So You Think You Can Teach ESL?

Many students are taking up TESL courses or degree programmes in both private and public universities mainly thinking of securing a good job as an English language teacher or lecturer in the future. However, surprisingly, a majority of the students are not aware of the difference between pursuing a TESL programme and studying an English language programme. Many think they are the same and struggle through the years in university.

So what exactly is TESL?

As obvious as it may seem, some TESL students are still asking this question. TESL (or short for Teaching English as a Second Language) is dealing with the knowledge of how to teach English primarily as a second language. In Malaysia, the English language is considered as a second language though in most cases it’s Malaysian’s third or fourth language. There is a thin line separating TESL (or some consider them the same) from TEFL (as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) as within these domains, essential knowledge on English language teaching is similar. What differentiate TESL is the fact that it is used in a region/country where natural English language immersion situations are apt to be plentiful as in the case of Malaysia.

TESL programme is not merely a platform for learning English

Some students think TESL is a programme to improve their English, especially when they are not proficient users of the language to begin with. Though you will have the opportunity to improve during your course of study, chances are, you will struggle to cope. You’ll notice in the TESL programme, there are a lot of critical writing and reading to be done. If you’re not proficient enough, you might end up doing things like “copying”, “plagiarising” or “cheating”. A good grasp of the language is essential before you decide to take up a TESL programme.

TESL is not about measuring your proficiency in English

Perhaps, your friends would “salute” you when you tell them you’re studying TESL as they thought you must be really excellent in the language in order to study the programme. The truth is, you don’t necessary have to. TESL is not about measuring how good your English is, but it’s a matter of how good your English language teaching skills are.

Teaching ESL itself takes a lot of efforts. Thus, studying TESL requires more than just knowledge about the language. You’ll need to have a huge passion to teach, the passion to make sure your students learn the language.

So, you think you can teach ESL?

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. zoel says:

    Yes, I fully agree.

  2. Dila says:

    I totally agree with you on this. Most of my juniors back in univ said took TESL because they wanna learn English. i wonder why learn at this stage?? they should be taking something else and maybe register for English courses after getting their degrees.

  3. m.a.julaybib says:

    Hi all.
    I have a question.
    What are the differences between M.Ed ELT and M.Ed TESL?

  4. Tracy says:

    I really need helps!!!
    Does anyone here have any idea how to teach speech writing to LOW PROFICIENCY students of Form 2?

  5. zana says:

    Believe me when I say English is a difficult language to teach especially to students who have no love for the language. They are happy using their mother tongue and have no inclination to learn another.
    Just be sure you are passionate about teaching, love children and first and foremost – you love the language! You are the only model they have so make sure you live up to it.

  6. shark... says:

    i totally agree to what have been said in the article above..
    as a future TESL teacher..
    we do need to have a strong passion n wisdom to teach english as it the key ingredient to be a dedicated and good teacher..
    no matter how proficient we are in english,it does not guaranteed us to be a good teacher
    unless the strong passion that lies inside us…

  7. hilmi isa says:

    Respond to Zana,

    Currently I am teaching English to low proficiency students. I do a lot of games in the class. Besides that, my major approach is student-centered, compared to teacher-centered? Guess what…English is the most awaited subject. And I am rated here as the top teacher.

    Change our teaching style and the result will change.

  8. dilemma nak pilih course apa says:

    Found this article while looking up for anything on Masters in TESL. I’m planning to take up either Masters in TESL or Linguistics. Since my english is not good, i am a little discouraged after learning that the course is not for those who want to improve.How about linguistics.what good would this course do.appreciate ur help

  9. schaschumie says:

    I really thought that this course can help me to improve my english so i decided to take up tesl. but unfortunately i only came across this article while i’m busy preparing for my tesl intrview tomorrow.

  10. Many students in Malaysia nowadays, they’ve misunderstood the real meaning of TESL. They simple take up the course because they think that they will get a better future because the job itself is secured by the govt. But remember people, you’ll not feel the satisfaction in yourself if you just take the course as a way to secure a job for you in the future time. You must have the passion to teach, that is the most important aspect if you wanna study TESL and invest in it. Do what you like is more important rather than taking the course just to secure your future.

  11. Zan says:

    hi there, by taking up this TESL , will teaching in schools be my only options? or will i be able to further my studies till phd?

    • TESLMalaysia Admin says:

      Hi Zan,

      No, you can opt for other professions that requires expertise in the English language. These include editor, journalist, copywriter, translator. Of course, you can also teach in other educational institutions apart from schools.

  12. bee says:

    there are many MA courses offered in the Internet for TESL, are they as good to get to be qualified as English lecturer?thanks….bee

  13. rini says:

    i really love learning language. especially english. been looking up for the course recently . so can u pls help me on this matter as i believe others do too..
    1.) what course should i take if i intend to be very proficient in english.
    2) What is the diffrent between TESL and English Literature Course.
    3) What Career Prospect awaits for those who took English Literature .
    Thanks a zillion

  14. kahwin says:

    Same question.. Hi there, by taking up this TESL , will teaching in schools be my only options? or will i be able to further my studies till phd? :(

  15. cc says:

    Very useful article indeed! and I’m thankful that I stumbled upon this. True, one should need passion to teach as well as loving the language itself. I’m thinking of taking this course soon in my Degree. I hope I get it. Do include some tips on the interview for those who wanted to take this course. I REALLY NEED YOUR HELP. This concerns my career path for the future. I sure hope I won’t mess up in the interview.

  16. zackery Musa says:

    I have been teaching English As A Second Language (TESL) for almost 11 years. I have a Diploma in TESL too, I am strongly agree that the passion of teaching the language will really grand you in your career. Therefore, you must love the language first ( English ) then you must really interested to teach. It is really wrong conception of taking TESL in order to improve your English. TESL is actually a designed field for those who are interested to become an English language teacher which English is consider as the second language. Therefore, if you are not interested to teach you could join other careers related to the English Language such as interpreter, journalist,reporter, news caster, public relation officer and others which the English use is in high demand.Finally you do need to have a very good English competency to join this course,,therefore if you are not quite good,yet you still can improve yourself within the years of your studies ..just before you receive your Bachelor of Education (TESL)!!! think about it my brothers and sisters. Bye.

    • esl lecturer says:

      please mind your grammar…
      1. I am strongly agree that the passion of teaching the language will really grand you in your career. must really interested to teach
      3.It is really wrong conception of taking TESL
      4. English language teacher which English is consider as the second language
      5.if you are not interested to teach you could join
      6.very good English competency
      7.therefore if you are not quite good,yet you still can improve

  17. e$s says:

    Dear Esl letcurer,

    Thank you for your replied comment on ” mind your grammar” it was so supportive feedback from you. Therefore as a man, i do admit my own weaknesses in the English language writing. Therefore,can you help me to improve? It is not just for me, but it is important for my career as an English Language teacher too.
    Can you please verify the mistakes? may i know what do you mean by grammar? which specific area ? do you mean the tenses or language structure? please give your respond in order to improve my self.

    Thank you very much.
    Zackery Musa

  18. Ayeshah Syed says:

    Hi. I’m an ELT professional and former journalist, and a researcher in the field, and I just want to add a few comments here.

    Firstly, I agree with what Zackery Musa said in response to an earlier question and a reply from Admin about TESL courses & journalism, etc. (regardless of the grammar in his reply. Don’t worry Zackery, practising is how you improve, and that’s exactly what you’re doing ). TESL/ELT courses are designed to teach you about the science of TEACHING English. While many TESL programmes have English proficiency components, its up to TESL students to work really hard on improving their English. Many subjects in TESL programmes focus on teaching & learning, ie, learner psychology, teaching methods, lesson planning, etc. Therefore, they are not very suitable for someone who wants to get into journalism, advertising (B.Comm, Media & Comm, etc might be better) or translation (Linguistics/Translation etc. would be better).
    Also, to respond to some of the questions I saw earlier, with a TESL qualification, you can do a lot more than just teach in schools. You can also teach in language centres, and perhaps in colleges, but only for Certificate/Diploma programmes. To become a lecturer at university, however, you will need a postgraduate qualification. With a TESL qualification, you can teach English proficiency courses as part of certificate/degree/ etc programmes and if you go for a postgrad. qualification, you can also help train future teachers in TESL programmes.

    There are two main components to being a successful English teacher: your teaching skills and your language skills (Of course, there are other factors, but these are the basic skills you need). Not everyone who is excellent in English can be a great English teacher, and that is what you need a TESL course for. To learn HOW to teach. Not to learn, HOW to speak English.

    • jjaiteng says:

      hello.. wud like to ask.. i have a degree in education of mathematics (primary school).. then am i qualified to apply TESL master degree ? or must i have a degree tesl in the first place?

      please enlighten me. tq

  19. wira says:

    i’m currently teaching English in a primary school and planning to take up masters degree. The issue is that i dunno which would benefit me in the long run; masters in english studies or TESl?

    p/s: i only have bachelor degree in decision science and furthered my study by taking KPLI diploma.

  20. Now I got it.
    No wonder some1 I know who just graduated from local university where she studied TESL spells expectation as aspectation.
    I would like to correct her but I am afraid that it will torn her feeling so I just kept it to myself.

  21. jjaiteng says:

    hello.. wud like to ask.. i have a degree in education of mathematics (primary school).. then am i qualified to apply TESL master degree ? must i have a degree tesl in the first place?


  22. Janna says:

    I’ll attend an interview this Saturday, further study in TESL is a big hope to me as I really love to teach. Perhaps I can help them to start communicate and understang English. Share me some interview tips. Thanks.

  23. Hi there…I have few questions to ask…how long will it take to complete TESL
    Can I teach as a lecturer right after I complete TESL?
    Your help is very much appreciated..thank you :)

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