May 25, 2020

Combining a love of travel and teaching with the Certificate in TESL Linguistics

Kana Wiens came to Simon Fraser University (SFU) knowing that she wanted to be a teacher, but not what she wanted to teach. Now set to graduate with a Major in French and Extended Minor in Linguistics, Wiens is certain of her plan to become a language instructor in part thanks to the Certificate of TESL Linguistics.

Wiens began her undergraduate studies at SFU in the Faculty of Science. After a few years, she realized that although she liked the subject matter, studying science was not her passion. At the time, Wiens was enjoying her part-time job providing English tutoring to international students and decided to look into Linguistics. Although she was not sure what to expect initially, Wiens found a field that combined her interests in both science and languages.

After reigniting her enthusiasm for school, Wiens began to consider a career in English teaching. Before applying for the Certificate in TESL Linguistics, she decided to put her interest in teaching and love of travel together and participated in the Teaching Assistance Program in France. Spending her third year of studies in rural France, Wiens found that she gained more confidence as a teacher. “The experience definitely confirmed that pursuing TESL and the Certificate Program was a good decision,” says Wiens, “I applied for the certificate when I got back.”

The highlight of the Certificate in TESL Linguistics for Wiens was also the biggest challenge – the practicum. Putting together all of the theoretical knowledge she had learned in the courses leading up to the practicum felt daunting at first, but Wiens found it to be a great opportunity to learn and practice.

Wiens completed her 30-hour practicum at S.U.C.C.E.S.S. where she worked with a class of beginner English learners. “My biggest challenge was the language barrier,” says Wiens, “I was teaching complete beginners.” Despite her initial concern, Wiens quickly picked up the skills she needed to teach her own lessons comfortably. During her time at S.U.C.C.E.S.S., she learned how to communicate slowly and clearly, plan engaging activities, and be patient. “The theoretical knowledge from the courses helped a lot with understanding the challenges second-language learners face, and the best ways to optimize their learning outcomes,” says Wiens.

Now that her practicum is over and she is ready to graduate, Wiens has exciting plans for what her future in TESL will look like. In September, she will be heading to Japan to teach English as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. In addition to getting to travel and teach, part of the motivation Wiens had for applying to the JET Programme was that she would get to participate in an exchange of cultures. She would get to share her experience with Canadian culture and learn more about Japanese culture at the same time. “I believe that by learning more about other cultures and languages, I will grow more as a language teacher and grow more empathetic towards students,” says Wiens.

When asked what advice she has for students thinking about applying for the Certificate in TESL Linguistics, Wiens says, “Go for it!” While she was initially intimidated by the practicum, Wiens found that the courses and instructors at SFU played a big part in helping her prepare. “You can learn valuable skills that you would use in any career,” says Wiens “like public speaking, time-management, and a greater understanding towards other cultures.”

Applications for the Summer intake of the Certificate in TESL Linguistics are being accepted up to and including Monday June 1. More information can be found here.


This certificate program introduces undergraduate students to foundational topics in English grammar, second language acquisition, and classroom practices.

Applications for the Summer 2020 CTESL intake are open up to and including Monday, June 1.

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