What’s the difference between TEFL, TESL, TESOL and CELTA?

What’s the difference between TEFL, TESL, TESOL and CELTA?

TEFL, TESL, TESOL and CELTA. If you’re thinking of becoming an English teacher or if you've been an English teacher for any length of time you’ll know that there are a number of acronyms related to both English teaching and certificates that you can obtain if you want to get an English teaching qualification. So what do they all mean? We’ll take a look at some of them here and explain what differences there are between them if any. Depending on your English teaching aspirations it may be that one of these is a better fit for you than others so read on and find out!
TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL is arguably the best known acronym in the English language teaching industry and refers to the teaching of English in non-native English speaking countries to speakers of foreign languages where students don’t speak English as their first language, such as Brazil, China and Spain.

TEFL certifications are the most common qualifications around the world for English teachers living and teaching overseas. Obtaining a TEFL certificate acts as many English teachers' entry into the world of English teaching and is often a minimum requirement for a lot of English teaching jobs at home and abroad. The good news is that getting one is relatively low cost, can be done quite quickly and will provide you with some quality training. You’ll be able to get a good TEFL qualification from an accredited course provider, and it can be done either online or in the classroom. Courses can vary in length from 20 hours to a more typical 120-hour course, and even up to 150 hours, all of which should help you become a better, more effective TEFL teacher. However, be aware that some course providers may not be accredited by recognised institutions so always do your own research before embarking on a course, and if you want to get hired a 120-hour TEFL course is often the favoured option with recruiters.
TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

TESL is quite distinct to TEFL in that it is the teaching of English in native English speaking countries to students whose first language is not English but who are living there. This could apply to teaching English to immigrants, foreign workers and foreign students in countries such as the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As such, a TESL qualification prepares an English teacher looking to teach and work in these countries and to teach English to speakers of foreign languages living in these countries. However, you’ll find that it is quite a rare qualification in comparison to a TEFL qualification, and in many cases a TEFL qualification will also be relevant to this type of work and allow you to work in other types of EFL jobs.

TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TESOL is a commonly used acronym in North America, Canada and Australia and is essentially a combination of both TEFL and TESL because by definition it covers teaching English in non-native English speaking countries and native English speaking countries to speakers of foreign languages.

As a qualification, TESOL is newer than both TEFL and TESL and focuses on preparing a teacher to teach a student whose native language is not English. You can get qualified in the same way, either online or in a classroom, and it gives you the flexibility to teach worldwide. Some would argue that due to its lack of focus TESOL can be less desirable to employers than TEFL if you’re looking to work overseas, and also less desirable than having a focus on TESL if you’re looking to teach in a native English speaking country. Therefore, as always, it is important to think about your employment goals before making a choice on the qualification you go for; in some cases a more general overview provided by the TESOL qualification could even be the better option.
CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

CELTA is a very specific qualification operating under the umbrella of Cambridge University. CELTA courses are run in centres all over the world and can last four to five weeks and often more. It is a very intensive course, usually requiring a full-time commitment and can be expensive. In the context of English teaching, CELTA is an internationally well known, highly regarded qualification and can be ideal if you’re looking to make a career out of teaching English, be it teaching abroad or in an English speaking country teaching non-native English speakers. However, if you’re not initially planning on teaching English long-term you might be better off going for a TEFL certificate depending upon the requirements of where you want to teach, because a CELTA course demands a lot of time and financial commitment and this may not be necessary for you to begin with. Naturally, this choice comes down to you and your career aspirations, so it is important to have an idea of what you want to achieve with your English teaching.

Despite their differences, it is worth remembering that all of these qualifications are highly reputable and can come in varying formats. Any training that you do receive will help you to become a better English teacher, and as with anything there is no substitute for experience so get out there, get qualified and get teaching!

Speaking of which…

TEFLPA – Teaching English as a Foreign Language Personal Assistant

A new acronym on the block in the world of English teaching and something we’re very proud to call our own. TEFLPA is an online platform where English teachers and tutors can advertise their services to English students in their local area or online anywhere in the world for either face-to-face or online lessons. TEFLPA also allows English teachers and tutors to manage the attendance, lesson records and billing of all of their own existing students via the site for free, and sends out automated daily lesson reminders and booking notifications to their e-mail. So if you want to get started teaching English or if you already teach, TEFLPA is a great tool to help you stay more organised with your English teaching admin and boost your profile to more students. You can sign up for free here.

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