How to Teach English as a Second Language

The number of students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) is drastically increasing — making this a great time for teachers to learn how to teach English as a second language!

These students can be found in all fifty states and now make up the fastest-growing student population within the country. Also sometimes referred to as ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages), these students typically speak a foreign language at home and may only be exposed to English in the classroom setting. Unfortunately, U.S. schools are failing to provide proper education to these students. With more English as a second language (ESL) teachers and more efficient instruction, these students can have a better chance of success without a language barrier getting in the way.

What is the Difference Between ESL and ESOL?

Difference between ESL and ESOL

The acronyms ESL and ESOL are often used interchangeably. While they have similar meaning, there is a slight difference between the two.

ESL is the most commonly referred to acronym and describes students who are learning English as a second language in a country where English is the dominant language. This often includes students who have recently moved to the United States from other countries. Because they find themselves in a community dominated by the English language, it is important these students learn to comprehend and communicate English.

ESOL stands for English to Speakers of Other Languages. This acronym was formed because individuals may learn to speak English while in a country other than the United States. EFL (English as a Foreign Language) is often used to refer to these individuals. Because individuals outside of the United States could be learning English as a third or fourth language, ESOL becomes the preferred term in place of ESL. Otherwise, there is no difference between the two.

The K-12 academic setting commonly uses the acronym English Language Learners (ELLs), but some school districts may interchange this with one of the other available acronyms.  


Get English as a Second Language Degree

Many teachers interested in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) will return to school for a graduate degree that focuses on the skills needed to teach students who are learning English as a second language. This Master of Science in Education Degree (MSED) typically include courses related to linguistics and curriculum/instructional methods. It is also common for these programs to be designed for completion in less than two years!

After receiving an English as a second language degree, teachers are prepared to pass the PRAXIS II English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) examination and add the ESOL endorsement to their license.

Get English as Second Language Certification

Individuals who are interested in ESOL Licensure Endorsement only (rather than an added degree), can enroll in a shorter program. These programs typically consist of 15 hours, compared to the 30-hour graduate degree. This certification is designed to prepare teachers to meet their state’s standards for endorsement as an ESOL teacher.

Individuals must have an undergraduate or graduate degree and a current teaching license to enroll.

The increased number of students who need ESL teachers makes it a great time for individuals to consider adding an ESL degree or certification to their resume. While there are countless opportunities to teach within the United States, experience with teaching English as a second language also allows teachers the opportunity to grow their career in another country. During the course of teaching English to students across the world, these teachers get to travel and become introduced to new people and cultures.

No matter where one is located in the world, teaching English as a second language is a useful skill to have!