How well do you have to speak spanish to teach ESL?

Discussion in 'ESL/ELL' started by gemgirlxoxo, Mar 25, 2015.

  1. gemgirlxoxo

    gemgirlxoxo Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2012
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 25, 2015

    I know that teaching ESL is for students of any native language but I live in NY where there is a very high and growing spanish speaking population. Right now I'm taking classes to get esl certification and I feel like it's probably my only real hope of getting a job where I live. The problem is, I can't speak Spanish. I took it for years in hs and my first year of college but that was years ago and I forgot most of it. I'm trying to refresh my Spanish but I know I'll never be able to speak it fluently. Once I refresh myself more, I'll be able to say some basic things (open your books, hand in your homework, etc) but will still not be able to speak it well. What level of proficiency will be required to get a job? Also, do school districts test your proficiency or look at CLEP exam scores?
     
  2.  
  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,948
    Likes Received:
    2,096

    Mar 25, 2015

    My districts ESL teachers dont teach in students' native languages.
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Messages:
    13,826
    Likes Received:
    1,644

    Mar 25, 2015

    Same here. In my building, we have students with over 30 different first languages; the support they receive from the ESL teacher is all in English.
     
  5. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2006
    Messages:
    2,468
    Likes Received:
    12

    Mar 25, 2015

    ESL certification s not the same as Bilingual cert. Why are you under the impression you must be able to speak Spanish? Once you are further in your program, it should become clear that ESL instruction does not require you to speak the student's native language.
     
  6. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    6,460
    Likes Received:
    1,338

    Mar 25, 2015

    You don't have to speak any of the native languages of your students. One year I taught first grade and I had 34 children (13 different languages). I approached the learning using pictures.
     
  7. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,468
    Likes Received:
    2,485

    Mar 25, 2015

    Most ESL programs these days are all about teaching in English. It would be next to impossible for most ESL teachers to teach in all the different languages that their students speak at home. Even in heavily Spanish-speaking areas, there are usually at least a few students who speak something other than Spanish.

    Unless you're thinking of a job in a bilingual or dual language school, you shouldn't need to speak any Spanish at all.
     
  8. gemgirlxoxo

    gemgirlxoxo Rookie

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2012
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    0

    Mar 25, 2015

    Thanks for the responses. I'm concerned because I was told by an esl teacher that most districts will want someone who speaks Spanish so that they can communicate with parents.
     
  9. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2014
    Messages:
    9,419
    Likes Received:
    2,334

    Mar 25, 2015

    And what if you are an ESL teacher who speaks Spanish, but your students speak Korean? The misconception that the ESL teacher needs to speak a foreign language to teach English is very high on my list of most annoying lies. You only need to speak a foreign language if you are going to teach in a bilingual job, as noted by others. It is common to have multiple native languages in one class. Is that ESL teacher supposed to be able to speak half a dozen languages besides English? I freely admit to working in an area where the native languages are multiple and varied. This may get a different answer from someone sitting right on the US/Mexico border.
     
  10. WISpanishELL

    WISpanishELL Rookie

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 27, 2015

    I know this reply is a little late, but I'm long term subbing for two ELL teachers that both speak Spanish. I was hired because I also speak Spanish and that way I can communicate with parents, translate documents, and interpret during conferences. It's certainly not necessary to speak Spanish, or any other language, but it makes it easier on the school district. If they have someone who already speaks the language, they don't have to hire a bilingual assistant or an interpreter for at least that language. So basically, you don't need to speak Spanish, but it would be something to make you stand out from other applicants. That being said, don't say that you can speak/read/write a language that you are not proficient in simply to get a job.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,468
    Likes Received:
    2,485

    May 27, 2015

    Are 100% of the ELL students at your school Spanish-speaking?
     
  12. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2010
    Messages:
    1,551
    Likes Received:
    728

    May 27, 2015

    I agree that it can be helpful to be able to communicate with the majority of your parents if there is a majority language, but it shouldn't be a hiring requirement as you (should) have access to translation.

    In my experience, it was helpful to at least know the "bad" words in the main language since students liked to try to get away with saying stuff in their L1...it always shocked them when they found out I knew what they were saying since I always taught in English. :lol:

    On a more serious note, you can also make connections to the L1 if you have a basic knowledge of it. I taught ELD in a 100% Spanish setting and I believe it is important to honor the importance of the home language. You don't have to speak it, but it is important that students see the value of being truly bilingual. It is a gift that is too often treated like a disability in my experience.
     
  13. WISpanishELL

    WISpanishELL Rookie

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 27, 2015

    No. The two schools' ELL populations are around 75% Spanish and the other 25% is a mix of other languages. We do have a district translator, but he is servicing so many schools that it's simply easier to have someone in-house to translate and interpret day-to-day interactions.

    Again, it's absolutely not mandatory, but if they have a candidate that speaks the majority language, they might go with that candidate.
     
  14. misswteaches

    misswteaches Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2015
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 27, 2015

    Where I live, ESL class tend to be about 95% full of Spanish speakers, with an occasional student recently immigrated from an Asian country.
    Technically speaking, you don't have to speak Spanish at all to teach ELL. Technically speaking.

    However, it is often the case that districts would rather hire somebody who speaks the most used first language. Teachers who are bi-lingual can talk to parents, work with students who have just entered the American school system and have no English, and communicate with students in their first language. It's convenient, even though it should be a complete non-issue.
     
  15. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,468
    Likes Received:
    2,485

    May 27, 2015

    I think that it would make me feel sad and lonely to be the only person in a room who didn't speak the same language as literally every other person, including the teacher. I would feel left out when the teacher spoke to the other students in their language. I would wonder why the teacher couldn't be bothered to speak to me in my language even though she could talk to all the other students in theirs.

    Just an observation of mine.
     
  16. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2010
    Messages:
    1,551
    Likes Received:
    728

    May 27, 2015

    I did have one lone student who had just arrived from Nepal and who was more or less dumped into my ELD 1 class since he hadn't been tested and they assumed he was going to need services. Turned out, the kid read, wrote, and spoke English very well, and was eventually tested and moved into CP English. I felt horrible for him for the short time he was in my class. It did look lonely.
     
  17. misswteaches

    misswteaches Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2015
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 27, 2015

    I totally agree. I have subbed in ELL classes a few times and I just feel the painful awkwardness of the one (literally, one) student in the entire ELL program who isn't a Spanish speaker.
     
  18. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Messages:
    819
    Likes Received:
    166

    May 27, 2015

    It's not the ESOL teacher's job to do all of the parent communication. The school can find an interpreter.
     
  19. misswteaches

    misswteaches Companion

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2015
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 28, 2015

    I think everyone agrees that in a perfect (or even somewhat just) world, language ability wouldn't matter at all. But in the real world it does matter to some extent, probably dependent on where you live and how well the district/school handles the ELL program.
     
  20. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,753
    Likes Received:
    979

    May 28, 2015

    My experience with ELD (or ESL) has been that speaking the native language is not necessary, in fact it's almost better if the teacher doesn't speak it. Those who speak the students' L1 are more likely to switch to it out of desperation because the students don't understand the directions. The most important thing is to keep the language of instruction in English and that includes everything, every part of communication.
    Yes, it helps to communicate with parents, but that is not part of the job description, the important part is to immerse the students in English. And, as other pointed out, what happens if you have a few students who have a different first language? They will be isolated.

    What's more important is for the teacher to have an understanding of the first language, for example to know what sounds are present or not, and what sounds will pose a difficulty. The phoneme [th] is usually difficult for most non English speakers, but it is present in Arabic, so knowing that can save a lot of time. The same goes for knowing that there is no [l] in Japanese or no [r] in Chinese, or no [v] or [p] in Arabic. The same thing with grammar.

    And the other aspect is culture. A teacher will be able to reach students if he or she is familiar with their culture, customs and manners, and this can be learned of course. In some cultures it is forbidden to look the teacher in the eye, but this can be seen as defiance in our culture. Or for example, Muslims see pigs as unclean, so a young student might refuse to read the story of 3 Little Pigs, and again, this can be seen as defiance.

    So speaking the first language is not as important as being familiar with it and with the culture, and actually know strategies to teach ESL/ELD.
     
  21. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2014
    Messages:
    9,419
    Likes Received:
    2,334

    May 28, 2015

    I agree with Linguist. Speaking one of the L1 languages can become a crutch that a weak teacher will rely upon, to the students disadvantage. The ESL teacher should be well versed in what is and is not required, and then sell that with their professionalism. When someone asks me if I speak Spanish, I look at them as if they have two heads. I speak English, and I teach English, and I do it well. Never apologize for speaking and teaching the language that you are supposed to be teaching. If the school wants a Spanish teacher to translate, let them use the Spanish teacher, not the ESL teacher. Since most ESL classes are NOT 100% Spanish or any other language, you are doing a disservice to someone at all times if you cheat and use one of the L1s while the other students are now doubly confused. Know the true job of an ESL teacher, and educate those who are ignorant of the ESL job description.
     
  22. SandyCastles

    SandyCastles Companion

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2008
    Messages:
    223
    Likes Received:
    1

    May 28, 2015

    It is definitely not your job to speak in Spanish- you are there to teach English. I have taught ESL in both the elementary and adult setting and both times have had students from multiple languages in my classes- neither time would speaking in Spanish have gotten me further than a few students. Your intent is to teach English, and with knowledge of the subject matter and working with the classroom teachers, you can achieve that.
    ESL teachers are not in schools to be translators- I left a job after the first quarter this year where the school culture was set in such a way where they believed this (this was not the only thing wrong with this school). It really will depend on where you end up, and I don't mean location of the country wise, I mean independent school wise.
    You as a teacher have to have a plan for communicating with parents, but you can't be the only resource that the school intends to use.
     
  23. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Messages:
    4,287
    Likes Received:
    936

    May 28, 2015

    I have subbed for ESL teachers and they did not speak the languages of their students. If the parents want to communicate with you they need to find a way either with help from a translator or learn English themselves. I have a student who's parents do not speak English. I send home letters and the mom and gets help from a translator. I'm not learning to speak Mandarin just for her (although it would be kind of cool to learn Mandarin!).
     
  24. renard

    renard Companion

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    208
    Likes Received:
    97

    May 28, 2015

    I don't use any L1 in my classes unless it is a 100% same-language population at a lower level (ie intro literacy). Then, and only then, do I ever use L1 and that is only for abstract concepts. The problem is that it can also encourage students to use L1 amongst themselves which makes it harder to absorb the material in an immersion setting. This goes for K-adult.

    I'm in Canada, not the USA, so I don't really deal with high Spanish-speaking populations. I also work in French-immersion schools where the L1 is actually English. I always use L2 (French), even when the children talk to me in L1 (English). That, of course, does not include emergencies or emotional outbursts in the younger ones, but in general, it's L2.

    I have taught classes with a wide range of L1 and even just one different L1 can create an exclusion on the part of that student. It's already hard enough being an immigrant or "different" (born here but from a different L1 household).
     
  25. WISpanishELL

    WISpanishELL Rookie

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0

    May 28, 2015

    First of all, I would NEVER speak to a class in any language other than English. That's not immersion and it's certainly not inclusive. My point was never that speaking a second language would be useful for communicating with the students. It's useful for speaking with parents and translating documents. Although that might not be part of the ideal job description, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen or that it isn't how ESL teachers are used in smaller districts. Of course, they will need to find translators for the other languages, but it is one less person they will need to pay.
     
  26. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2007
    Messages:
    14,468
    Likes Received:
    2,485

    May 28, 2015

    This is totally true. My school's student population is heavily Spanish-speaking, and the teachers on campus who speak Spanish are regularly asked to attend conferences and make phone calls regarding students that they don't know. The teachers who agree to do these things are totally taken advantage of and usually find their prep periods filled with these requests, leaving little or no time to do their own planning. I have advised my department (world languages) to decline these requests. If the school needs translation services to such a huge degree, then the school needs to find a way to pay for a dedicated translator.
     
  27. DAH

    DAH Companion

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Messages:
    196
    Likes Received:
    66

    Jul 11, 2015

    In California you don't have to speak Spanish at all unless they request that you be bilingual. In the school district I'm close to, you might do as well to speak Farsi, Chinese, or Vietnamese.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

  1. newteacher101,
  2. RainStorm,
  3. catnfiddle,
  4. ready2learn
Total: 596 (members: 9, guests: 563, robots: 24)
test