Teaching foreign languages can be a challenging career path, but one that can also be fun and very rewarding. As our world moves increasingly towards globalization, multilingual people will have a much greater chance for a productive and successful life. That makes teachers of foreign languages very important, and it’s likely that their importance will only increase as time goes on.
Already, many other countries require their students to become fluent in languages other than their native one, and it may not be long before U.S. educational standards take the same approach. Learn about what a foreign language teacher does, how to get the skills and knowledge to enter the field, and the requirements for teaching licensure.
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What Is a Foreign Language Teacher?
A foreign language teacher has a different, more focused role than teachers in other subjects, even focused ones like math and history. Their goal is simply to help students obtain literacy and conversational fluency in a specific other language. In a world where cross-cultural education is so important, languages are an important starting point.
As such, the language teacher doesn’t only teach reading, writing, syntax, grammar and vocabulary in other languages, they are also advocates for foreign cultures. They also might teach several different levels of language at the same time. One period they might teach an introductory class, followed by an intermediate class later that day, and still another period might be an advanced class.
What Skills Does a Language Teacher Need?
Like any teacher, a language instructor needs to be organized and excel at planning and communications. They need to be aware of the best practices for teaching in general, as well as in the various approaches to language teaching. Every student learns differently, so teachers in this area may need to apply different strategies to individual students.
Language teachers must have an outstanding fluency in reading, writing and speaking the language they’re teaching. They must know the rules of the language, including syntax, sentence structure, grammar and punctuation. They should even be aware of different dialects of language and specific accents and pronunciations. Mexican Spanish, for example, is different than European Spanish.
It’s also important for teachers to be able to assess student goals and progress and adapt teaching strategies as necessary. Interpersonal and collaborative skills are essential for working with school staff, other educators and in meeting with parents to address issues. These are only a few of the skills necessary to teach a foreign language.
How to Become a Foreign Language Teacher
There are several paths to teaching a foreign language. Those who have native fluency can often find an expedited path into this career—someone who is a native of France, for example, will have an easier time teaching French than someone who learned it as a second language, as a general rule.
However, most states will require at least a master’s degree in education or teaching as well as courses that demonstrate fluency in the language. You’ll also need teaching experience and to acquire your state and federal background clearances, and build up student teaching experience before you can apply for licensure.
Check out the requirements to become a foreign language teacher in your state and learn how you can get started on this fun and rewarding career.