Courses for Teaching English As a Second Language

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) requires a strong grasp of English grammar and syntax, as well as linguistics. Students become certified teachers with a focus on teaching English to non-native speakers. Read on to learn about available programs and classes in teaching English as a second language.

Essential Information

Programs in teaching ESL include research and education methods in addition to historical and literary analyses of English. These programs can award certificates, undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees. State guidelines for teacher certification and an individual's existing level of education dictate the level of training necessary to teach in this field.

A bachelor's degree in education is required for teacher certification. Graduate certificates can be enough for students who have a bachelor's degree in another field who want to teach ESL. Master's degree programs prepare students to develop adult education programs in addition to teaching in them. Programs may include a student teaching experience.

List of Courses

The courses listed below include those commonly found in programs focused on teaching English as a second language.

Teaching English as a Second Language

In this overview course, students have the opportunity to observe ESL classes, create practice lessons and evaluate commonly used texts for teaching English as a second language. Teaching techniques for reading, writing, speaking and diagnosing language skills are also covered. This course is typically taken at the beginning of a sequence for teaching English as a second language and used as a foundation for subsequent classes.

Language Acquisition

Students critically analyze the components of language transfer and acquisition. An emphasis is placed on the psychological and sociological aspects of second language acquisition (SLA) that may hinder or bolster language transfer. After observing and comparing various theories and research, students often investigate and present their own language acquisition projects or findings. The goal of overcoming language acquisition barriers is paramount in this course.


Word formations, sentence structures and syntax are a few of the subjects covered in this course. Students learn the linguistic construction of the English language while exploring phonetics, language classification and semantics. An application of linguistic principles to language acquisition and research methods is also covered. This course is often divided into introductory and advanced classes that are taken twice or more throughout the curriculum.


Sociolinguistics studies examine how environments impact language, the history behind various dialects and the phenomenon of code-switching (intermixing languages in dialogue). Students are introduced to the historical, cultural and legal issues that influence language in minority and multiethnic schools, households and communities as well as issues that arise in bilingual education programs. This course is often taken toward the middle or end of a program for teaching English as a second language.

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