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Everything you always wanted to know about TEFL, but were afraid to ask!

If a spell teaching english abroad is for you, you will first need to get yourself a TEFL Certificate from one of the many schools around the globe. Many people choose to stay in the UK to earn their certificate first, but you can also train abroad - and it could be an advantage because you may get offered a job by the school after your training!

Choosing the course for you can be baffling though, and the jargon involved in the world of English teaching can leave you feeling a bit lost. You'll hear people talking about all sorts of things from "teffle" to "selta"...

It's a good job we're here...say hello to the Teaching English Jargon Buster!

  • ELT - English Language Teaching

This is what the main institutions and academic bodies call it.

  • TEFL teaching - (pronounced "teffle")

This stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This probably the most common acronym and best to stick to if someone asks you what you do... "I'm a TEFL teacher".

  • Cambridge and Trinity College London

These bodies provide training for budding teachers either here in Britain or throughout the world at schools whose training courses are accredited by them. So when you’re looking for somewhere to train, look to see if the course the school is providing is accredited by either of these organisations…. Accreditation isn’t vital, but probably the majority of schools look for teachers who have these accredited training certificates as a minimum requirement for employment.

  • CELTA - The Cambridge teaching certificate.
  • CertTESOL - Trinity College London teaching certificate
  • TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

Teaching English in countries English is vital on a daily basis, either as a second official language of the country, the language of business, or as the first language in a multicultural society where there are people for whom it it is not their mother tongue (as in the UK and the US).

What kind of qualification?

You'll need to get trained up before you head into the classroom - more and more schools will not even consider you for a job unless you have some kind of teaching certificate. There are more than enough people out there looking for jobs who do have a qualification that schools don't need to just take anyone. In a rapidly increasing market it is important that you help yourself as much as possible.

Formal training will also give you the knowledge and skills, and therefore the confidence, that you will need to teach effectively in the classroom.

So what are the training options? You could train to be a teacher in Barcelona, Budapest or Belfast and become a teacher in 4 weeks, train on-line or over a weekend, or part-time at your local FE college. The problem, of course, is that quality ( and of course cost! ) varies, and that what is good for one person may not be good for another. You must first decide what you can afford, from the point of view of both money and time, and also where you want to do it.

Think also about what you expect in terms of course content and what would suit you. Some people prefer a more theoretical approach to their training, and self-study at home over the internet is also an option.

With the exception of the very few unscrupulous and shoddy course providers, most of the routes you can take to becoming a teacher have their own value. It is up to you to decide what is best for you.

Before you choose what course you want to do, there are a number of questions that you should ask yourself, as well as questions that you need to ask of the institution that is offering you the course.

Teacher Training Checklist

How much can I afford?

Costs vary greatly, as do teaching standards, so always look very closely at what you are going to get for your money, always bearing in mind that the TEFL qualification you are working towards should also be an investment for the future. If you want to teach in the top schools and make a career in ELT, that initial investment in a top quality Certificate (CELTA or CertTESOL) course is well worth your while. If you’re not sure whether you’re cut out for teaching, a cheaper introductory course could be the answer, giving you a taster of the ‘industry’. There are also many institutions offering courses that have no Cambridge or Trinity validation, but that often in fact have more assessed practical teaching time: they are always worth investigating.

How much time do I have to do a course?

Do you want to do a full-time or a part-time course? Course lengths vary, depending on whether they are full or part time. A full-time Certificate course is usually over 100 hours, often in an intensive 4-week burst, and part-time could be anything up to 16 weeks or longer. Maybe you'd like to do a weekend or introductory course ( for example, if you’ve just left school, and don’t meet the entry requirements for full-blown Certificate courses ). These could be from 2 to 5 days long, and could be just the thing to give you a taster of what it’s like to be a TEFL teacher, without shelling out £1000. Distance Learning is also an option, as many institutions offer teacher training online or by e-mail.  

Do I have the time, energy, commitment and money to do a CELTA or CertTESOL course?

Full-time Certificate courses can range from anything between £700 to a £1000, with part-time courses around £300 to £400. The 4-week intensive courses are very hard work, but usually well worth the effort. Many of the more established schools specifically ask for either CELTA or CertTESOL qualified teachers, ( as well as a degree ), so if you’re going to be in ELT for the long run, and want to teach at the biggest schools, a CELTA or Trinity validated certificate is pretty much essential.

So if you think it's for you, check out our TEFL section and find an organisation who can help you get the qualification you need, or the job of your dreams.