to your advantage to motivate your young learners? For that matter, your not-so-young learners could benefit too; especially those learners who are “young at heart”, for those of you who might be teaching adult learners. Let’s look at some “realia” or “toys” that are commonly available and could be called into play. (pun intended)

Stuffed animals and dolls –
a perennial learner favorite even my most mature adult students give up an “Awww”, whenever I whip out the likes of Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Tigger, rabbit, puppy, Teddy or others of my stuffed animal menagerie. You can simulate conversations, use them to illustrate prepositions of place and position, as turn-taking devices or to “replace” learners in a game or activity. They (the stuffed animals) don’t mind being tossed around either.

Soft rubber or inflated ball –
How a classroom could function without at least one of these is beyond me. One learner can “select” another in a mill drill, TPR or group activity by simply tossing the ball to someone else. That way the teacher won’t “play favorites” during the activity. A ball can be used in a relay fashion to signal the next learner in a sequence or game. If it’s dropped or mis-handled, no problem, it just bounces a couple of times or so before returning to the game. Neat, huh?

Cars, trucks and other Vehicles –
Learners can “drive” to places in a neighborhood, from one part of the room to another or from one position on a game board to another. Small ones can serve as place markers in a board game, while larger ones can be used as props in dialogues, role plays and conversations. Don’t forget about using them for grammar and verb practice activities either. And oh yes, girls as well as boys like them too. Adults? Well I have to watch my vehicle props carefully or the adult learners will “steal” them!

Board games –
You really only need a small selection of board games if you have even a shred of imagination. Two or three will work nicely. Some all-time favorites are ones like “Scrabble”, “Monopoly”, “Checkers” and “Chess” which both use the same alternately colored squares board. Use the boards to “create” your own games too. Don’t forget a deck or two of Playing Cards either. No, not for Poker, but for simpler, faster-playing games like “War”, “Fish” or “21” (numbers – not Blackjack!)

Please Note:
I’m not a proponent of using guns or simulations of firearms of any type in the classroom – not even water pistols. No bats, hitting, or aggressive behavior promoting realia of any type normally enters my learning environments. True you can get aggressive behavior from some of the toys I’ve mentioned, but it’s easily squashed or put down without too much trouble. I just explain to the learners what’s allowed and what’s not. This of course, is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure you’ll come up with many of your own locally-available favorites for use in your classroom. In fact, if you have some unusual or unique realia that you use, I’d love to hear about it.

Drop me a line at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com.

And good luck.