The University of Oregon offers a certificate in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT), which undergraduate and graduate students can acquire while completing their degree in any department. The certificate requires completion of three courses in second language acquisition/teaching, three courses on the target language, and an internship or practicum experience.
We interviewed the Director of the SLAT Program, Professor Melissa Baese-Berk, to find out more about this certificate and what it offers UO students.
- How did you get involved with the SLAT program? When I started at the UO in 2013, I taught LING440 (Linguistic Principles and Second Language Acquisition), which, at the time, was one of the introductory courses for the SLAT program. A year later, I began a term as the interim director of the program, and took over full time as the director of the program the year after that.
- What are some of your duties? I have a lot of hats in the linguistics department, including teaching and research responsibilities outside of the SLAT program. Within the SLAT program, I often teach LING444 (Second Language Acquisition), which is the first class many of our SLAT students take. In my role as director, I work with advisors for the other languages where we offer a SLAT certificate to ensure our curriculum is up-to-date and rigorous. I also work to help advertise our program across the university. And I serve as an advisor in the program, so I often meet with students to create a plan of study, to help arrange internships, and to help plan post-graduation experiences.
- What should students know about how it works and what it offers? The program offers an exciting and dynamic approach to understanding second language learning and teaching. The courses range from the highly theoretical (LING444: Second Language Acquisition) to active teaching practice (LT437: Second Language Teaching Practice). This gives students a real leg up when they actually get into a classroom to teach after graduation. The amount of instruction and practice our students get during the certificate program exceeds the minimum recommendations from TESOL International and is substantially more rigorous than many other TESOL or TEFL certificates. From a practical perspective, students should know that the SLAT program consists of 7 courses and can be completed in as few as 3 terms. We have more information about how to plan what courses to take and when here: https://slat.uoregon.edu/course-calendars. Students should also note that if they are currently completing a Bachelor of Science, we also require them to demonstrate proficiency equivalent to two years of college instruction in a non-native language. Students completing a Bachelor of Arts will complete this requirement as part of their university-wide graduate requirements.
- What do you like best about it? My favorite part of the program is our students! I really love their enthusiasm and passion, and they make my job much more rewarding. I also really love the structure of the program. I think it offers a really nice balance so our students are not only attractive to employers, but are also prepared to succeed in the classroom.
- What kind of students are drawn to this program? Typically, students who are interested in languages and language teaching. They come from a wide variety of majors across the university, which makes the courses really dynamic. Some students come in with lots of language learning experience and others have relatively little. Some students come in with a background in linguistics, while others have never heard of linguistics before taking their first SLAT class. The wealth of backgrounds and experiences enriches our classes and ensures that the material is accessible to a broad audience.
- How do students use the SLAT certificate after they graduate? I would say most of our students focusing on English complete the SLAT certificate so that they can teach English abroad. They often use this as an opportunity to travel and explore cultures outside of the US. Some students discover a passion for education and enter volunteer service programs after graduation, like Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Some students also use this as a springboard for graduate education (including our LTS program–see below*). Because many schools and universities in the US require a Master’s degree in order for an individual to teach, some of our students decide to pursue post-graduate education in order to have a greater breadth of opportunity.
Meet three current SLAT students: Natasha Willow, Quynh Tran, and Ellie Yeo…
What is your major?
NATASHA: I’m an undergraduate majoring in Chinese.
QUYNH: I’m a Linguistics major.
ELLIE: Linguistics and Chinese.
How did you find out about the SLAT program?
NATASHA: I found out about the SLAT program when I was looking into majoring or minoring in language teaching.
QUYNH: I knew SLAT from my advisor when I met her the first time in orientation. I asked her what should I take besides LING classes since my dream is to become a second language teacher. She introduced me to the program and encouraged me to become a part of it. Until now, I’m still thankful that I asked.
ELLIE: My Linguistics Dept advisor, Prof. Eric Pederson, told me about it after I told him about wanting to be a language teacher.
How would you describe your experience in the program?
NATASHA: This program has given me wonderful opportunities including co-teaching a class at the American English Institute (AEI) and preparing my English language course for when I teach in Taiwan starting in Summer 2018.
QUYNH:I love this program so much. I’ve learned so many new things everyday and met many good friends. I learned how to become a helpful teacher to my future students. I was taught not only teaching methods but also how to solve some normal classroom issues as well.
ELLIE: So far, it has been amazing. My LT classes have been my favorite classes every term. Honestly, they are the only classes where I actually do all of the readings assigned.
Any highlights you’d like to share with us?
NATASHA: Since I have been a part of this program, my language teaching skills have greatly improved and I have developed a teaching toolbelt that will continue to grow throughout my teaching career.
QUYNH: I love how diverse all of my LT classes are. I also think that having both undergrad and grad students in the same class is really awesome. I learn a lot from my classmates’ journey.
ELLIE: Getting to know the graduate LTS students has been one of the highlights of this program. Everyone is so welcoming, and never have I been in a class where so many people had the same interests as me!
Would you recommend SLAT to others?
NATASHA: I would recommend SLAT to anyone interested in language teaching no matter how experienced or inexperienced they may be. The teachers and students that you will meet in the program are the most wonderful people who encourage you and work with you to help you become a better teacher.
QUYNH: YES!! A very big yes!!
ELLIE: Yes! Definitely! And for linguistics majors, this program is the perfect way to understand the application side of linguistics.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in the SLAT certificate?
NATASHA: Join SLAT!
QUYNH: Try one class and you’ll never regress.
ELLIE: Try to get a job working with second language learners so that you can be exposed to as many different students as possible. Also try to get to know as many faculty members in the field, because they are a very beneficial source of information.
What will you do after you graduate?
NATASHA: I will teach in Taiwan starting in Summer 2018.
QUYNH: My plan after I graduate is to go teach English in Korea.
ELLIE: I plan to spend two years in the Peace Corps and then return to the States for graduate school.
We wish Natasha, Quynh, and Ellie our best wishes for successful completion of the program and an exciting future in language teaching!
*SLAT credits apply toward the LTS MA:
Students who have completed SLAT courses at UO can apply up to 15 credits towards the LTS MA degree. LTS MA alumni who first completed the SLAT certificate as undergraduates include recent graduates Aska Omata (2017), Dan White (2017), Kateland Johnson (2016), and Ava Swanson (2016).