How to Become a Foreign Language Teacher

Foreign languages open your students to other lands. Here’s how you can become a foreign language teacher.

career-language-teacherIn addition to the typical French, Spanish and German classes offered in America’s secondary and even elementary classrooms, Chinese, Japanese and Russian are being taught in more public schools. In addition, American Sign Language has become popular in some districts. No matter what language you specialize in, here’s a breakdown of how to share your expertise and become a foreign language teacher.

What Is Teaching Foreign Languages Like?

If you become a foreign language teacher you must be fluent in both English and your target language.
In addition, you will be required to teach your students about the culture and history of the countries where the language is spoken.
Whatever language you teach, here are a few duties you can expect as an elementary or secondary language education teacher:

  • Handling day-to-day needs, such as preparing lesson plans and correcting student work
  • Obtaining special language materials and programs for your classroom
  • Organizing special events related to your language and culture classes, such as dance performances, cultural displays, target-language dinners and other events
  • Planning and attending parent-teacher conferences and administrative meetings

Once You Become a Foreign Language Teacher

As a language teacher, you may travel from classroom to classroom, or you may have your own room, depending on your school or district size. A growing trend in public and private education today is language immersion schools, where students attend all or some core classes such as math, social studies and language arts in another language all year long.

Degrees and Teacher Training

If you’ve ever wondered how to become a language teacher, you’ll first need at least a bachelor’s degree. And proving fluency in the language you teach usually means you will need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in your chosen language. As a language major, your coursework will include extensive language education as well as classes in your chosen country’s literature, history and culture. With an advanced language degree, you can teach language at a community college or university.

Since teaching in primary and secondary schools requires completion of a teacher-education program as well, you may choose to double major in education to complete teaching certification requirements at the same time. Otherwise, you may need to focus on either education or your language while completing separate degrees.

Language Teacher Certification

If you wish to become a foreign language teacher at an elementary, middle or high school, you will be required to complete teacher certification requirements, which typically include completion of an accredited degree program, classroom experience and an examination, depending on the state in which you work.

In addition to the regular teaching certificate, some states also require an examination in your language. The National Teachers Examination with a foreign language education component is given in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. In other states, a different exam is given, so check your requirements at your state Department of Education before you proceed.

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