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Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to November 2014: < 5,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $1051 to $1300 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
Brief Would you be able to teach English to someone from Cambodia using only English? English as a second language (ESL) teachers have the sometimes challenging task of communicating with students who can't speak a word of English.

There are currently around 600 english as a second language teachers employed in South Australia. Most are employed part-time and most work in the education industry. Most persons in this occupation are female and most are employed in the Adelaide metropolitan area. This occupation has an older age profile with around two thirds of those employed aged 45 years or older.

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TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

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For those many people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who end up calling South Australia home, it's an advantage to get their tongues quickly around their new language. English as a second language (ESL or TESOL) teachers teach children and adults from non English speaking backgrounds to speak, read, write and listen to English.

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Education Requirements

To become an ESL teacher requires the completion of a Bachelor of Education in Primary or Secondary education, majoring in ESL (minimum of two fourth year units). Alternatively, you can complete a postgraduate qualification in education or teaching, specialising in ESL.

TAFE SA offers a Certificate IV in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Flinders University offers a Graduate Certificate and a Master of Arts degree in TESOL.

The University of Adelaide offers a Certificate IV in TESOL.

The University of South Australia offers a Master of Education and a Graduate Certificate in Education majoring in TESOL.

Career Path

Opportunities for ESL teachers are largely related to federal government policies on migration and refugees quotas. Employment growth in the medium term is expected to remain steady or fall slightly. ESL teachers work in a range of settings including private and State schools, adult migrant education centres, intensive language centres, TAFE Colleges and universities. Most ESL teachers work in a classroom environment, though some can work in support programs or as trainers in visiting/home tutoring schemes. There is also scope to travel overseas and teach in other countries. Many ESL teachers are qualified primary and secondary school teachers who choose teaching English as a second language as a career specialisation.


Cultural and Recreational Services,  Education


A great sense of humour is the most essential part of teaching English to students from other countries, according to ESL teacher, Lesley Miller. Especially when the Australian vernacular proves a puzzle to those with their L plates of learning. ''I had one student who came in to tell me he had just been to see the principal to tell him he was pissed off about something. I had to gently explain that wasn't the way you said you were angry. Another student came in and said, 'How are you hanging, Mrs Miller?' When I tell them why they shouldn't be using those expressions they can certainly see the funny side afterwards,'' laughs Lesley. At the High School where Lesley works there are a mix of young people from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Somalia, Brazil, Sudan, Eritrea, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. This is definitely a challenge for Lesley, as she must work out the best way to approach her students' radically different learning needs. ''I have one 16 year old student who never had formal schooling in his own country because of a war over there. He's now going through a primary school level of learning. Other children might be more literate in their own language, therefore they can pick up English a lot quicker. ''Lesley loves the cultural mix at and how everyone is so different in the way they adjust culturally and socially to their new country. ''For example, it's interesting to see a child arrive from a little village in Cambodia and watch them see a black African or someone from Poland for the first time. It's like they've just stepped off the moon. ''Over the years Lesley has developed close bonds with all her students. The pastoral side is important in this job, as many of the children are vulnerable. There is so much that happens in the school community that they don't understand and her job is to fill in the 'language gaps'. She also runs a lunchtime social centre for her students where they can play chess, cards, talk and listen to music. ''The centre is somewhere they consider to be theirs. I had one boy burst in and say, 'Ahh. Home, sweet home.' I really like the fact they consider one another family. They also have somewhere to go to dry off their wet clothes in Winter! ''Unlike some areas of teaching, discipline is rarely a problem in this line of teaching. All the students want to learn and many have also come from countries where you never question authority.

Nature of the Job

ESL teachers teach, and assist other teachers to teach, students whose first language is not English to become proficient with the English language. With such a wide range of linguistically diverse students in one classroom, ESL teachers need to conduct all their teaching in English. Using what is referred to as the 'communicative method', teachers usually start with the known and move to the unknown. This could involve starting with simple information such as people's names, addresses, letters of the alphabet, or colours and then progressing to more complex information. Learning is reinforced, using lots of repetition in a supportive, even fun class environment. ESL teachers achieve this by using a wide range of resources - anything from videos, overhead projectors, books, work sheets, current affairs articles and even role play. Depending on the diversity of their students' learning backgrounds, the ESL teacher must identify and tailor programs to suit their students' needs. In school settings, they provide support for students to enter mainstream classes and complete normal schooling.

Typical Physical Working Environment

ESL teachers need to have an understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. They should have an excellent grasp of English-language structure and able to identify the needs of individual students. They also need to have very good communication skills and high-level organisational skills. ESL teachers may also need to work out of school hours.

Typical Occupational Example

Classes are also run which help equip certain members of the non English speaking community with the language needed for their specific requirements. ''Recently, I taught a Language of Childbirth class for young pregnant women. It was great to see the difference it made in their lives, especially when they don't have their own mothers in this country to help them,'' says Vicki Dixon, a Teacher with the Adult Migrant Education Service. Special Teaching Skills Obviously, having sensitivity and empathy with different cultural groups is paramount in this occupation, especially as some people may have come from traumatised backgrounds (civil wars) or be separated from close family members and friends. Being multi lingual may be useful for an ESL teacher, in terms of giving them an understanding of some of the problems and pitfalls of taking up a new language. Most ESL teachers agree that it is important to hold a general teaching qualification if teaching ESL in the schools, and have years of experience working with students, especially at the primary school level. No matter what age the student, everyone usually goes though the same stages of language development. Understanding basic learning processes like letter inversions, or saying 'I brang' would help teachers identify their student's stage of development.

Department for Education and Child Development (SA)
Phone: 1800 088 158

Earning Potential

Salaries are identical to those in the mainstream teaching professions. These start around $38,000 and will increase to $56,000 incrementally over an eight year period.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online