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ELT Concourse: entering English Language Teaching (ELT)

Taking the plunge

If you can read this, thank a teacher.

teacher teacher teacher teacher

What is English language teaching like?

Almost infinitely variable.  All languages are enormous.  There are thousands of them, some spoken by billions and some by only a handful of people or even a single individual.  Each language is unique (although there are commonalities and some members of the same language family may be quite similar).
English is, however, unique in some respects that other languages do not share.  It is spoken as a first language by fewer people than those who speak it as a second or additional language.  It has become, and looks set to remain, the world's lingua franca.
Almost every country on earth requires schools to teach English but how it happens, who does it and what is in the syllabus varies from country to country and often from school to school.
For an introduction to what English Language Teaching is, click here (new tab).


What qualification(s) do I need?

In most countries, becoming a teacher requires years of training, whatever the subject or age group that is concerned.  English language teaching is somewhat unusual in this respect because short initial training courses are available which will provide the basic knowledge and classroom abilities to start you off in your career.
These sorts of courses are available whether your first language is English or not but, obviously, you will be expected to speak and write English to a high degree of accuracy and appropriacy before you start your training.

Many people teach a language with no qualification other than the ability to speak the target language to some degree of proficiency or as a native speaker.  Unqualified teachers often, of course, do more harm than good although there are honourable exceptions.
You should not consider entering English language teaching unless you are prepared to take a training course.  What sort of course you take is up to you but there are important considerations to bear in mind when deciding how to get yourself initially qualified.
Click here to go to some advice and frequently asked questions about choosing a course (new tab).


Questions and answers

Q: What are the opportunities for English Language teachers?
A: English has been described as the operating system of global conversation.  The British Council estimates that some 2 billion people are using it or learning to use it for whom it is not their first language.
This is an enormous market for skilled English language teachers who have the opportunity to work in almost every country in the world.
In countries where the first language is not English, there are opportunities in many settings and many learners travel to nations where English is an or the official language so there are opportunities there, too.

Q: Where does teaching happen?
A: English language teaching happens in schools, in colleges, in companies, on line, in private homes and across the kitchen table.  Resources vary and some will find themselves challenged by a lack of equipment and materials while others will have the benefit of well-resourced environments where the challenge its often to make the most of the technology and range of materials on hand.

Q: Is it well paid?
A: No, in general, although the picture is very varied within and between countries.  The better qualified you are and the more experience you have, the better paid you will be.  And, of course, as you progress up the career ladder, remuneration generally increases.
Wealthier countries usually pay more for teaching staff but the cost of living is also generally higher.
Countries with long-established English-language teaching cultures are also those with the greatest demands for teachers and pay can be correspondingly competitive.

Q: Is it satisfying?
A: Enormously for many people.  Very little beats the gratification of helping people to express themselves in a foreign language, improve their career prospects, open doors to other cultures and access a truly global language.

Q: Who are the learners?
A: People.  You may find yourself teaching young children, teenagers, university and college students, people in business settings, retired people and anything in between.
All have their particular challenges and rewards.

Q: Is there a career ladder?
A: Yes, although classroom teachers will outnumber academic managers, course writers, publishers and so on by the nature of the profession.
Career opportunities are there for those whose talents and qualifications allow them to make progress but they are generally only open to those who are prepared to enhance their qualifications by taking more advanced courses and who have a varied and interesting teaching background.
In addition to teaching, there are opportunities in teacher training, publishing, materials writing, examining, school management and in other connected fields working within schools, colleges, universities, government departments, industry and commerce.

who me

Is English language teaching for me?

Got a pencil and paper handy?  Take this test and write down your score at the end.
In this test, only your first selection will be scored.  You can click on the other answers to see what feedback you get.  Click here to take the test.

Click here when you have finished the test and recorded your score.