Australian students can help international students by joining an English Conversation Club on or off campus. Such groups provide newly arrived students with a safe and friendly environment and an opportunity to practice speaking and listening to English. For many this may be the only chance they get to meet Aussies outside of formal English classes. For volunteers, such service can lead to some very special friendships from enthusiastic and grateful young people from around the globe. The one hour Convo club time can lead into other social times – BBQs, game nights, and outings around town, to church, or further afield. This was my experience as a Students for Christ staffworker at the University of Queensland. Over the past 17 years it has brought me into close contact with people from over 40 nations many of whom I maintain contact and brotherly relations with long after I first taught them. Read on and find out more.
Entry Level Qualifications
The next level beyond volunteer conversation partner is to do a basic TESOL qualification. By TESOL we mean Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Among the many ways to do this is to do a Certificate IV in TESOL offered by organisations, businesses and schools all over Australia in class or online, full time or part time. They will usually involve input on theory or other practical instruction, and sessions involving lesson planning and observed teaching practice. A similar but more recognised course is the Cambridge CELTA offered by a limited number of institutions and carefully monitored for quality. It is available as a 4 week intensive course or as a part-time course but either way the expectations are high. As with the Cert IV, it involves regular practice teaching and this is where the intensity comes – planning and preparing lessons for which you will be critiqued. I chose the 4 week intensive CELTA, finishing on the Friday and leaving Australia for Hong Kong on the Saturday, with an urgent need to find work.
Employment in TESOL is easier overseas than in Australia when you have a qualification but not experience. Many countries have a dearth of native English speakers and are keen to employ good people to offer conversation practice to the students of their schools, universities and even their workers. Pay rates differ greatly between nations and according to qualifications and experience. There are plenty of opportunities offered online. Once in Hong Kong, I was able to get tutoring work with individuals, and then a break with the British Council teaching Business English, followed by a chaplaincy position in an international school. Later I found English teaching work in community colleges in the New Territories. The qualification opened the door to experience allowing me close contact with people needing both English teaching and the ministry of Christ. It also allowed me to accumulate teaching hours – a necessary precursor to getting an English teaching job in Australia, but that was easier said than done.
Finding Work in Australia
To be employed as a teacher of English in an Australian international college, teachers are usually required to have at least 800 hours of teaching experience – that’s about a year of full time experience before we can teach in an Australian classroom. An overseas teaching experience is a real asset to your job hunting. There are numerous schools in each city and you may have to contact many of them before you get an interview. It is even better if you know someone already employed in a school. This can be the result of connections from when you did your TESOL course, or from volunteering as a conversation partner.
Early TESOL Opportunities
What kind of work is offered to newcomers? What will you be doing? In my case, I started teaching 2-4 week study tours made up of university groups from Japan. These programs involve facilitating a lot of fun activities which provide learners basic vocabulary and grammar structures on topics relevant to their stay in Australia or to general day to day topics. You might progress on from this to some general English programs of maybe 5-10 weeks in duration. These are usually pitched at a definite level – Beginner, Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, Intermediate, or Upper-Intermediate. Class may focus on integrating various skills, or may be specifically directed to developing an individual skill such as Listening, Speaking, Reading, or Writing. It may be a Grammar class or have a Vocabulary focus. You will develop your skills for this by becoming familiar with the textbooks and inhouse materials, by testing out different ideas you get, through conferences and professional development sessions, and by asking students what they like doing. To advance in your career, though, you may have to do further study.
Many universities offer Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma and Masters programs in Education (TESOL) or in Applied Linguistics. This may be the prerequisite to getting a full time position and would certainly be an advantage if you were wanting to teach on English for Academic Preparation courses. Such a course allows you to get a deeper understanding of the background theories about Second Language Acquisition or Cultural Aspects of Language. Some courses will be highly practical such as Teaching Methodology or Course Design. There will likely also be a range of electives. You could go on to do a Research Masters or even a PhD although these are not needed for most Australian teaching situations. These may open doors to lecturing positions overseas for those wanting an academic career.
Advantages of Teaching English
What I most like about having a career in TESOL is that I am continually interacting with students from all over the world. As their teacher, I am able to help them reach their goals and to do so in a context which allows for very natural interaction. I am continually learning from them as well – about their countries, their families, their challenges, and even about their religions. Similarly, I have found that students are usually very keen to visit my church and, whilst there is never any pressure for conversion, some have found themselves feeling totally at home at church and have made a decision to follow Jesus.
Certificate IV in TESOL – Language Training Institute http://www.lti.edu.au/
Certificate IV in Teaching Conversational English – Intercultural Training Institute http://www.interculturaltraining.com.au/
Cambridge CELTA – Institute of Continuing and TESOL Education – www.icte.uq.edu.au
Master of Applied Linguistics – University of Queensland – www.uq.edu.au
Long list of courses Australia wide: http://www.eslbase.com/courses/australia/
Dave’s ESL Cafe: http://www.eslcafe.com/joblist/
ESL Employment: http://www.eslemployment.com/
Various Australian language schools
Study in Australia – http://www.studyinaustralia.gov.au/en/Courses/English-Courses
NEAS accredited English language schools: http://www.neas.org.au/approvedcentres/index.php