Beginners guide to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL): Part 2

Here’s the second of our two-part Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) guide. Careers Adviser Laura Blackledge looks at how to ensure you pick the write TEFL course for you.

When researching TEFL courses you may find a number of different acronyms used, but what do they mean and which option is right for you? There are no hard and fast rules as to which course you must take. With many options available it’s important to research and make sure the course suits you and your situation. Look back at our first post to think about what factors you should consider when choosing your course.

Initial TEFL qualifications can range from a practical 20-hour weekend course to 100-hours of online TEFL training:

Two or three-day TEFL courses

Two or three day TEFL courses should give you everything you need to get started, following a similar curriculum to the longer 4-week courses mentioned below, but with less detail. The courses are run over two days at weekends or over three days during the week and should include mini-teaching practices.

If you are looking to just get started in TEFL, are thinking of travelling and picking up work or already have teaching experience then this course type might suit you. The qualification will allow you to find work in many schools worldwide (though not all) and if you haven’t taught before it is a small investment to find out if teaching English abroad is something you actually want to do.

 Online courses

The quality of online training has improved significantly over recent years and these courses provide opportunities to interact with other students online, use video observation and get more immediate support from your tutors. However, some schools will still not accept a purely online qualification, so many providers offer the chance to combine online with practical training.

Online courses offer convenience and a low cost, low commitment way to find out if TEFL is suitable for you. Some people will choose to use online training to further develop what they have learnt on a practical classroom course. Others take the online course to get their first job abroad.

4-week courses

Cambridge (CELTA) and Trinity College (TESOL) are the main providers of longer TEFL courses but there are numerous other self-accrediting organisations. Course structure includes assignments as well as 6 hours of teaching practice and many more of observing other teachers. Since the courses are more rigorous and demanding, the pass rate is a lot lower than that of shorter courses. The CELTA/Trinity courses can be a way to hone skills of ELT teaching, as well as building your CV and experience. Many schools in the UK ask for CELTA/Trinity qualifications as a minimum.

While these courses can be suitable as initial training in TEFL to make you more attractive to employers, they are quite demanding in terms of time, cost and brain power. It might be better to do a shorter course first and embark on these longer courses when you are sure TEFL is what you want to do.

To talk to an adviser about whether TEFL is right for you drop in and see us anytime 9am-4pm Monday to Friday. If you are unable to get on campus, don’t forget we also offer an eGuidance service.

Jargon buster

  • TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language .
  • TESOL Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • TESL Teaching English as a Second Language
  • ESP English for Specific Purposes e.g. law, technology, medicine
  • EAP English for Academic Purposes. Training EFL teachers
  • ELT English Language Teaching
  • CELTA Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. One of the two internationally-recognised TEFL qualifications
  • DELTA Diploma course for graduates with two years’ ELT experience
  • UCLES The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate , which validates CELTA courses
  • RSA The words ‘RSA certificate’ are often still used when referring to CELTA, although Cambridge ESOL took over RSA certificates and diplomas for teachers in 1988!
  • CertTEFLA – an even older name for CELTA
  • CertTESOL The Trinity College Certificate in TESOL – the other internationally-recognised TEFL qualification
  • JET Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme
  • PGCE Postgraduate Certificate in Education – the essential course to teach in state schools in the UK . A few PGCE courses include TEFL as a subsidiary subject
  • VSO Voluntary Service Overseas

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