In the world of language programs, there are lots of acronyms and capital letter abbreviations. ESL, or English as a Second Language, is the one you’ve likely heard about, mainly because it’s the endorsement Michigan teachers need if they want to do public school work with English language learners. (ELLs is the shorthand for that, btw.) But UM-Dearborn offers another certificate program called TESOL, short for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. So what’s the difference? TESOL Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor Kyongson Park says that for starters, the TESOL program offers a wider range of applications, it’s open to students from any major, and because it’s all online, you can study from any country in the world.
“The ESL endorsement is really targeted for those who want to be a K-12 teacher in Michigan,” Park says. “But the TESOL program expands your target students globally. Let’s say you want to teach English in the U.S. or outside the country in various educational settings, like a pre-school or adult education setting; or maybe you’re someone who dreams of living abroad for a while; or you are an international student who wants to teach English in your home country. If so, then the TESOL certificate is a pretty exciting credential to have. The ability to teach English for linguistically and culturally diverse students gives you a really marketable skill, especially if you have a TESOL certificate, because it’s recognized internationally.”
UM-Dearborn MA in Education student Erika MacLaren says those perks are part of what drew her to the TESOL program. MacLaren did her undergrad in Spanish language education at UM-Ann Arbor, after which she traveled to Spain on a Fulbright and taught English in an elementary school. After that, she found the demand for teaching English was so strong, she started taking on private students. Now, her full client roster includes a five-year-old boy, a trio of 60-something women and just about everyone in between. The whole experience has left her with a big dream of opening her own language academy in Spain, and she sees TESOL as part of getting there.