The Current State of the TESOL Industry in the USA

How has the pandemic affected the TESOL Industry?

Do we know only what we see, or do we see what we somehow already know? 

CYNTHIA OZICK, “What Helen Keller Saw,” New Yorker, June 16 & 23, 2003

Let’s consider the following points first:

  1. The TESOL Industry (TI) has been generating the involvement of millions of students and language learners from countries that do not use English as a means for native linguistic communication. 
  2. This excludes, of course, a number of countries such as the USA, Jamaica, Great Britain, most of Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Bahamas, and parts of the World where English is viably used as means to do business. 
  3. Whatever the number of countries that do not need or want to acquire English as a Second or Foreign Language, however, it pales in comparison to the number of people who are not native speakers of any of the English dialects. 
  4. There has been a very large number of people in the World willing to invest time, energy, and money in becoming at least somewhat proficient in an English dialect; people who also live in the aforementioned countries and who desperately need to acquire and learn English in order to improve their marketability.
  5. The TI in the USA has addressed the language needs of millions of students via ESOL/ESL programs. 
  6. The TI in the USA has generated billions of dollars via academic institutions, language schools, and printing businesses.
  7. The TI depends on the travel industry to accommodate the millions of students who come from abroad.
  8. The TI depends on the tourist industry to accommodate the millions of students who come from abroad. 
  9. The TI generates a great amount of economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for the business community in the USA. 
  10. The TI has depended substantially on the World’s ability to travel intercontinentally. 

In consideration of the aforementioned 10 points, we can easily understand that the TI is being affected dramatically and negatively by the pandemic: People are not traveling. Students are no longer joining ESOL courses at our universities and language businesses. Certain online programs, of course, are flourishing, yet in comparison to the non-virtual experiences once enjoyed by millions of travelers and students, the online experience and business pale seriously. 

Furthermore, in addition to the financial catastrophe suffered by the TI, the English language as a means to improve Global Communication amongst world nations is at risk. Socio-political climates will change should English cease to be the Lingua Franca of the World. 

Interest in becoming proficient in the English language has dwindled immensely due to the economic hardships necessarily imposed by Covid regulations and restrictions. And thus most people focus on their financial needs in reference to food, housing, and security. The learning of a foreign (to them) language is on the back burner. 

What can be done to mitigate this TI crisis?

  1. Let’s start with the hope and belief that the pandemic will become part of the past and not be replaced by another. Travel will resume. ESOL programs and businesses can start anew. Of course, the hope is that this will happen ASAP. That said, the hope includes having learned certain definitive lessons the pandemic has taught us and is still teaching us. 
  2. Via the online programs, keep the “need’ for the English language as a Lingua Franca alive. Continue marketing English as a means to improve global communication. This must be done, however, via reduced costs as well as no-cost to the students and learners who are serious about wanting to acquire and learn the English language. This adjustment can be achieved via large and small institutions as well as by individual ESOL teachers who wish to stay active: Specifically, the English Language Institutes (at universities across the USA), EF, ELS, and the smaller ESOL language businesses that have been able to survive. If individual ESOL teachers are receiving unemployment, they can offer “free” lessons to their former students in lieu of the hourly wages they would be getting if schools and programs had stayed open. This way they will be both marketing English as the Lingua Franca and keeping their teaching skills honed. 
  3. Furthermore, the TI has to promote the use of the CAT (Communicative Approach in Teaching) without simply paying lip-service to it. In the general overview of the TI, this still isn’t happening. Many systems and individuals remain reluctant to sever their bonds to and with the GTM (Grammar-Translation Method): Book-learning; studying grammar OVERTLY; no adherence to the irrefutable precept that the acquisition of language is phonemic rather than graphemic: Linguistic sound (phonemes) before reading/writing (graphemes). 
  4. Keep in mind that MOST languages in the World do not have a writing system and that the writing system is never used by a native speaker to acquire her or his mother tongue. This is at the foundation of language acquisition and this aspect should never be compromised. 

The LAT-TESOL course for International TEFL/TESL Certification offers definitive insight into the CAT. It is based on The ICLA Curriculum© which has been actively engaged in providing Communicative Teaching since the early 1980s. This is a viable option for those who wish to be trained and TESL/TEFL certified. And for those who do not need to be certified and have ESL teaching experience, a LAT-TESOL Workshop (or two) would be beneficial as well.  

For further discussion, please contact me directly via email, [email protected], and we will set up a Zoom session. 

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