Teaching English is a general term describing the work of teachers of English with children, adolescents and adults. The language can be taught as a first, second, foreign, or additional language. When using the term English, often the teaching and study of both language and literature is understood. To reduce the level of ambiguity the terms English Language and English Literature are preferred. The process of teaching English language is structured in five main categories — teaching English as a native language, second language, foreign language, international language and second dialect.
Teaching English as a native language, or mother tongue, is a process of teaching children, adolescents and adults during their primary, secondary, and tertiary education in the English-speaking world. It could be also a process of teaching adults in continuing education programmes. For countries such as Australia, Anglophone Canada, Britain, the Irish Republic, New Zealand and the United States the term ENL countries is used to describe territories in which English is the first language.
Teaching English as a second language is a term, which covers two different meaning; the teaching of English in countries where the language is not a mother tongue but is official or co-official language; or teaching English as a second language, which also refers to teaching non-English-speaking immigrants to ENL countries, as happens, for example, with the immigrants in the United States.
The first meaning is usually when the language has a significant place in the local society due to imperial and colonial reasons and common history. The language, however, is not preferred by the citizens when they speak in their own home as they use their mother tongue. Those countries are called ESL countries.
Teaching English as a foreign language also goes in two directions. The term refers to the process of teaching English in countries where it is of interest and importance. Those countries are called EFL countries. The second meaning is related with giving courses in ENL countries for visiting students from EFL countries.
Teaching English as an international language is a term which has become widespread since World War II. It is the process of teaching English as a global language used in a growing number of international institutions. The term also covers the need learners and users have to understand the worldwide role of the language and the problems that role causes. Both native users and those who learn it as a second or foreign language need to understand the important role of the language as a tool of international communication.
Teaching English as a second dialect refers to teaching the standard language to speakers of the so called non-standard varieties of English, such as a dialect, for example Scouse in the United Kingdom and Appalachian in the United States. The term English here sometimes has connotations like the language of educated people, college-level people or businessmen.
With regard to the target group, working with children, adolescents or adults requires different competences and approaches. Building confidence and creating a multicultural relation with the English students is a milestone in the work of the English teacher, much more important than just providing the knowledge of grammar and syntaxes. But many modern programmes focus only on providing communicative competence.
English courses and programmes also vary in terms of their purpose. The courses could be general English, business English, academic English, specific exam preparation or English vacation courses. There also many programmes for different types of professionals, for example lawyers, engineers or civil servants.
The demand for English teachers across the world keeps growing due to the impact of the Internet and emerging new markets. A large number of individuals, companies and states are willing to be part of these global relations and an imperative for them is to speak the language everyone speaks today. There is a great demand for teachers with a business or engineering background for the specialised courses or who are skilful writers to write and publish English language teaching books.
Teaching English has always been a challenging job. Many English teachers consider going abroad and teaching a once-in-a-lifetime chance in their career. It is not a must, however, for English teachers to speak the local language. Schools would prefer that their teachers not speak the local language, but be native or native-level English speakers. Also, teaching English is an exceptional way to meet people from another culture and it is much more interactive than just going and visiting a country.