Frequently Asked Questions

Who produces the most widely distributed publication in the ET profession?
Who is the largest publisher of EFL materials in Tbilisi, Georgia?
Where do teachers go, worldwide, for help in contacting American ET professionals?
Where can a new American M.A. graduate go for professional ET experience?
Who provides the most student advising outside the U.S.?

The one correct answer for all of the above is the U.S. Information Agency. With a small and low profile in the United States, its work is often masked by the institutions it works with--Fulbright/CIES, IIE, and NAFSA in the U.S.--or unacknowledged because of generic names like American Cultural Centers and binational centers overseas. But for nearly 50 years the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) has provided support and direction for English teaching resources, first to students, and then, as the profession matured, to teachers who sought better guidance, training, and materials. Long before the Berlin Wall fell, USIA was active in most East European countries. Throughout Latin America countless thousands learned English in the 1950s and 60s at binational centers (which are now down to only 300 or so in number!).

1. I'd like to be an English teacher and work overseas, but I don't know anything about it. Can you offer any general advice about the ESL/EFL field? For example, what is the difference between ESL and EFL? Do I need any specialized training to teach English? Thanks.
Margaret Gamez has written a very useful summary that addresses these and other questions. It is called "The International ESL/EFL/ESOL Resource Guide to Frequently Asked Questions." You can find this Resource Guide at Kristina Pfaff-Harris' Linguistic Funland site.

2. Can you help me find a job teaching English outside the United States?
Unfortunately, no. The English Language Programs Division is not a clearinghouse for ESL/EFL jobs. If you fit the criteria for any of our three exchange programs (see Question #5), we encourage you to send in an application. Otherwise, check out our page with job links. You might also want to look at the Peace Corps web site for information on becoming a volunteer.

3. How is USIA involved in English teaching?
The English Language Programs Division (ELPD) of the U.S. Information Agency is the office responsible for U.S. government English teaching support activities outside the U.S. With a total of 27 Civil Service and Foreign Service personnel, the ELPD provides a wide range of services and products throughout the world, most commonly through U.S. Information Service (USIS) offices usually located near or within the American Embassy in the capital city of a host country.

4. What is the difference between USIA and USIS?
USIA, located in Washington, D.C., is the acronym for the "United States Information Agency" which is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities conducted by its Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. USIS is the acronym for "United States Information Service" which are how the overseas offices, or posts, of USIA are named. The Agency has more than 190 posts in 141 countries.

5. What are the exchange programs that come under the supervision of the English Language Programs Division?
We operate three exchange programs which you are invited to review at our website: (A) the longstanding English Teaching Fellow (ETF) program, currently administered by the School for International Training, for recent American TESL/TEFL graduates--42 ETFs are currently "in the field"; (B) the Eastern Europe/NIS EFL Fellow program, begun in 1991, this year has in place 30 American EFL/ESP teacher trainers in 11 countries; and (C) the English Language Specialist program which last year sent 77 American EL Specialists to some 37 countries.

6. What are USIA/USIS English Language Officers? The Programs Branch of the ELPD is the home of nineteen Foreign Service English Language Officers (ELOs), some based in Washington but the majority of whom are posted outside the U.S. The field ELO is the U.S. government's front line diplomatic and professional link between the English teaching profession in the U.S. and counterpart ET professionals in other countries. ELOs consult with host-country ministry, university, and teacher-training officials, as well as lecture and present workshops on EFL methodology and practices; they stimulate and reinforce academic exchange programs between the United States and other countries to help interpret American life and institutions to the world; and they provide oversight for the English Teaching Programs run directly by USIS in Africa and the Middle East and engage in consultative services for Binational Centers and English teaching programs affiliated with USIS offices throughout the world. ELOs who cover several countries, i.e., a region, are referred to as RELOs (Regional English Language Officers).

7. Can a R/ELO help me find a job in a specific country if I contact him/her?
No, R/ELOs do not hire or recruit teachers. If you are interested in a teaching job in a specific country it would be best to contact an institution in that country directly. You could also contact the nearest embassy or consulate of that country for information.

8. What is the English Teaching Forum?
The English Teaching Forum is probably the most well-known product of the ELPD. The Forum, with articles by and for practicing English teachers, is the most widely distributed publication of its kind in the world. This past year approximately 110,000 copies of each issue were distributed in 185 countries.

9. How can I subscribe to the English Teaching Forum? For subscription information, please review the ET Forum page on our website.

10. Doesn't USIA produce English teaching materials?
Yes, the Materials Branch of the ELPD produces a wide variety of low cost, English teaching and reference materials. These titles are available outside of the United States from our USIS offices; legislative restrictions prohibit the materials from being distributed in the United States. Each overseas office of the U.S. Information Service establishes its own policies regarding availability and pricing. Anyone interested in obtaining these materials, which include print, audio and limited video titles, should contact their nearest USIS office. More than 514,000 titles (books and cassettes) were distributed worldwide in the first seven months of the current fiscal year.

11. I know VOA has radio programs that teach English. Are there any television programs like these?
Yes, indeed.

Crossroads Cafe is the USIA's newest venture in English-by-broadcast, with satellite broadcasts that began on October 7, 1996, to all of Latin America, where 3.5 million cable TV viewers can watch it daily on USIA's Worldnet Television Service. Worldwide satellite broadcast began in February 1997. Aimed at adults with lower-level English proficiency, this engaging series incorporates humor and drama in the daily lives of a diverse group of people centered in a small lunchtime cafe. There are culture clips and grammar spots to help bring language and cultural problems into focus.

Family Album, USA has been a major project of the USIA and Prentice Hall Regents, locally broadcast in more than 70 countries. This enduring series provides intermediate-level learners with equal portions of American culture and language, and has developed followers from Chile to China.

12. What is USIA's relationship with TESOL?
The ELPD and TESOL have long had a cordial as well as professional relationship, though there is no "official" connection between the two. For several years the ELPD has been the major sponsor for the "International Networking Event" during the TESOL Convention. (See our USIA and TESOL page.) In addition, several live Worldnet programs with worldwide audiences have been broadcast direct from the convention. Outside the U.S., the ELPD/USIS can usually be found in action when members of TESOL affiliates come together at national ET conferences.

13. How do USIA and the British Council get along?
ELPD maintains a cooperative, not competitive, relationship worldwide with our colleagues in the U.K. Indeed, in many countries, the ELPD/USIS and the British Council/ODA are joint sponsors of a wide variety of English language projects, e.g., national English teaching conferences in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, international conferences in Senegal and Turkey, ongoing institutional co-support in Indonesia and Malaysia (to name but a few). Simply put, "cooperation" is the key word between the U.S. and the U.K.

14. Is the ELPD doing anything with the Internet?
The ELPD provides funding for support of the e-mail based TESL-L (the Teachers of English as a Second Language Electronic List) which is hosted at City University of New York. In early March 1997, the TESL-L Management last reported having more than 17,000 members in 101 countries. For further information on TESL-L, e-mail to To subscribe to TESL-L, send an e-mail message to with the message SUBSCRIBE TESL-L FIRSTNAME LASTNAME.

Do you have any other questions? We would enjoy receiving them, and we will post the answers to them on this page. Send any questions to

This site is produced and maintained by the United States Information Agency. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

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