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TEFL, TESL, TESOL or CELTA?

Niamh's English Students

You’re sifting through job openings;  envisioning yourself eating a delectable bowl of Kimchi in a 3am Busan, overlooking a spectacular star speckled sea, speaking fluent Korean (because, obviously, you picked it up the minute you stepped off the plane), when all of a sudden your delightful day dream hits a most unwelcome speed bump in the form of certification requirements.  I need a WHAT to teach overseas?! You try to pronounce it, but can’t.

Requirement: TEFL Preferred. Requirment: TESOL Recommended. Requirement: CELTA MANDATORY.

What is a TEFL? Where do I get one? Can I buy one at The Gap?* Do I own one already? Is it the same as a CELTA? What of a DELTA? And what’s the deal with TOEFL?! Does the O really make a difference!? What does the O even stand for!?

Okay, first off, calm down. Take a sip of water, breathe and start reading this article. Or you can stop, but this will probably result in a catastrophic level of confusion and, inevitably, you’ll end up signing up for some new, fancy, totally expensive course that actually doesn’t qualify you to do anything. In other words, what I’m about to tell you will probably change your life, forever-it’ll be right up there with your wedding day and birth of your first child. It may even surpass both these things.

Let us tackle the world of ESL qualifications together and break it down, piece by piece, into proper English. Acronyms were never my strong suit, anyway.

ESL Qualifications

What is a TEFL?

If your ultimate goal is to teach abroad in South Korea or China, a TEFL is usually the specified requirement. What does TEFL stand for you ask? What an excellent question! A TEFL translates to, Teaching English as a Foreign Language as opposed to TESL which means, Teaching English as a Second Language

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What is a TESL?

In other words, a TESL is preferable if you are looking to teach in an English speaking country. For example, I’m from Vancouver. If I want to teach in Vancouver, I am teaching English as a second language; not a foreign one, because English is the common, everyday speech of Vancouverites. If I were to mosey on over to Guangzhou to teach English, I would be teaching the language as a foreign one, because the language of locals there is Cantonese.  An easy way to remember: “I’m the foreigner here and; therefore, I’m teaching a foreign language."

What is a TESOL?

So what on Earth is a TESOL? This is a fairly contemporary certification, spawned from that of the TEFL and TESL to create the hybrid, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (including native Klingon speakers). The TESOL is generally accepted in both English and non-English speaking countries.

So, I’ve figured out I need a TEFL. What do I do now? There is a wide range of programs that vary in delivery method from 100% online to 100% in class, to half online/ half in-person, a quarter human contact to three quarters interweb; from 60 hours to 100 hours to 160 hours to 7 years. Wait, no-sorry, I was thinking of that Brad Pitt movie, 7 Years in Tibet. A TEFL course should not take you 7 years to complete and, if it does, you should probably rethink your career choice.

How long should it be?

A lot of you have questions about how many hours the TEFL course should be. If you’re interested in Korea, China or Southeast Asia, in general, 120 hours is usually sufficient, with 20 of those hours being in class. See, that wasn’t so difficult! For more information on specific TEFL courses, check out our Teacher Resource Room on our website.

But, you don’t want to teach with EPIK, you want a job in the UAE, Saudi or Kuwait! In most cases, an actual degree in education as well as a state, provincial or national teaching license is required to teach in the Middle East. However, with that being said, there are many international schools in the region that accept candidates with CELTA qualifications.

And a CELTA?

So, what is a CELTA? Well, have any of y’all heard of a little school in the UK called Cambridge? Well, Cambridge is CELTA’S mother. Sort of- if ESL courses had mothers.  A CELTA is an intensive, in-class program consisting of observed teacher practice that is moderated by Cambridge ESOL. It is probably the most accepted and versatile ESL qualification, recognized worldwide. If you have a whole month to dedicate yourself to studying English, and nothing but English, sign your life away to CELTA; it’ll be worth it in the long run if you’re looking to make ESL teaching your career.

I told you this was worth the read. Now that you have your TEFL, TESL, TESOL, CELTA in hand, let us help you secure a teaching position abroad!

*The Gap does not currently offer, nor has ever sold, TEFL courses. They have a great selection of denim though.

Visit our TEFL COURSE DIRECTORY!

Or, if you already qualify, browse our jobs

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