There’s nothing quite like it.
It’s a dynamic and fast-paced job.
It gives you the chance to influence lives while immersing yourself in language and culture.
You want to be a foreign language teacher, and who could blame you?
The only problem is, you don’t exactly have time to drop everything and go to school full-time.
So how can you get the certification you need to start teaching while supporting yourself, and possibly even taking care of a family?
Luckily, there is a way.
There are now more options available than there ever were before through foreign language teacher certification programs…online.
Is Online Certification Right for You? The Ingredients of a Great Foreign Language Teacher
While online certification is more flexible and cost-effective than with traditional venues, you are still going to have to allocate a significant amount of your time and resources to achieve this goal.
So it is important to be clear from the outset that you have the essential qualities you need to be successful, or that you are willing and able to take the time to develop them along the way.
Here are the big ones:
Fluency in the target language.
We are guessing that you already have some familiarity with the language you want to teach, or you wouldn’t be thinking of teaching it! But remember that fluency means more than just a passing familiarity. It means you can read, write, speak and understand it—and understand different accents and maybe even dialects. If you are not totally fluent yet, don’t despair. There are plenty of online programs and apps for brushing up on your skills.
Knowledge of the target culture.
Culture is a complex and nuanced thing, and can be tricky to learn without experiencing it. To add to the complexity, one language can be used by hundreds of different cultures. You will be expected to demonstrate knowledge of geography, history, daily life, current events and the ways that culture affects language. The best way to learn about culture is by interacting with people who have lived it. Cultivate relationships with people who have experienced the target culture so you can learn more about it.
If you need to fill out or support the above two qualities, FluentU brings you the best in authentic foreign language learning with real-world videos in nine languages and counting.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
And the best thing is, FluentU grows with you. Familiarize yourself with the program now, take it through the advanced level, and then share it with your future students using a Teacher account.
An understanding of the nature of language.
All those language nerds out there, raise your hands! Come on, you know who you are. You are the ones who secretly felt all warm and fuzzy inside when the teacher began talking about things like auxiliary verbs and dangling participles. If so, teaching language will come naturally to you. You intuitively “get” the complexities of the sounds, the rules and the structures that make up language and you will be able to convey that knowledge to your students.
Knowledge of education theories and methods.
Even if you disagree with them, or they are not exactly your cup of tea, you still need knowledge of foundational theories and methods in order to hone your craft. You will need familiarity with different foreign language teaching methods (such as the Grammar-translation Method, the Audio-lingual Method, TPRS, etc.).
But as languages become increasingly integrated with other disciplines, you will also need to learn basic theories and models of instruction for core subjects like math, science, reading and social studies. And don’t forget that a basic knowledge of classroom management and student behavior will also be necessary.
A passion for teaching and for language.
This is probably the most essential quality of all, and it cannot be taught or acquired. If you don’t love your students and the job from the very beginning, you never will. And if you do love all of it, that love will carry you through when things aren’t going so well.
Are you fully convinced now that this is exactly what you want to do with your life?
Here are the next steps to consider.
What Do You Need from an Online Teaching Program? Certifications and Licenses
There are several hoops you have to jump through to become a qualified foreign language teacher.
Maybe you have already achieved some of these requirements. If so, check them off the list! If not, you will need to find an online program that supports achieving these credentials.
- A bachelor’s degree. Generally it’s best if this degree is in education, but it doesn’t have to be. Just be prepared to do some education coursework to supplement your degree if necessary.
- A master’s degree (in some places). This one varies, but in most parts of the U.S., a master’s degree will be necessary at some point in your teaching career (if not in the very beginning). Check on the requirements for the state or the region in which you want to teach. At the very least, you should be prepared to complete some graduate coursework.
- An internship. Unless you are planning to teach solely in an online classroom, this is the one part of your certification program which you may not be able to complete online; however, it can be completed immediately after finishing your online coursework. Traditionally, student teachers work with a mentor teacher. They begin by observing the mentor teacher. Then they gradually take on more responsibilities until they are able to assume full responsibilities for planning lessons, conducting classes and assessing progress.
- A competency exam. As a final hoop in the certification process, you will need to demonstrate competency, usually through the Praxis tests.
Keep in mind that every state or region has slightly different requirements for teacher certification and licensing. Check with local authorities to get details about what may be required in your area.
5 Certification Programs for Foreign Language Teaching Online
The choice of a program will depend a great deal on what your specific needs are. Here are a few that we like.
The ACTFL Foreign Language Teaching Methods course
This class is a great option if you are all set with the language requirements, but have some gaps where your knowledge of methodology is concerned. The course is helpful for undergrads as well as graduate students, so you can take it at any point in your training.
Credit is granted through Weber State University and can be transferred to another university if needed, which means you can use it even if you are pursuing a degree elsewhere.
The course gives you hands-on knowledge of how to plan lessons, units and assessments, how to integrate technology in your foreign language teaching, and a working knowledge of second-language acquisition research.
The University of Maryland University College’s Master of Education in Instructional Technology with specialized courses for world language educators
This program is a great choice if you are already fluent in the target language and culture, but need a master’s degree, especially if the education and methodology component is the missing piece in your preparation. It’s also perfect for you if you love teaching and learning with technology!
The program is carefully aligned to National Standards for Foreign Language Education (developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).
The focus is on how to successfully apply technology integration to best practices in foreign language teaching. At the end of the program, you will be awarded a graduate certification in instructional technology integration.
Indiana University at Bloomington’s online Master’s in Literacy, Culture and Language Education
If you love learning about literacy through the lens of culture, then this online master’s program is for you. With some planning, graduates of the program can finish with an Indiana teaching certification in K-6 World Languages, or with the background necessary to gain teaching credentials from other states.
The program gives you a thorough grounding in culture, language and educational theories and models. Hands-on experience is included as part of the program.
University of Nebraska’s GOLDEN World Language Education Program
This program (brought to you by the Global Online Language Distance Education Network) differs from those mentioned above in that it gives you the opportunity to develop your language skills and your understanding of the target culture in addition to teaching methods. Although the program is online, you will need to attend a few of your classes face-to-face to earn the Master of Arts degree.
To gain admission, you must demonstrate that you already have substantive knowledge of the target knowledge, either through a bachelor’s degree or experience as a World Language teacher. Languages available for study through this program are limited to German, Spanish and Chinese.
Oregon State University’s Bachelor’s in French, German or Spanish
These bachelor’s programs are offered online. Sessions are offered in 11-week increments during the fall, winter and spring and varying formats during the summer. As part of the program, you must participate in a study abroad program or an internship in a French-, German- or Spanish-speaking country.
This program is ideal if you already have some teacher training or experience, but limited skill in and knowledge of the target language and culture, or if you are just starting out with your language education and want to get a thorough grounding in your language of interest.
Pointers for Success with Online Learning
Though easier on your schedule and your wallet than traditional classes, online coursework is not for the faint of heart! It requires discipline and determination. Many have tried and failed…but that won’t be you.
Here are the strategies you will need to succeed in your quest to earn online teaching certification.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. Guess what? The laundry is not going anywhere. And you can always return phone calls later. (Sorry, Mom.) Once you begin finding other things to do, your schoolwork will quickly sink to the bottom of your priority list…and guess what happens then? Set aside specific times of day for classwork and homework and let nothing (and I mean nothing…) interfere.
- Have a dedicated work space. The advantage of going to a classroom or an office every day is that once you’re there, you’re there. The same cannot be said of the couch or the kitchen table, which are front-row seats to everything else that might be happening in your home. Make yourself an office space and keep it free of personal clutter. Go in and shut the door. Now you are in class. See how easy that is?
- Get comfortable with the technology early on. Every online class has a specific platform, and each platform has a bit of a learning curve. Get familiar with that platform before you need it. Video chat with your professor early on just to introduce yourself and work out any technical glitches. Familiarize yourself with the process and the platform for submitting homework assignments. Don’t wait until the night before an assignment is due to troubleshoot technical problems.
- Stay organized. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how quickly you can lose track of multiple deadlines, especially if you are taking more than one class at a time. Divide large projects into smaller chunks as soon as you get them, and schedule time to work on them every day. Have visual reminders (either on a large wall calendar or via an app on your phone) to keep approaching deadlines on your radar.
- Avoid hidden time-wasters. Don’t lie to yourself. You never spend “just one minute” on Pinterest, nor do you simply “take a quick break” on YouTube. That would only be true if “just one minute” really means a whole morning, or “a quick break” actually means an hour. The internet has time-wasters around every corner, just waiting to suck your precious work time and your concentration down a black hole from which they may never return. Instead of going on social media, try stretching or taking a quick walk if you need a break.
Regardless of the obstacles in your path, your passion and dedication (and a good WiFi connection!) are really all you need to become a great foreign language teacher.