Language tutor Certificate

The Tutoring a Foreign Language Certificate

 Finding qualified tutors or language partners is a constant activity for Critical and Self-instructional Language Programs throughout the United States. 

Depending on the language and the geographic location, one’s possibilities are expanded or contracted accordingly.  Teaching Hmong in St. Paul is not the same as teaching it in Tucson and the demand for each less commonly taught language (LCTL) ebbs and flows with the tides of world politics. 

In a self-instructional language program (SILP) setting, the native speaker leading courses in their native language using the audio-lingual method is the base line of how we conduct and give credit to students in university settings for their language learning.  Native speaking and more qualified examiners certify that the learning has occurred. 


So, what are our options for more highly qualified tutors and language partners?In developing the program, UA CLP conducted a needs analysis with its own tutors as to what it is they felt they needed to know before they started to teach their first language.  Using that information, UA CLP developed five modules around some very basic language learning principles.  Since self-instruction is the goal, basic principles of second language acquisition are covered.  The next module focuses on common methods of meaningful instruction within the self-instructional setting, specifically presenting the Audio-lingual Method and the Communicative Language Teaching Approach as the most commonly used methods in the SILP world.  The course is designed for tutors or language partners who are already tutoring.  Thus, it also contains modules covering the elements of developing a syllabus and basic lesson planning.  Both of these instructional supports are rolled into the student achievement and assessment within the course as part of the final portfolio, which constitutes the assessed learning at the end of the course.  The 30-hour TFL course culminates in a discussion of motivation and its role in classroom management.  Given that most students in a SILP are highly motivated to learn the LCTL, focus on keeping student motivation high is covered.  Students compile a syllabus, 3 lesson plans, two observations and a reflection paper into a portfolio which is graded and a 30-hour certificate issued.


This TFL program is designed in line with the very common TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate that many programs throughout the world offer in training native speakers of English to go abroad and teach English as a foreign language (TEFL).  This basic language teaching qualification is widely accepted in the world of English language education and EFL programs preparing teachers with the basic training they need (a minimum of 100 hours, including a practicum) to teach their own language.  Inspired by these certificates, the University of Arizona took it upon itself to develop a similar program for its own native-speaking language tutors.  The UA CLP program is valid for any tutor or language partner in any Self-instructional Language Program.  More information can be obtained at:


The current necessity of such a certificate is questionable, as most SILPs are cash poor and cannot afford to develop their tutors beyond some basic training done on site.  Since the industry standard still remains a “native speaker with a pulse” as the minimum qualification, there is no compelling reason to develop tutors, especially if they are in a language that has low retention of students over time.  That said, anything SILPs can do to help their tutors (and as a by-product their students) to succeed in their language learning is well received.  While to some degree teaching is learned like swimming—sink or swim—any basic knowledge of how people learn languages (second language acquisition) and what methods/activities are helpful in that learning process will be a welcome addition to any SILP curriculum.


The author, Nicholas Ferdinandt, holds a doctorate in educational Administration and oversees the development of the TEFL program at the University of Arizona’s Center for ESL.  He also directs the Critical Languages Program at UA and is an Associate Professor affiliated with the PhD program in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT).