At a recent English Language Teaching or ELT conference, when I asked, “What is a language teacher?” a cornucopia of responses ensued. Many were quite verbose, others shorter and simpler, many rambled. For both EFL teachers and ESL or foreign language students, the definition of a language teacher is useful in determining what qualities to seek or strive for when studying English or a foreign language.
It was TEFL linguistics researcher Costas Gabrielatos in 2002 who defined the term “language teacher”.
A Language Teacher is:
A person who teaches language.
With this definition he also defined the three major aspects that constitute a language teacher. Here are those three aspects and their respective principal components.
1. A language teacher is a person (or personality) who demonstrates the qualities of:
o Balanced control and Flexibility in teaching and conducting class activities, being neither overly “tyrannical” nor overly permissive
o Being Neat and Organized in person and preparation
o Being Well-groomed to provide an example for student dress and behavior
o Being Authoritative in the performance of all teaching aspects based on a combination of knowledge, training, practice and experience
2. A language teacher is able to teach combining methodology, knowledge & skill. The language teacher:
o Has In-depth Knowledge of the language being taught. It is unfortunate that in many foreign countries there exist numbers of English language “teachers” whose knowledge of English is questionable at best or non-existent at worst. If you are an English as a foreign language teacher, strive NOT to be one of those.
o Uses a Variety of Techniques to transfer knowledge, skills and abilities in the language to students and learners
o Has Knowledge of materials that can be successfully applied to the teaching and learning of the language being taught
o Knows Implication of theory to practice, development and use of the language being taught
3. A language teacher has knowledge of the Language and its Use. This implies knowledge of:
o Grammar and specialized structure of the language being taught
o the Language History and how it impacts current use and structure of the language
o Idioms and Expressions in the language both in current and previous use colloquially
o Ability to discern levels and needs of students of the language to enable each learner to receive the best methods and approaches to learning that are possible
So, what is a language teacher? A language teacher is a person who teaches language and all that that entails. As language teachers or language learners, there are standards to be upheld and quality to be maintained. These serve for the benefit of all.