Teaching English to speakers of other languages

Both native and non-native English speakers can explore the opportunities in TESOL in the UK

Programmes with Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in their title draw upon a number of well-known disciplines, including applied linguistics, education, linguistics and psychology. In the UK, such programmes may welcome students with interests in English as a Foreign or Second Language, or English for Academic or Specific Purposes, or English as an Additional Language and English for Speakers of Other Languages. The specialist interest is embedded in the theory and practice of TESOL in its broadest sense, offering many advantages in terms of each student’s personal interest and future employability.

Many programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels are designed to interweave three strands of learning; the English language itself, the researched theory underpinning good language teaching and practical classroom teaching. In some cases, TESOL is embedded in a wider programme, for example the BA Education (TESOL) at the University of Leeds for teachers in the Sultanate of Oman. Elsewhere it is a full single honours programme, for example at the University of Portsmouth. At the University of Sunderland it is one subject of 30 within the Combined Subjects Programme, combined with any one of the other subjects, with TESOL+ English (Literature) or TESOL+ a Modern Foreign Language as popular options. At postgraduate level there are more specialist programmes such as a PGCE ESOL for Lifelong Learning at the Institute of Education in London, and the MA TESOL taught on campus or online at the University of Sunderland.

TESOL requires students to understand and use the English language very well, and to understand the psychology of language learning and issues such as the relationship between language learning and intercultural competence. Students are also required to use this learning to critically evaluate a range of TESOL methodologies to create a positive learning environment for the people they would like to teach. Hot topics at the moment include the debate about native speaker/non-native speakers and what is the standard for the English we want to teach; a national variety or English as an international language or as a Lingua Franca? And how can we best exploit the different technological resources available to language learners in many contexts?

TESOL programmes in the UK are equally relevant to people who use English as one of several languages and people who use English as their first language, mature students with or without some teaching experience or young adults. A group which includes a rich mixture of students is a great place to learn. From a breadth of interest grows the in-depth investigation of specific TESOL related issues chosen by each student, from which we can all learn.

TESOL is a subject worth exploring further as it offers the potential for an interesting and varied career in many countries of the world and with the range of provision available in UK universities there’s a choice of programmes from which to choose.

Dr Felicity Breet
Associate Dean
Faculty of Education and Society
University of Sunderland (UK)