These acronyms are used when referring to training courses that English language teachers undertake, as well as the certification they receive upon completion. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. As these terms are essentially the same, they are often used interchangeably, however, TEFL is most commonly used within the UK and TESOL is usually preferred in the USA. Although some countries may favor one acronym over the other, it is important to remember that a TEFL certification and a TESOL certification are exactly the same thing as the training involved is identical.
Table of Contents
Although TEFL and TESOL training courses are identical and the acronyms are generally used interchangeably, there is a technical difference between the two. The general perception is that speakers of English as a foreign language live in a non-English speaking country, meaning they don?t need to speak English on a daily basis and are usually learning the language for travel, business or simply as a hobby. In contrast, speakers of English as a second language live in an English speaking country, meaning they need to speak English on a daily basis for work, socializing, shopping etc.
In order to secure a position as an EFL teacher most employers require their job applicants to possess a relevant qualification known as a TEFL or TESOL certificate. However, as there is no official standard when it comes to certification, it can be hard to know which course to choose from the many options available. A quick internet search for TEFL certification will reveal a huge number of different companies offering all manner of courses that vary enormously in the level of commitment required in terms of both time and finances. So how do you decide which course is right for you?
TEFL courses are generally categorized by the amount of hours they should take to complete. Online courses start at as little as 40 hours and in-class courses can be completed over a single weekend. If you are looking for a simple introduction to language teaching or are considering volunteering as an EFL teacher then these courses may be sufficient, however, it is worth considering that many teaching jobs that offer the best working conditions and an attractive salary will require a TEFL certificate of at least 120 hours.
If you want the best possible start to your teaching career and really want to hit the ground running, we would recommend you complete an in-class TEFL course at one of our international training centers. The main benefit of this form of certification is the inclusion of extensive teaching practice with genuine language learners under the guidance of a professional teacher trainer. On completion of this four- week intensive training you will be ready to walk into your first teaching job fully confident in your ability to plan and deliver lessons to a high standard.
For many people the in-class course can prove to be too time consuming and simply out of their price range. Luckily this is not a major problem as ITTT offers an online alternative that leads to a 120-hour TEFL certificate that is widely accepted by international employers. Although the online option doesn?t include teaching practice, it does include a wide selection of videos that provide a great insight into what to expect when you enter your very own classroom for the first time.
Strictly speaking the answer is no, you do not have to possess a TEFL certificate in order to find work as an English language teacher. In some countries around the world it is still possible to secure employment simply by being a native English speaker. However, there are several reasons why we would strongly recommend that you complete a TEFL training course before you set off to teach English abroad.
In recent years many popular destinations have begun to tighten the requirements necessary for teaching English in schools and language centers. A recognized TEFL certificate is now required in order to secure a work permit in many countries, whilst the ever growing number of teachers with a TEFL qualification means that employers in the majority of countries will no longer accept unqualified teachers. Put simply, if you want to live and work in any popular destination across the world, you are more than likely to need a TEFL qualification. Another important factor to consider is the salary, benefits and overall working conditions that each job has to offer. This varies considerably from one country to the next but one fact remains consistent, the jobs that offer the best packages in most situations will require a TEFL certification.
As well as official requirements and personal benefits, there is one other very important reason why we consider it necessary to earn a TEFL qualification before you enter the world of English language teaching. The ability to speak a language does not mean you are equipped to teach it!
Teaching a language requires certain specialist skills and knowledge which allow you to pass on what you know to your students. Completing a reputable TEFL course will ensure you are clear on the structures of English grammar such as the tense system, conditionals, modals and passive voice, and how to teach them effectively. You will also learn essential teaching skills including how to plan your lessons, methodologies for effective teaching and how to manage your students. Not only will this knowledge help you to secure a good teaching position, it will also ensure that your students have the best chance of improving their English abilities.
TEFL teachers should not be confused with foreign language teachers. A TEFL qualified teacher does not typically share the same native language as their students and are specifically trained to offer explanations and directed teaching methods to non-English speakers. This teaching style is mainly focused on repetition, drills, demonstrations, and visuals.
Often wrongfully interpreted, a TEFL teacher does not necessarily work with children. In fact, the student age group can cover all ages, from kindergarten through university level and beyond. You often encounter English language academies that specialize in a certain age group, for example, an institution specifically for children or another designed to help business executives improve their English skills for international business communication. Therefore, the role of the teacher can vary from case to case which requires instructors to be flexible and adaptable to new situations.
In general, you can find opportunities to work as a TEFL teacher anywhere on the map, even in your home country where groups of learners whose native language is not English may include migrants or refugees. However, the majority of teachers work in countries around the globe where English is not the official language. Popular countries include China, South Korea and Thailand in Asia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and South American countries such as Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. TEFL teachers might work in classrooms as main instructors or they may cooperate with other primary teachers in a supporting role. On the other hand, teachers might have local supporting teachers who are able to help the students in their native language to ensure smooth communication.
When asking teachers why they pursue a career teaching English abroad, the responses usually come down to similar reasons: Huge money saving opportunities, living a comfortable lifestyle, being able to explore foreign cultures, being able to pay off (college) debt, and to improve skills for further career opportunities.
Short for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, CELTA is essentially an individual brand of TEFL certification that is awarded by Cambridge English Language Assessment which is a part of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. The course is an intensive 4-week program that is offered by a variety of schools and training centers in countries all over the world. As the name suggests it is primarily aimed at those looking to teach adult students.
When it comes to choosing the best course you should not be too concerned about which acronym you end up with on your certificate. Whether it is TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA is not the most important factor, what matters is whether the course meets the accepted international standard for English language teaching. These standards require:
A minimum course length of 120 hours (4-week in-class course or equivalent) A minimum of six hours of observed teaching practice (OTP) with genuine language students The course should be conducted by instructors who possess a high level of relevant qualifications and extensive teaching experience The curriculum should be externally accredited and monitored by an independent body What if a course doesn't meet the criteria?
There are many short-format/low priced course options on the market that do not meet the above criteria. If you are looking for a professional certification that is welcomed by employers all over the world then these are best avoided. Any course that does meet the criteria, whether TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA, should give you the skills, knowledge and confidence you need to start your new career teaching English abroad.
When making a final decision on which course to take it is worth remembering that the quality of each course may vary from one training center to the next. You might read on blogs or forums that the CELTA course is superior to any other TEFL course. This is simply not true as the course is operated by a wide array of training centers in different parts of the world, some of which are good and some not so good. It is also worth considering that many TEFL or TESOL certificate courses are now equal to or exceeding the standards set by the University of Cambridge for CELTA certification. The bottom line is that the quality and effectiveness of any teacher training course is not set by the acronym on the certificate, but the overall standard of the individual training center that provides it.
No, TEFL certificates do not expire, they are valid for life. Once you have completed your course, either online or by attending a training center, you will be able to start work straight away or set off on your travels and use it later when your funds starts to get low. A TEFL certificate really is a great qualification to have in your backpack or briefcase as you can use it to earn a good income at any time, in any part of the world.
Although your certification will never expire, we do recommend that you continue to develop your skills and knowledge as you progress in your teaching career. Additional courses such as an advanced TEFL Diploma or a specialized certificate in teaching business English or teaching young learners will build on your existing skills, allowing you to deliver even better lessons in the classroom. These extra qualifications will also look good on your CV/resume and open up further job opportunities that may not have previously been open to you.
During your TEFL course you will receive instruction in a wide range of specific skills such as lesson planning, classroom management and correction techniques, as well as learn about various English grammar subjects and phonology. Much of what you learn will stay with you for the long term, however, if you spend an extended period away from the classroom you may well benefit from a refresher course before you start a new teaching job. Keeping your teaching skills up-to-date will not only allow you to enter an unfamiliar classroom full of confidence in your ability, but will also ensure that your students receive a high level of instruction that allows them to successfully progress in their language studies.