Recently, I’ve seen people advertising themselves as English language teachers in various Finland-related jobs groups on Facebook. Unfortunately, some of the “teachers” are so bad that their own Facebook profiles and/or web pages are full of spelling and grammatical mistakes, as well as odd phrasing that native English speakers would never use.
This really disturbed me because I used to teach English in Finland and have a university qualification for it. But unless the law has changed recently, English teaching in Finland is unregulated, so anybody can set up their own language teaching business or even a language school. I’m worried that people are getting ripped off by unqualified trainers feeding them worthless language courses. When your English isn’t fluent, how can you decide who is good and who is not?
Your best bet is to go to a reliable language school, where you can be sure that the teachers will be competent. A reliable school has a good reputation, and is registered with international language teaching organisations.
If that’s not possible due to your budget or location – especially if you’re signing up for an online course – make sure that you check qualifications. Note that being a native English speaker is not enough. Many native English speakers don’t use good grammar themselves, or they don’t know the details of English grammar well enough to explain it, or they’re just not good at teaching. And don’t dismiss non-native speakers, who can be perfectly good English teachers if they are skilled enough.
Therefore, find out whether your prospective teacher has a university degree in linguistics, English, or another second language. If not, do they have a TEFL certificate from an accredited organisation? Even without academic papers, a teacher can still be excellent, but the absolute minimum is references from former students. Any one of these is good, and the more of these qualifications they have, the better you can be sure your teacher will be worth your time. If they refuse to tell you their qualifications, or claim that it’s irrelevant, steer clear. That’s somebody hiding their incompetence.
We live in difficult times, and many people believe they can set up training courses on the Internet to make a living. That’s fine, if they know the topic and can present it in an interesting and educational way. However, you’re wasting your time and money on courses being run by teachers who don’t know what they’re talking about.
When you study a language, you’re investing in your future. So put a little effort into ensuring it’s a quality investment.