Certifiably Different – TEFL vs. CELTA

TEFL Certification or CELTA? CELTA or TEFL Cert?

Many people new to the business of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) are confronted with this question when they decide to get in-classroom training before they start teaching.

So, what is the difference between the two training courses?

Like the old saw about apples and oranges, they are really just different kinds of fruit. All quality in-classroom TEFL training programs will impart teaching methodology, grammar, observed teaching practice (OTP) and peer demonstrations, no matter which kind of course you pick.

A good program will also teach the trainees about the special problems that local EFL students have—which is why I always encourage people to take their in-classroom training course in the same country they’d like to get their first teaching job in.

These programs are typically intensive, and trainees learn A TON over only a few weeks. So, if you’re signing up for one of these courses, don’t be heartbroken if you spend more time studying than partying.

The main difference between CELTA and TEFL Certification programs is that CELTA is a franchised business (McDonald’s fast food and 7-11 convenience stores are other famous examples of world-wide franchises) and thus the course content will be standardized wherever you take it. Because of the franchise, CELTA-issuing schools pay royalties for every teacher they train. These royalties usually translate into a significantly higher price tag for the course.

Another difference is that CELTA aims toward teaching English to adults—that’s what the “A” in CELTA stands for—and so if you want to work mainly with kids, you might look for a TEFL Certification program that also trains up teachers of young learners.  Most TEFL Cert programs will offer many different kinds of practice to their trainees—including both kids and adults. Even if your primary goal is not teaching children, many teachers end up teaching children at some point in their careers – even if only for a few classes, so this is something to consider.

As in many industries, you’ll find some people who think the way they trained is the best way—and in this bickering about who’s the top dog, CELTA often comes off as the elite choice. However, you’ll also come across people who cheer for the TEFL course they went to—just as they might have loyalty to their local university, high school or sports team. People sometimes want to feel that their program or school is BETTER than any other one, because that’s the one into which they have invested their time and money.

That said, here’s another thing to think about carefully.  If you are set on teaching in Europe, a CELTA is often preferred may sometimes be thought of as the only “valid” training program for teachers of EFL. However, this might also be because the school or training center you want to work for is also a CELTA franchise. So, they might want to you to pay them for training before they give you a job.   It is not unusual for franchise schools of any brand to prefer people who took their course.

But, what if you don’t have a CELTA and you really want to work for a CELTA-issuing franchise? Even if you only have a TEFL Certificate, you can urge them to let you do a demonstration lesson. This will show you if they are interested in the SKILLS you have as a teacher, or if they only want you to have their expensive piece of paper.

In my experience, you don’t often find TEFL Cert schools who refuse teachers who had other kinds of training. Usually when you apply they will accept your TEFL Cert no matter where you got it—as long as it meets the internationally accepted standards.

TED’s Tips™ #1: You should probably take the CELTA if you want to teach in Europe. But if you want to go elsewhere, odds are your employer won’t care which kind of teaching certificate you have.

TED’s Tips™ #2: For whichever program you decide, try to interview the main teacher-trainer at the school you want to attend. Feel out whether or not they are PASSIONATE about teaching. If they aren’t, that might be a sign you don’t want to go there! But if they do sound like they truly love EFL teaching, then they might just be the best teacher-trainer and have the best course for you.

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BaNAna or BanaNA?

A Word Spoken Any Other Way…

Teaching Pronunciation in EFL, Part I

When teaching English as a Foreign Language, we have to be careful not only of WHAT we teach students to say, but of HOW we teach students to say it.  This is pronunciation. And pronunciation is something that new teachers may do quite poorly (and often incorrectly).

If you’re a new teacher, how can you avoid some of the pitfalls your peers will be making when it comes to helping your students with pronunciation?  Read on.

Three main elements to pronunciation

There are three main things to take into consideration when you’re teaching students how to speak with proper pronunciation. Those three elements are

1) stress

2) rhythm

3) intonation

In quick-and-dirty definitions, stress is about the words—and parts of words— we emphasize when we speak, rhythm is the ‘beat’ of the language, and intonation is stress within a sentence.

Confused? Don’t be. The two areas hardest to understand for native speaker teachers are rhythm and intonation—because most native speakers don’t pay attention to these qualities of their own speech.

Your students will probably understand the rhythm of English more intuitively than you will, because the human ear is often more attuned to rhythm in a foreign language than in its own.

The music in language

You may be familiar with the idea of ‘tones’ in language in relation to Asian languages like Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai. Yes, these languages use tones to convey meaning, but so does English! Well, not tones really, but intonation. For example, when we ask a question, we raise our tone at the end of the sentence. This is how we can hear the difference between the sentences “Give me some money!” and “Give me some money?” In the second example, your voice will have a slightly higher pitch at the end of the sentence than it did for the first sentence.

Don’t stress about stress

Now, let’s go back and look at stress. Different languages have different rules and traditions for what part of a multi-syllabic word should carry stress. English has a certain pattern that we use. For example, the homely word ‘banana.’ In American English we say, roughly, ‘ba-NA-nuh.” The second syllable is drawn out to say ‘naaaa.’ That second syllable is longer, slightly higher pitched, and maybe a bit louder than the ‘ba’ at the beginning and the ‘nuh’ at the end.  But a Thai person, using Thai stress rules and applying them to an English word (as many students would do) would say ‘ba-naa-NUH.’

If someone came up to you and said, ‘ba-naa-NUH,’ would you immediately know what they meant? Maybe not, and that’s why it’s important to teach students how to properly stress words they learn in English.

One of the reasons that native speaker teachers are so sought-after is that we use these little tricks of language intuitively. We don’t need to think about whether or not we need to raise our pitch when we ask a question—we just do it. And if you can get a good idea of what your students need to do to speak like you do, you’ll be able to help them immeasurably in their quest for better English.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Remember the three parts of pronunciation—stress, rhythm and pronunciation.  We’ll work more with them in the next post.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Listen to how you say multi-syllabic words. Why do you put stress on one part of the word and not on another. What happens to your ability to understand the word if you change stress?

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Painlessly Teaching Writing in EFL

Teaching writing can be painful if not done correctly

Of the four skill areas emphasized when teaching English as a Foreign Language (speaking, listening, reading and writing), most teachers fear writing the most.

But—like the ‘bogeyman’ shadow in a child’s bedroom—teaching writing is really nothing scary at all.

After this post, writing might be your favorite subject!

It is true that teaching the skill of writing may require of your students a bit more effort, and you a bit more time and patience than the other skills.  However, that all pays off once you’ve got a handle on it—then, teaching writing may become your favorite skill area.


If you use a sensible method and some good materials, like the ones I link to below, your students will be thrilled by the steady progress they make.

Writing equals thinking

The thing is, writing takes a bit more thinking than most activities in listening, reading, or even speaking.  And often, students come to class believing they are good writers already—and they may be good writers, but are they good writers in English? You may find, to your dismay, that students proudly present you with writing assignments chock-a-block full of tortured prose, or even gibberish.

To get your students to an acceptable level, let’s say the level they need if they want to study or work abroad or if they need to use written English in their job, you’ll need to build up their skills without breaking down their level of confidence.

Begin at the beginning

By far the best tactic for teaching writing is to start at the beginning. As Maria in The Sound of Music said, that’s a very good place to start!  Go back and review the most basic skills. Sure, you may have a few students who roll their eyes at you and tell you, “Teeeaaaacher! We know how to do that!”  And they may know it, but you must check, because it’s difficult to build a castle on an uneven foundation. If you are in the situation where your students and you are at odds over what they know and how well they know it, make sure you don’t crush their enthusiasm for learning with your corrections. Tell them you think their writing skills are good—you just want to make them better.

Two well organized writing manuscripts show the way:

Sentence Writing and Intermediate Writing

I strongly urge you to download these two writing-related e-books that I link to in this blog post. These manuscripts are highly structured manuals for teaching writing well, and are organized so that students’ proficiency will build easily and naturally as you lead them through the steps outlined in the book.

Before you take them into class however, make sure you spend some time looking at how the books are organized. Take a minute to understand the whys—Why is this lesson first? Why is that lesson next? Understand how the blocks follow one-by-one to build a strong support for your students’ writing prowess.

Of course, you’re going to see plenty of grammar in the book focusing on writing sentences. Truly, if there’s one skill where grammar is critical—it’s in writing.

Also, notice that the books are designed to lead your students to writing success a bit more slowly than your average textbook may demand. Most textbooks I’ve worked with lead the students through their paces before the learners have had a chance to master the steps. It’s much more effective if the teachers can integrate what the students learned last week with what they will learn this week, even going back further in the sequence as necessary.

And that’s what my friend and I organized these two manuscripts as a methodical approaches to building your students’ confidence and skill in writing without going too fast, or missing out any of the important pieces of the puzzle.  I hope you enjoy them!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Teaching writing is not a race. Don’t go too fast through the lessons—you won’t be doing your students any favors.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Look at these two writing textbooks and notice not only the particular exercises we recommend, but also the order in which we put those tasks.

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