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TEACHING ENGLISH Also the teaching of English and English teaching. General, non-technical terms for the work of teachers of ENGLISH, whether with children, adolescents, or adults, and whether as a first, second, foreign, or additional language. However organized, whatever the aim, and whatever the methods used, such teaching currently proceeds on a scale well beyond that of any other language past or present, and approached only (in a more restricted geographical area) by Putonghua in the People's Republic of China. In LANGUAGE TEACHING and APPLIED LINGUISTICS, and increasingly in EDUCATION generally, the teaching of English is divided into five categories, each with its own tradition, terminology, perspective, theory, practice, publications, organizations, and conferences. They are:

1. Teaching English as a Native Language.

Also Teaching English as a Mother Tongue and Teaching English as a First Language. In the English-speaking world, the teaching of children, adolescents, and adults in institutions of primary (elementary), secondary, and tertiary (higher) education, and of adults in continuing education, including literacy programmes. English is often used as a shorthand (but sometimes ambiguous) term for the teaching and study of both language and literature, being understood as meaning mainly language at the primary level, both at the secondary level, and at the tertiary level literature (perhaps with traditional philology), language (usually the modern language), or sometimes both. In recent years, however, there has been a tendency in secondary schools, universities, and other institutions to reduce the possibility of ambiguity by distinguishing ‘English Language’ and ‘English Literature’ clearly as the names of the courses, the subjects of degrees, and subjects for examination. The term ENL countries (‘ee-en-ell’: English as a Native Language) refers to those territories in which English is the first, and for many the only significant, language, such as Australia, anglophone Canada, Britain, the Irish Republic, New Zealand, and the US.

2. Teaching English as a Second Language.

Short form TESL (‘tessle’). (1) The teaching of English in countries where the language is not a mother tongue but has long been part of the fabric of society, usually for imperial and colonial reasons in the relatively recent past, either as a lingua franca or a medium of education, or both. The term ESL countries (‘ee-ess-ell’) refers to those territories in which English has a statutory role such as (co-)official language or medium of education, but is not generally used in the home, such as India, Nigeria, and Singapore. (2) The teaching of non-English-speaking immigrants to ENL countries. The comparable term TESOL (‘teesol’: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), originally used in North America primarily for the teaching of immigrants, is now used worldwide in both senses. See TESOL.

3. Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Short form TEFL (‘teffle’). (1) The teaching of English in countries where it is of interest and/or importance but is not or has not been until recently a local medium of communication or instruction, such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden. In the late 20c, the term EFL countries (‘ee-eff-ell’) refers in effect to the rest of the world. (2) Providing courses in ENL countries for visiting students from EFL countries. Another term used principally for this category, especially in Britain, is English language teaching or, more commonly, ELT (‘ee-ell-tee’).

4. Teaching English as an International Language.

Short form TEIL (‘teel’, ‘tee-ee-eye-ell’). Teaching English as a global lingua franca, making people aware in the process of the worldwide role of the language and the problems that derive from or are related to that role. EIL (‘ee-eye-ell’) embraces all countries, learners, and users (ENL, ESL, and EFL), its proponents arguing that native users of English need as much consciousness-raising with regard to an adequate international use of the language as those who learn it as a second or foreign language. They also argue that the more English becomes institutionalized as the world's main medium of international expression the more native and non-native users will need to learn to acclimatize to each other's ways of using it.

5. Teaching English as a Second Dialect.

Short form TESD (‘tezd’, ‘tee-ee-ess-dee’). Teaching the standard language to speakers of non-standard varieties of English, such as a dialect (Scouse in the UK, Appalachian in the US) or a creole (Nation Language in Jamaica or any Caribbean Creole in the UK). Here, the term English is restricted to a use traditionally given to it (usually implicitly) by many educationists and grammarians: the language of professional and business people educated to college level or its equivalent and of the major media: that is, the standard language, dialect, or variety. Both term and abbreviation have been modelled on the labels of the preceding three categories. To make their standpoint clear, however, some proponents of TESD use the term Standard English as a Second Dialect (short form SESD) to present standard English as one dialect among many, and not as a specially prestigious entity in its own right.

Mother-tongue English teaching

In all ENL countries, the educational profession in general and a significant part of the interested public regard good English teaching (whatever ‘good’ is taken to mean) as fundamental to all schooling at all levels, and as an essential underpinning for students' later lives. Despite the often acrimonious debate that follows from close concern for the language and how it is taught, it is widely accepted that the roles of the people teaching English are so different at the three educational levels that in fact there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ teacher of English for all seasons:(1) In primary schools, because of the nature of the work, most teachers teach English along with everything else that the children learn. Such teachers are not so much English specialists as educational generalists who integrate the key elements of elementary English teaching (such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing) into the whole fabric of the child's experience at school.(2) In secondary schools, again because of the nature of the work, most teachers are (at least ideally) specialists in different subjects or groups of subjects. However, while English specialists have an obviously central role, the others are also in a serious sense teachers of English (whether they wish to see themselves in that light or not), because the language is the medium through which they work. When for example science teachers introduce new terms, indicate how the notes of an experiment should be kept, or discuss relevant texts, they are providing instruction in the register of scientific and technical English, something that is not usually the concern of the English specialist.(3) In tertiary institutions, teachers are not only (at least ideally) ‘general’ specialists in ‘English’, but also teachers and researchers in sub-specialities of their own, such as the Victorian novel, Creole Studies, Media Studies, or aspects of grammatical or literary theory. As a result, the precise nature of a degree course in English often rests not only on an understanding among the teachers and administrators of what must or should be covered as a foundation, but also on a supplement of courses arising from the special interests and inclinations of the staff available at any time a department.

The secondary-school teacher of English

Although it is relatively easy to specify what is going on at the primary and tertiary stages, it is difficult to be clear about the precise nature and aims of the work done in the middle years. As a result, the secondary level tends to receive more critical attention from the public than the others. The two professional comments that follow, on the nature of the teacher's work at this level, demonstrate the burden that English-speaking societies have long placed on the secondary specialist. The first quotation is from the US in 1965, the second from the UK in 1991, both periods of vigorous and controversial debate:
The United States, 1965. Like any other professional person, the professional English teacher is one who has been trained or has trained himself, to do competent work. For him professional competence should mean, at the minimum: a college major in English or a strong minor, preparation sufficient to qualify him to begin graduate study in English; systematic postcollegiate study, carried on privately or in a graduate school; a reading command of at least one foreign language, ancient or modern; a deep interest in literature, old and new, and a solid set of critical skills; the ability to write well and the habit of writing, whether for publication or not; a knowledge of the development of the English language and familiarity with recent work in linguistics; a desire not simply to know but to impart knowledge; skill in the handling of instructional problems and knowledge of the research concerning them; an unflagging interest in the processes by which the young learn to use language effectively and richly (from Freedom and Discipline in English, the Report of the Commission on English, chaired by Harold C. Martin of Harvard University, College Entrance Examination Board, New York, 1965).
The United Kingdom, 1991. English teachers are asked to cover a wide spectrum. In addition to the fundamentals of reading, writing, listening, speaking and spelling required by the National Curriculum [for England and Wales, 1987 onward], they usually teach drama and media studies and are expected to show greater interest in the whole child than many other subject specialists. Most children probably write more prose, and certainly compose more poetry in school than many of their parents. Hence the joke: ‘Don't look out of the window or she'll make you write a poem about it.’ Both science and English are important subjects in the curriculum, but if something goes amiss in adult life, then it is more likely that blame will be attached to English teachers than to science teachers. In the Sixties, Andrew Wilkinson drew attention to this wide role when he described several models of English teaching, ranging from ‘proof reader’, which involved meticulous correction of every spelling and punctuation error, to ‘Grendel's mother, guardian of the word-hoard’, the person with the awesome responsibility of keeping alive and enhancing the nation's cultural heritage. Fortunately, English teachers are among the best qualified academically to undertake such an assignment. Analysis of graduate recruits to teaching shows that English, history and modern languages entrants have more firsts and upper seconds than in any other subject (from ‘Peace in the Civil English War’, Schools Report, Observer, 22 Sept. 1991, by Ted Wragg, head of the School of Education, Exeter University, England).

Society and the teacher

In the last analysis, however, all teachers involved in English, primary or secondary, are regarded as responsible for the quality of the language skills of young people when they leave school. If employers and politicians, among others, complain (rightly or wrongly) about falling standards, the spotlight is turned on these teachers and their trainers, and on the theories that underpin their practices. It often seems to the professional English teacher that in public discussions of English teaching everyone has a view of how things should be done, where there might be caution in the expression of opinions about the teaching of mathematics or science, or about the work of lawyers and doctors. In public debate, there is often an elemental polarization: between conservatives who consider that changes in ways of teaching grammar and spelling (among other things) are symptomatic of a more general social decay, and radicals who consider that progress will never be made until the outdated methods favoured by the conservatives are utterly uprooted. As is often the case in other areas, most teachers are located at neither end of the spectrum, but are somewhere in the middle, where efforts can be made to unite, as judiciously as possible, the most effective aspects of the old and the new.