What is the difference between the UO SLAT Certificate and other certificates, like TESOL or TEFL?
The University of Oregon English SLAT Certificate is equal to or stronger than any comparable certificate program we are aware of.
First, the differences in the various acronyms are generally not significant.
- T always means Teaching; if you remove the T from most of these acronyms, you will see another common acronym (ESOL, ESL, EFL, ELL, SLA, etc.)
- TESOL means Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages; this is also the name of the largest international organization of English language teachers.
- TESL means Teaching English as a Second Language; ESL generally refers to language learning that takes place in an English-speaking country, in a class with students from a variety of L1 (first language) backgrounds. The American English Institute at the UO offers an intensive ESL program to international students.
- TEFL means Teaching English as a Foreign Language; this is generally in a non-English-speaking country, to a class that shares a common L1. This is what most holders of the SLAT Certificate intend to do when they graduate.
- TELL means Teaching to English Language Learners; ELL is the name of an endorsement offered by the UO College of Education, for teachers who are already accredited to teach in public schools.
- SLAT means Second Language Acquisition and Teaching; SLA and SLT are both common acronyms, as well. Interestingly, SLA is usually used as a more general term that covers both second and foreign language learning (there is no discipline called FLA), but SLT can be used in contrast with FLT.
Second, the term “certificate” is unregulated internationally. There is no oversight by any recognized authority that accredits individual programs. This means that any educational institution (even one created yesterday) can create and sell to students something called a TESOL Certificate, and they can base this certificate on pretty much whatever set of courses they want, even courses with little content, no required work for students, and no exams. For example, a company called Oxford sells a TESOL certificate that can be earned with as little as 7 days of class work plus some online study; one university in Seoul offers a TESOL certificate for simply signing up to attend a set of courses. Since there is no graded work, students need not even attend class to “earn” their certificate.
TESOL International recommends that students seek certificates that offer “a balance of theory and practice regarding pedagogy and methodology, taught by qualified teacher educators, including a minimum of 100 instructional hours plus a supervised practice teaching component.” The UO ESL SLAT Certificate is substantially stronger than these recommendations. We require seven graded, university-accredited courses, for a total of 280 instructional hours. Our program offers a balance of theory (LING 444 and LT 435), English language structure (LING 150 and LING 494) and practice (LT 436 and LT 441), plus supervised practice teaching (LT 437 or LT 409). Our teacher educators are highly qualified both by educational background (most hold the Ph.D.) and experience; all have years of experience as teachers, both teaching EFL overseas and ESL in the US, and most have additional years of experience as teacher trainers.