Frequently Asked Questions
[Who is my English teacher?]
[What is a TEFL Certificate?]
[What is the 'teaching practice component' of a TEFL certificate course?]
[How can teachers who don't speak Russian teach '0' level students to speak English?]
[What is TEFL Methodology?]
[What are the advantages of having a native English teacher?]
[Why do teachers use audiocassettes in class?]
[Which English course is right for me?]
[How often and for how long should I study English?]
Who is my English teacher?
All Language Link teachers are native English speaking, university graduates and hold a special internationally recognized certificate/ diploma in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language. Most readers are familiar with the type of training and education that a Russian, English teacher receives. Less familiar is the training received by native English teachers. As with everything else, this can vary greatly. Worldwide, approximately 67% of all native English teachers are without qualifications. In Russia, the situation is no different. Of the remaining 33%, the vast majority possess either a Certificate in TESOL validated by Trinity College, London or a Certificate in CELTA validated by the University of Cambridge (previously known as CTEFLA). The British Council considers these certificates to be a minimum requirement for those wishing to teach English to speakers of other languages. No other certificate is recognized by the British Council.
What is a TEFL Certificate?
A TEFL Certificate is a specialized certificate given to those who have completed a prescribed course of study in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language. Graduates of such programmes have studied a range of teaching-related subjects such as phonetics, grammar, morphology, and methodological studies. The heart of a TEFL programme, however, remains the 'teaching practice component' wherein a teacher has ample opportunity to practice those techniques and strategies used to enhance a student's ability to learn English.
What is the 'teaching practice component' of a TEFL certificate course?
The 'teaching practice component' is considered the most essential part of a TEFL Certification Programme. Indeed, the importance of it is realized when it is understood that a prospective TEFL teacher begins teaching English to foreigners on the second day of the course. Though new to teaching English as a foreign language, the teacher must confront an authentic, multi-lingual class of language learners. This serves several purposes. First, it allows the teacher the opportunity to experience first-hand the difficulties involved in teaching a class of language learners whose native language is not English. As the class is multi-national, the teacher must 'struggle' to make him or herself understood. At first, this is extremely difficult. Unable to speak their language, the teacher must rely upon various techniques which have been proven effective in helping students to understand English even though they may never have heard it before. Many of these techniques involve physical demonstration, placing language into context and repetition. In other words, EFL teachers are 'actors'; they don't just speak to the class, they 'act out' the words so that comprehension is made easier.
How can teachers who don't speak Russian teach '0' level students to speak English?
This question is more easily understood if we consider the way in which babies are taught to speak. Babies are not born speaking the language native to their parents. Regardless, children eventually learn to speak. This is so because, with the help of parents who constantly repeat a given piece of language and who 'act out' its meaning, the child eventually acquires understanding and competence in using the 'new language'. Similarly, parents, without thinking about it, become masters at learning how to place language into context. Intuitively, they understand that words do not exist in vacuums. The adult language learner has an advantage over the child, however. Being mature, she or he is aware that the goal of the teacher's 'acting' is to demonstrate the language that the student is to learn. Likewise, the student is already capable of imitating sounds and speaking which the child must spend months, if not years, attempting to do. Thus, by the end of a TEFL Certification Programme, the EFL teacher has not only used those techniques described above, but has refined his or her ability to effectively use them, creating a confident, effective and well trained Teacher of English as a Foreign Language.
What is TEFL Methodology?
TEFL methodology represents, not one, but a number of different techniques and strategies used to enhance a student's ability to learn English. It is a dynamic process involving both the teacher and the students, either as a class or individually. Language Link students learn English because they take an active part in this process. As such, our students don't just sit at desks, they interact with their teacher and other students through the use of role play, pair or group work, music, drama, conversation and other types of communication games and activities. Because TEFL methodology involves so many different techniques, a teacher MUST be taught them. It is for this reason that all Language Link teachers possess either a TESOL or CELTA qualification.
What are the advantages of having a native English teacher?
Regardless of the language being taught, there can be no denying that the best teachers are usually those who both understand the intricacies of that language and are capable of competent performance in its use. Given these requirements, it can come as no surprise that the best teachers are usually those who speak that language as their mother tongue. With regard to English consider the following: native teachers have been speaking English ever since their earliest age. They have acquired the ability to properly pronounce words, phrases and sentences using the proper accent, stress and intonation to convey correct meaning to those words uttered. As important, they have learned appropriacy, which is culturally determined. Native teachers know how and when to use the various formal and informal forms of English, called 'register', in different situations so as to say and accomplish the same thing. In other words, native teachers have 'acquired' the inherent ability to use just the right word or grammatical structure in just the right situation. Likewise, native English teachers are born into the culture represented by the language being taught. As such, they bring to class a special ambience which is best described as portraying 'living language'. And this quality, above all others, is the property and domain of the native teacher.
Why do teachers use audiocassettes in class?
One of the techniques associated with TEFL methodology is the use of audiocassettes in class. Even though the teacher is native English, it must be realized that he or she speaks using only one variety of English. Often referred to as the teacher's accent, it can come in many forms depending upon the teacher's place of birth. Thus, there are American accents, British accents, Irish accents, Canadian accents, Australian accents and so on. Were the class only to listen to their teacher, then their 'ear' would become both sensitive and tuned to only one particular accent, making it difficult for them to understand the other varieties of English. By using audiocassettes, the student is afforded the opportunity of both hearing and learning to understand the various other forms of English as they are spoken in the world today.
Which English course is right for me?
Studying English is little bit like buying a new car. Just as there are different makes and models of cars each coming with a different set of options, so too, are there different types of English courses. Likewise, just as cars or English courses can be different so too, are the people who want or need to learn English. In fact, one of the major difficulties involved in wanting to study English is to decide just which course is best for YOU. Perhaps the most appropriate place to begin is by asking yourself what type of English do you need to learn. English can take two forms. Either one chooses to study General English or English for Specific Purposes, also known as ESP. This latter category actually represents three different classes of English. The first, English for Occupational Purposes, places strong emphasis upon the vocabulary and grammatical structures associated with a particular occupation such as business, banking, finance, tourism, hostelry, etc. The second, English for Science and Technology, stresses the type of English that one might need in order to understand scientific and technical literature. The last, English for Academic Purposes, places its emphasis upon the type of English that one would need to know in order to succeed at an academic institution where the language of instruction is English. Should it not be obvious, each variety emphasizes one or more of the various language skills, these being speaking, listening comprehension, reading and/ or writing. The reader should note that an ESP course is only recommended for students who already have a pre-intermediate to intermediate level of English. One should be capable of general communication prior to attempting an ESP course. In other words, ESP courses build upon the English knowledge acquired during a General English Course.
How often and for how long should I study English?
Based upon experience, we at Language Link are aware that most people need General English more than they do English for Specific Purposes. In other words, most people who wish to study English could generally profit from a course designed to develop a combination of the four language skills, these being speaking, listening comprehension, reading and writing. Such courses are generally long-term with near-native fluency acquired after about 600 hours of study. Depending upon your present level of English and your particular time constraints, such courses can last from a few months to several years. Obviously, the higher your level and the greater the amount of time that you can devote to your English studies, the faster you will progress. Language courses which offer ten or more hours of tuition a week are generally considered to be intensive English courses. When such courses last two to three months, the student has ample opportunity to develop all four of the language skills listed above. In comparison, Intensive English Courses which last a month or less are usually designed so as to emphasize only the speaking and listening skills. Such 'short' courses, however, are for people who need to be 'up and speaking' in the shortest possible period of time; in other words, someone who has a deadline to meet. Essentially, short, Intensive English Courses attempt to target a limited amount of vocabulary and a few grammatical structures which, it is hoped, the student can either learn or learn to use within the time constraints imposed by the length of the course. These, it is hoped, will suffice the student to accomplish the purpose for which s/he needed English.