Notre Dame Alum Reflects on Teaching English Abroad

Author: Charlene Dundek

Analise Taylor is an ND alum with extensive experience traveling, teaching, and living abroad. Through her experiences in different parts of the globe, she noticed the high demand for native-speaking English teachers. This led her to pursue a degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) to become a more impactful language instructor.

Taylor, originally from Idaho, graduated from Notre Dame with a BA in English and Government. Her first trip abroad was to Australia when she was 12, and since then she hasn’t stopped traveling. In high school she journeyed to Italy, Greece, Spain, and Japan. She has also lived in Beirut, Lebanon; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Moscow, Russia. At the start of 2016 she was participating in an intensive conversational language program in Krakow, Poland. She currently resides in Los Angeles and is fond of thriving multiculturalism of the city.

Taylor in Poland

While traveling abroad, Taylor noticed the opportunity for native-speaking English teachers. Her own language experience includes studying Spanish in high school and at Notre Dame and also studying French and Arabic while in Beirut. However, when living in Moscow,Taylor started teaching English when she realized that there was a such a high demand for native English speakers. She soon found herself very busy with English lessons. She says, “While I have been exposed to a variety of foreign languages in Los Angeles and abroad, it is English that is most sought by students and business people. In fact, when I lived in Russia people hired me because I didn’t speak Russian.”  

Taylor’s initial teaching experience was challenging. Without any formal training on how to teach English to non-native speakers, Taylor wondered if she was making a lasting impact with her teaching methods. The different culture and expectations of foreign classrooms also challenged her as an instructor. “Traveling to a foreign country,” she said, “certainly provides drama and excitement. However, that drama can also seep into the field of teaching English as a second language. For example, students can and will cancel lessons at the last minute...What more practice and education have taught me is the ability to be more patient with the unpredictability that comes with teaching in a foreign country.”

When Taylor returned to the United States she went to California State University, Los Angeles to earn her master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). “I can say that in my case a TESOL master’s degree has allowed me to be a present, interested, informed citizen,” she says, “rather than an uninformed, naive and, in many cases, arrogant native speaker who is trying to force her knowledge and opinions on others.”  

Studying TESOL has allowed her to strengthen her teaching skills and grow as a instructor. Taylor has been involved in an improvisational group for several years, and her involvement in the group gave her the idea of integrating improvisational games into the English classroom. These games, she says, “would allow English Language Learners (ELLs) to relax thereby enabling them to take on learning in a fun environment.” This would allow them to overcome affective filters, which are “any factors that can prevent a human being from learning something new, in this case the English language. The home environment, age, a perception of embarrassment, social or economic class, and even access to transportation can be construes as factors that can deter a person from learning.” Taylor says, “I see improvisation as a way to bridge the gap. When human beings of any age are having fun, they tend  not to be so worried about making mistakes and can enjoy themselves.”                                                                       

Taylor with students in Poland

The TESOL experience has proved invaluable for Taylor. She notes that “Native speakers with a TESOL background are highly sought due to their natural fluency, cadence, and  inflection.” For those who are currently interested in pursuing a TESOL background, Taylor notes that there are a variety of ways to achieve it, including earning a TESOL certificate for direct employment, pursuing a TESOL undergraduate minor, or earning a TESOL master’s degree.

When it comes to Notre Dame students, Taylor says that “Minoring in TESOL would appeal to the Domer with wanderlust. The travel opportunities are vast and the profession is in high demand overseas. A student with a government or international relations major might find it especially appealing. With the rapidly changing political landscape in countries such as Ukraine and Syria, I see TESOL students as ambassadors for both the U.S. and Notre Dame.”  

She also notes that “Notre Dame students who are interested in a TESOL minor [should] consider whether they would like to teach in the U.S. or abroad and, if the latter is their interest, what culture fascinates them as each choice comes with its pros and cons. Notre Dame has a superb reputation for encouraging its students to participate fully in life -economically, academically, socially, spiritually, politically, and athletically. I highly recommend teaching in a country with a rich background in these areas.”

Where will Taylor travel to next? She spent January and February of this year in Krakow, Poland participating in an intense conversation-based program where Polish business people were paired up for a week with native speakers from Ireland, the U.S., the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. She will be moving back to Krakow shortly. She says, “I will take with me an enhanced TESOL education which allows me to know my native language better so I can answer questions and provide the needed contextual background.”

Analise Taylor’s personal website can be found here.

Information on the minor in TESOL can be found here.