May 12, 2020

Certificate in TESL Linguistics Inspires Student's Career Path

After transferring to SFU from Capilano University as a History major, Morgan Applewood found his love of Linguistics almost by accident. Now finishing up a linguistics major, Applewood has big plans for teaching English as a second language (TESL) after graduation.

Applewood started in Linguistics by taking Linguistics 220: Introduction to Linguistics. “I call it the ‘gateway class,’” he jokes, “I took it in Spring 2018 with Dr. Trude Heift and had such a good experience that I broke up with History at the end of the semester and never looked back.”

Despite initially thinking that teaching English was something that only backpackers did for money when they traveled, Applewood realized, through teaching himself Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish, that learning a second language in adulthood is a complicated process. “One day it kind of just clicked,” says Applewood, “the difficulties I was having were the same as those of people trying to learn English.” After that, he began developing his own materials for language teaching. The more time he spent creating materials and teaching himself, the more it became clear that pursuing the Certificate in TESL Linguistics offered through the Department of Linguistics was the right move.

One of the key factors in applying for the Certificate in TESL Linguistics for Applewood was knowing how versatile the certification would be. “I can teach here or abroad, in classrooms or online, at private institutions or government programs, as a course instructor or tutor,” he says.

As part of the Certificate in TESL Linguistics, students are required to complete a 30-hour practicum in an adult ESL program. Applewood spent his practicum at VGC International College in Downtown Vancouver. Teaching elementary level students from around the world, Applewood saw firsthand how language diversity sets the stage for language learning. He saw two students whose only shared language was English advance quickly through the program after becoming friends and using English as their language of communication.

Now, looking to the future, Applewood has big plans. Once he is able to do so, he wants to relocate to Mexico to begin teaching English there. His main reasoning for the move to Mexico, apart from the warm weather and vibrant culture, is to make face-to-face language instruction with a native speaker more accessible. Working at VGC, Applewood interacted with students who came from places less privileged than Canada. By relocating to Mexico, Applewood hopes to bring a high level of instruction to people who may not otherwise have the means to study with a native English speaker.

When asked what advice he had for students thinking about applying for the Certificate in TESL Linguistics, Applewood had two things to say. First, “be as available as possible,” he says, “more availability means better placements and more experience.” At VGC, Applewood spent more than the required 30 hours with his practicum supervisor and is now qualified for a higher tier TESL Canada Professional Certification.

His second piece of advice, “learn how to and spend the time adapting material and terminology.” Applewood found that an important part of being an instructor is being able to communicate complicated information in a way that is easy to understand. Jargon and unattractive terminology can make material inaccessible to students. “You have to be able to jive up the content, no matter where, when, or who you’re teaching,” says Applewood, “I can tell you from firsthand experience now just how much students will appreciate this!”

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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Visit our FAQ page for more information on language requirements, the application process, and more.

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