All things considered, it’s pretty easy for a native English speaker to get a job as a teacher of English. Heck, even I did it. You have to wonder what the long-term effects of slack entry standards will be, however.
Teaching something else
Teachers of other languages, such as French or Spanish, are required to be educated and trained to a higher level than the average English teacher. Dr. Jesus Garcia Laborda pointed out on TEFL.net that while Spanish teachers are required to have a four-year university degree that includes practical and theoretical linguistics a native English speaker can get away with being a teacher after only a one-month training course.
Supply and demand
Why the disparity? Largely it seems to come down to demand. For many years, the need for teachers has outweighed the supply. This is thanks to an influx of foreign students in the UK and other English speaking countries, and the emphasis on English as a language for business, science and technology across the globe.
Rather than demanding that anyone who wants to teach English should take four years of training, a ‘quick-fix’ solution was found in the form of one-month qualifications. This, in turn, I would argue, is largely responsible for the shift to a communication-heavy, grammar-light style of teaching. In the whole ‘accuracy vs. fluency’ debate, fluency is winning because we don’t know how to teach ‘accurate’.
The flip side
If that all sounds pretty cynical, let me temper the above by pointing out the benefits of this issue. For one thing, TEFL has taken native-English teachers to even the most remote places. This has advantages in terms of cultural exchange and it’s a laugh for the teacher too (hopefully).
Plus, native speakers are likely to be able to teach a more practical for of English not often found in textbooks. Furthermore, thousands (millions?) of English teachers have found jobs/careers without the burdens of heavy debt from four years of studying at university.
To really advance your career in TEFL does require study and effort, however. This includes such as qualifications as an MA in TESOL or the DELTA. For the rest of us, one month is not much to ask to be trained for a job that is fun, reasonably well-paid and in demand.
Share your comments and feedback