We Know: All About TEFL/TESOL Teaching Certificates

What is a TEFL/TESOL teaching certificate?

There is a high demand for English language instructors worldwide. Individuals who wish to teach English abroad should take classes towards a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate. Certificate courses give students the opportunity to learn about new cultures and teaching methods that will help others learn English effectively.

What is the difference between TEFL and TESOL?

TEFL and TESOL are essentially the same thing. The United Kingdom uses the term English as a Foreign Language (EFL) while Americans use English as a Second Language (ESL). One distinguishing characteristic between the two is that EFL usually refers to English that is taught to non-native English speakers of non-English speaking countries while ESL refers to the teaching of English to non-native speakers of English-speaking countries.

Is a TEFL/TESOL certificate required to teach English overseas?

All that is required to teach English overseas is native or near-native fluency in the English language. While a TEFL/TESOL teaching certificate isn't necessary to teach English abroad, those without a certificate are at a slight competitive disadvantage as institutions favor candidates with certification for higher-paid positions. Some foreign governments refuse to grant teaching licenses to individuals without certification.

What is required to enroll in a TEFL/TESOL certificate program?

There are no formal requirements prior to enrolling in a TEFL/TESOL certificate program except for native or near-native fluency in the English language. Some certificate programs do require that prospective students hold a post secondary degree from an accredited institution.

What types of course are required for the TEFL/TESOL certificate?

Courses common to both certificates include:

  • Methods in teaching English language development
  • Language development and acquisition
  • Language structure and use
Courses that are unique to the TESOL certificate include:
  • Cultural diversity in the classroom
  • Special methods to teaching English in academic classrooms
Courses that are unique to the TEFL certificate include:
  • American culture
  • Teaching of English abroad as a foreign language
Elective courses can include reading and writing in English, materials design, and teaching English to children.

What should one look for in a TEFL/TESOL certificate program?

Three points that should be taken into consideration when looking for a good program are:

  • The program should require at least 100 hours of classroom time dedicated to methods of teaching.
  • The program should require at that the prospective teacher spend at least six hours in a class environment under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
  • The program should be accredited by a reputable overseeing body to ensure the program meets international standards.
  • Most programs take at least one year to complete in the United States. In the United Kingdom, a program can take as little as four weeks to complete. Some intensive training programs in the United States can also take as little as one month to complete.

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