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What is TEFL and What is TEFL Certification?
Learn what TEFL means and understand how a TEFL Certification provides the professional-level training you need to teach English abroad and online.
Written By: John Bentley | Updated: June 28, 2022
Written By: John Bentley
Updated: June 28, 2022
You're interested in learning more about getting TEFL certified but wondering what this all means, and where to start? You've come to the right place! We'll make sure you understand the basics when it comes to TEFL so let's dive right into it:
What is TEFL?
“TEFL” is the acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language or, simply put, English language instruction for non-native speakers. It is also commonly known as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English Language Teaching (ELT), and teaching ESL (English as a Second Language).
The field of TEFL/TESOL represents one of the fastest-growing educational sectors worldwide. It presents thousands of excellent professional opportunities for teaching English abroad in all corners of the globe to both native and fluent English speakers who earn their TEFL/TESOL certification.
In practical terms, there is little or no difference between “TEFL” and “TESOL.” They are both acronyms that essentially mean the same thing: teaching the English language to non-native speakers. Likewise, in the vast majority of cases, when you encounter references to ESL teaching certificates for teaching English abroad, a “TEFL certification” and a “TESOL certification” are the same and the terms are interchangeable.
On a more technical level, TESOL is the term applied to the teaching of English to non-native speakers in native English-speaking countries. It refers to those who will earn degrees and work in the field domestically in the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.S.
Sometimes, TEFL & TESL can be used interchangeably. What is TESL?
Teaching English as a second language (TESL) means teaching English to students whose first language is not English. TESL is typically used to refer to teaching English to non-native speakers who live in a country where English is the dominant language.
TEFL or TESOL Certification and Requirements for Getting a Job Teaching English abroad
What is TEFL certification?
A TEFL certification is an internationally recognized professional credential that certifies that an individual is qualified to teach English as a foreign language. TEFL certification is typically required to secure a job teaching English abroad or online to non-native English language students.
You may also hear the phrase TEFL certificate in reference to TEFL certification.
What is a TEFL certificate?
A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate is an internationally recognized professional credential that certifies that its holder is qualified to teach English as a foreign language. A TEFL certificate enables individuals to teach English to non-native speakers abroad or online.
To teach English as a foreign language in a foreign country (that is, a non-native English-speaking country), a TEFL certification is typically required, since schools and language institutes want to hire teachers who have received proper training.
You don't need to possess a degree in education, prior teaching experience, or even a college degree to get paid to teach English abroad. At minimum, you need a certification to teach English abroad. Private language schools abroad, online teaching companies and government programs that recruit native English speakers to teach abroad all seek to hire people who have received a certain degree of professional-level training.
How does TEFL certification work?
An accredited TEFL certification school will provide training from a highly qualified instructor covering the skills and tools you will need to work as a professional English teacher. Professional-level TEFL courses must meet certain standards and include live practice teaching.
These standards include:
- At least 100 hours of coursework;
- At least 6-20 hours of practicum (live practice teaching and observation with actual non-native English speakers and NOT role-playing with fellow TEFL classmates);
- An accredited curriculum from a recognized, independent organization within the field;
- Instruction provided by a qualified instructor (who has an equivalent to a Master's Degree in TESOL or a related field);
- It is also recommended that you take your TEFL certification course from an organization that provides comprehensive job search guidance.
- 7 Key Tips to Evaluate a TEFL / TESOL Training School
- Jobs Search Guidance For Teaching English Abroad
TEFL Certification Course Options
Now that you understand what TEFL & TEFL certification mean, it's time to look at how to get TEFL certified. To get TEFL certified, you need to look at TEFL certification programs and take a TEFL certification course. TEFL courses are usually offered in person, in a classroom-like environment here in the U.S. and around the globe, or online via a virtual learning platform such as moodle, or even on zoom.
What are TEFL certification programs?
A TEFL Certification Program is a training course for Teaching English as Foreign Language that is regulated according to international standards. Upon completion, an individual is awarded a TEFL certificate, which can be used to secure a job teaching English to non-native speakers worldwide.
Read More: TEFL certification courses
Additionally, when it comes to choosing the right TEFL certification course, accreditation is a critical element. Why does it matter? Think of it as a guarantee that you will receive high-quality, professional-level training. Knowing that a legitimate external body monitors your training, and makes sure that the educational standards outlined above are maintained in your TEFL course, gives you the confidence that you are receiving a stellar education.
Read more: Level 5 Accreditation for TEFL Certification
Is it Possible to Earn a Valid TEFL Certification Online?
With the growing prevalence of online education, one question that frequently arises from those seeking to teach English abroad is: can I actually earn a valid TEFL certification online that employers will recognize when I apply for jobs to teach English overseas?
The answer is "Yes" - as long your online TEFL course is accredited and meets all of the standards outlined above. If you seek a truly professional-level certification that will provide you with the skills, resources and qualifications you need to get a top job, be mindful that many online TEFL courses - especially the cheaper ones - do not meet these standards. Online TEFL classes that do not include a practicum (that is, live practice teaching in front of real students) for example, are not recognized by many language schools and TEFL programs around the world.
Will a TEFL Certification Qualify Me to Teach English Online?
Yes it will! In addition to providing a recognized qualification for TEFL jobs overseas, a TEFL certification will qualify you to teach English online. In fact, similar to English language schools worldwide, online language companies will usually require their English teachers to possess a legitimate and accredited TEFL certification.
Many TEFL certified English teachers overseas teach English online part-time as a way to supplement their income as an English teacher at a local school. Others teach English online full-time, which gives them the chance to move more frequently from country to country. Indeed, they can earn an income while teaching English online from anywhere as long as they have a strong Internet connection. Most teachers are able to make at least $10-$20 (USD) per hour & work schedules are very flexible.
Read More: Teaching English Online Explained
If you're considering teaching English online, you can also decide to enhance your online teaching skills to make yourself more marketable with online language schools. Look into post-TEFL certification advanced specialty courses for teaching English online. They are add-on trainings that aim to futher your TEFL certification skills and apply them to the world of teaching English online specifically.
Read More: Teaching English Online Specialty Course
Ready To Get Started?
We'd love to answer any of your questions! International TEFL Academy's TEFL certifications meet or exceed international standards and are internationally accredited by sanctioned bodies in the field. In other words, a TEFL certification from International TEFL Academy is recognized at the highest level by employers worldwide.
In addition to being internationally accredited, International TEFL Academy has enjoyed an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 2012.
Since the beginning of 2019, ITA has been named the #1 TEFL school by GoOverseas.com & GoAbroad.com across a range of awards categories for TEFL certification, including:
Read More: ITA's awards, reviews & recognition
So get in touch! Call us or fill out a form, and you'll be assigned a personal advisor who's taught English and/or lived overseas. Feel free to ask them anything, including about their own experience, they'll be happy to help!
Posted In: TEFL Certification
John Bentley is Co-Founder & Senior Writer for International TEFL Academy (ITA), the world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad. A graduate of Harvard University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, John is a recognized expert in the field of TEFL. His articles have appeared across the field's top websites, including GoAbroad.com, StudyAbroad.com, InterExchange, GoOverseas.com, Adventure Teaching, & many others. He has also spoken as an expert on Teaching English Abroad & TEFL certification at major conferences like MeetPlanGo and Lessons from Abroad (LFA) in Portland & San Diego.
Want to Learn More About Teaching English Abroad & Online?
Request a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 to speak with an expert advisor about all aspects of TEFL certification and teaching English abroad or online, including the hiring process, salaries, visas, TEFL class options, job placement assistance and more.
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