General Questions

Do you want to teach English to speakers of other languages?

Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) can be a very satisfying profession. As a teacher you may help refugees overcome great hardship to make new lives in Australia. You may teach migrant children who are eager to learn and whose parents are strongly committed to education. You may assist adult migrants to participate more fully in Australian life through newly acquired English skills. You may teach young adult travellers attending short intensive English courses in Australia and enjoy stimulating cultural exchange with people from many countries. A recognised TESOL qualification can provide a ticket to work throughout the world.

WATESOL receives many enquiries from people who are thinking of undertaking TESOL training and who want to know the best courses for intending ESL (ESOL) teachers to undertake. We hope that the following introduction to the field provides a starting point for your further research. It can be time-consuming to obtain the information you need but detailed, up-to-date information is only available from training, employing and accrediting authorities.

I’m a native English speaker.  Will teaching ESL be easy?

Teaching English to speakers of other languages can be personally rewarding and intellectually stimulating but it cannot be described as “easy”. Contrary to popular belief, it rarely involves teaching ‘one-to-one’. You need to study linguistics in order to analyse language and understand it on many levels. (Linguistics is a subject which many TESOL students find to be quite challenging.) You need to be methodical and well organised so that your students can make steady progress through a planned programme. You also need to be empathetic, warm and spontaneous so that you can add fun into the classroom and capitalise on unplanned learning opportunities which arise. You must maintain enthusiasm while teaching a group of students the same topic many times. (It takes a long time to learn any language and repetition is required for all language learning.) You need be creative so that you can motivate students who are discouraged when they reach a language plateau or when worries from outside the classroom intrude. You are more likely to enjoy this work if you are have good people skills, like meeting people from different cultures and have a genuine interest in learning about and from them.

I speak English well but I’m not a native speaker.  Can I be an ESL teacher?

To undertake TESOL training in Australia you need to demonstrate a high level of competence in English on the IELTS or an equivalent scale. Many non-native speakers with excellent English competence and a good understanding of language teaching and learning have become successful ESOL teachers. However, you need to be aware that in some countries there are employers who have a bias towards native speakers of English.

It sounds interesting but I’m not sure if TESOL is right for me.

To find out more about the TESOL field in Australia, look at some of the websites referred to in this overview. You may be interested to attend some of ATESOL ACT’s workshops and seminars during the year. They will give you a feel for what is involved and you will have the opportunity to meet current ESL teachers.  You may want to become a volunteer ESOL tutor.


ACTA is the national profession body representing teachers of English to speakers of other languages in Australia.  ACTA has initiated and supported the development of a set of STANDARDS FOR TESOL PRACTIONERS in Australia.

The Australian Council of TESOL Associations Inc – the national coordinating body representing all teachers of English to speakers of other languages.
The Adult Migrant English Program is an Australian Government funded programme which provides basic tuition in the English language to help eligible adult migrants and refugees settle successfully in Australia.
Computer Assisted Language Learning
Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (taught by agencies of University of Cambridge ESOL)
Community Language Other Than English
Community Languages
Diploma in English Language Teaching (taught by agencies of University of Cambridge ESOL)
English Australia (EA) is the national peak body and professional association for English language colleges (ELICOS) in Australia.
English as an Additional Language. This term is replacing NESB and LBOTE in some places.
English as an Additional Language or Dialect. This term is used in WA senior secondary schools.
English for Academic Purposes
English as a Foreign Language. Refers to English as taught where English is not a native language. Compare with (ESL or ESOL)
English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students
English for Special Purposes
English as a Second Language (synonymous with ESOL). Refers to English as taught to non-English speakers in a country where it is a native language eg Australia (Compare with EFL).
English to Speakers of Other Languages (This term was introduced after ESL came to be regarded as too limiting because some non-native speakers of English speak more than one other language.)
English for vocational education
The International English Language Testing System measures ability to communicate in English across all four language skills (listening – reading – writing – speaking) for people who intend to study or work where English is the language of communication. Secondary level overseas students who intend to study in Australian institutions must achieve a minimum score in the IELTS exam which varies according to type of institution and course which students intend to attend.
Language Background Other than English
Limited English Proficiency
Language Other Than English
Language Literacy and Numeracy Programme. A Commonwealth funded programme for registered jobseekers. Courses are conducted by AMES and TAFE.
The National English Language Teaching Accreditation Scheme Limited (NEAS) is Australia’s national accreditation scheme for English Language Teaching centres. (It is not involved in accrediting government schools nor independent schools for Australian students.)
Non English Speaking Background
Non-native English speaking teacher
Technical and Further Education
Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Teaching English as a Second Language
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
An international professional association of teachers of ESOL.

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