Certificate Program in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) Linguistics

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1.  Who is the TESL Certificate program for?

The Certificate Program in TESL Linguistics provides a basic introduction to the teaching of English as a second language to adult learners in Canada. It includes courses in general linguistics, phonetics, English grammar, and second language learning and teaching. The program is designed for undergraduate students who are pursuing a first degree and who have little or no previous teaching experience. It is not recommended as an "in-service" program for students who are currently teaching ESL. Applicants are reminded that the TESL Certificate is not a teaching credential. Because standards for ESL/EFL teacher training vary greatly around the world, it is not possible to identify in advance employers who will recognize the SFU Certificate. However, graduates of the program have gone on to teach English in Canada and in a number of other countries, including the United States, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, and China.

2.  Who is eligible to apply?    

Students who have been formally admitted to SFU are eligible, provided they meet the language requirements described below in section 4.

3.  Do I have to be a native speaker of English to apply? 

No.  Many graduates of the program speak English as their second language. However, regardless of your first language, you must have an excellent command of spoken and written English. Applicants are advised that communication skills will be tested in some of the courses in the Certificate program (through oral presentations and writing assignments) and that course grades are based partly on the outcome of that testing. Should your command of English prove to be unsatisfactory, you run the risk of receiving poor grades or even of failing the required courses. For these reasons, all applicants are expected to demonstrate excellent language skills by presenting appropriate language test scores or by meeting the education requirements described below (section 4). As noted in the SFU Calendar, the criterion for acceptance to the Certificate program is higher than the standard required for general admission to SFU.

4.  What are the English language proficiency requirements for this program?

4.1.  If English is your native language, you are not required to submit language test scores. Nevertheless, you must attend the required interview.

4.2.  If you are not a native speaker of English, but have completed at least six years of your secondary schooling (i.e., grades 7 to 12) in a school in which the language of instruction is English, you are not required to submit language test scores with your application. However, your language skills will be assessed during the interview. If the interviewer has concerns about your communication skills, you may still be asked to submit the test scores described in section 4.3 below.

4.3.  All applicants not covered under sections 4.1 and 4.2 above are required to achieve a satisfactory score in the following test:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System) with a minimum band score of 8 on the speaking test and an overall score of not less than 7.5.

Tests should be completed before your application is submitted and, scores should be sent as early as possible to: TESL Linguistics Certificate Program, Department of Linguistics, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive Burnaby, BC CANADA   V5A 1S6.

5. How does the application process work?    

Admission to the TESL Linguistics Certificate program is not automatic. In fact, each semester, some applications are not successful. We are interested in candidates whose goals and interests suit the program, and who are likely to succeed in the required courses. Once received, your application will be screened and then you may be invited for an interview.

Applications are evaluated on the basis of merit. The Department will consider applicants' academic records, communication skills as assessed during the required interview, interests and motivations as identified in the statement of purpose, and personal qualities as identified during the interview. Priority will be given to students who are pursuing a first-degree program at SFU at the time of application.

6.  What is the purpose of the interview?    

We will interview you

(i) so that we can get to know you and understand your goals and interests,

(ii) to give you an opportunity to ask questions about the program or provide us with information about yourself that you would like us to know, and

(iii) to determine whether your goals and skills (including your language and academic skills) make you a suitable candidate for the program.

7.  In what order should I complete the courses in the Certificate program?    

It is recommended that you complete the Certificate in 5 or more semesters.  In any case, you should not register for LING 363 (TESL Practicum) until you complete the other courses in the program.

8.  What is required in LING 363?    

Linguistics 363 is a TESL practicum course in which you will have an opportunity to practice some of the skills you have learned in other courses. It is a demanding course that will require a great deal of time and energy. You will be placed in an adult ESL program in the Lower Mainland and will observe an experienced ESL teacher over a period of several weeks. In addition, you will be expected to teach several lessons in an ESL class over the course of the semester. A practicum observer from SFU’s Linguistics Department will evaluate your performance.

9.  When should I apply?    

You may not apply until you have completed LING 200, LING 220, and an upper division course, preferably in Linguistics, with a minimum grade of C- (higher in LING 200). Note also that you will not be permitted to register in LING 363 (TESL Practicum) until you have been formally admitted to the Certificate Program. Therefore, you must apply for admission well in advance of the semester during which you plan to take LING 363 (traditionally this course is offered only in the Spring semester). If you wait until late in your degree program to apply, you run the risk of not being admitted in time to complete your program.

10.  Can I apply to the program if I already have a degree?    

Yes, you can apply. However, you should keep in mind that the courses in the program are intended for undergraduate students with little or no background or experience in TESL. Credit will not be given for previous teaching experience, and exemptions from courses in the program are not permitted. In addition, you should be aware that students who are not pursuing a degree program at SFU are assigned relatively low registration priority by Student Services. The Linguistics Department cannot guarantee you access to any particular course in the semester in which you wish to take it.

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The Certificate Program in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) Linguistics provides a foundation for those interested in teaching English as a second language.