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?