Foreign Language Education
In today’s multicultural climate, if you are fluent in a second language and are interested in a career in education, consider becoming a foreign language teacher. Foreign language teachers do more than simply give their students access to a more comfortable tourist experience or the ability to read texts in their original language. Today’s foreign language teachers introduce whole new worlds and world views to their students, allowing them to bridge the cultural and communication divides both around the globe and in our own country. While just a generation ago, most foreign language teachers were teaching French, Spanish and German, now many classrooms are learning Chinese, Japanese and American Sign Language. It’s never been more relevant to our times than right now to be a foreign language teacher.
To become a language teacher in the US, you must be fluent in both English and your focus language, and steeped in the culture and history of the countries where your focus language is spoken. You’ll need in-depth linguistic knowledge, as well as cultural and historical perspective. As an elementary or secondary school foreign language teacher, you’ll develop and prepare lesson plans using special language materials, you’ll grade and correct work from in-class and homework, you’ll host special activities, develop displays, and possibly even sponsor events tied to your focus language. You’ll also meet with parents and students for progress reports, and attend administrative meetings, as needed.
A foreign language teacher who has a bachelor’s degree in his or her focus language may teach in the elementary or middle school classroom, or in a high school setting – working for each class period in a different room with a new group, or in a dedicated space. Or, you may work in a language immersion program in either a private or public school setting, teaching all curriculums in your students’ second language. You may teach at the college or university level if you have also obtained a master’s degree, and you may also need a doctorate degree. Many foreign language teachers work on a double major, one in their language and one in education, to shorten the time it would take to complete all of necessary education requirements. To teach a foreign language, whether for elementary, middle or high school, you’ll also need to complete all teacher certification requirements, including teacher training, successful completion of an accredited degree program, supervised classroom experience, and the passing of qualifying exams such as the Praxis. You will also likely need to pass an examination in your focus language. If you are planning to teach in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia , you will be required to take The National Teachers Examination. In the remaining states, you will be required to pass a state-specific exam.
Foreign language teachers have reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics that, as of 2009, their median income was $50,000 at the elementary and secondary school level, but anecdotal reporting suggests this amount is lower than many educators experience, as fully fluent, certified second-language teachers are increasingly in demand.