Navigating the world of English teaching, especially as a newcomer, can be overwhelming given the numerous acronyms such as TEFL and CELTA. Both are recognized and hold significant value in the teaching community, but their meaning and comparison can still cause a bit of confusion. Let's demystify what each one represents and discuss their comparative merit.
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TEFL, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language, broadly encompasses any training or certification aimed at individuals who wish to teach English, whether locally, abroad, or online. It does not denote a specific course or certification. Upon researching, you will find countless TEFL course providers offering a variety of courses differing in duration, cost, and quality.
TEFL's twin term, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), essentially serves the same purpose. These two terms are frequently used interchangeably, referring to training or certification designed for budding teachers keen on teaching English abroad or online. Though TESOL is more commonly used in North America and TEFL in the UK, both are accepted by international employers if issued by a reputable course provider.
Also read: Is TEFL a good career choice?
CELTA, initially an acronym for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, has undergone a name change to include teaching young learners and is now known as Cambridge English Level 5 Certificate In Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It represents a specific brand of TEFL certification overseen by Cambridge English, a division of the renowned UK University of Cambridge.
CELTA course participants undergo an intensive month-long teacher training at any one of the numerous training centers across 70 countries worldwide. Targeting novice teachers and experienced ones without formal qualifications, the course welcomes native and non-native English speakers. However, non-natives must prove their English proficiency with a minimum C1 rating on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) or an IELTS score of 7.
The acronym on your teaching certificate, whether TEFL, CELTA, or TESOL, isn't as crucial as the course's conformity with international standards for English language teaching. Schools and language centers generally look for the following benchmarks in a teacher training qualification:
- 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 ESL students.
The course is 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.
Any course satisfying the above criteria should be accepted by most English teaching job opportunities, regardless of the acronym on your certificate.
Also read: How do online TEFL courses work?
Numerous brief and inexpensive TEFL courses are available online. However, many fail to meet employers' expected criteria, limiting your job opportunities domestically and internationally. Conversely, any training course aligning with the above standards should equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills for a successful teaching career, irrespective of its acronym.
CELTA and in-class TEFL courses are provided by various schools and training centers worldwide, leading to potential variations in quality. Some might argue that CELTA supersedes TEFL in quality, but this should be taken with a grain of salt. Each CELTA provider may vary in quality.
While CELTA may have been considered superior to a TEFL certificate in the past, many TEFL course providers have raised their standards and are now on par or even surpass the standard set by the University of Cambridge for its CELTA certification. Essentially, the certificate's acronym does not determine the quality of a teacher training course. The most crucial factor when choosing a teacher training course is the overall standard of the individual training center or online course provider.
Also read: Do TEFL certificates expire?