TEFL Training Courses: Just How Difficult Are They?

There is a bit of a cult among some TEFL courses to make it sound as if TEFL courses are really super difficult and that you should worry a lot about getting it done.

Well . . . okay – yes and no.

My experience is that in-classroom TEFL courses are demanding of your time – yes. But you just spent US$1200-2500 on a four-to-six-week course. Wouldn’t you hope that it be comprehensive and at least a bit demanding? Wouldn’t you feel cheated if you spent so much money and it was really all just fluff and filler and you didn’t really need to do anything? I sure would.

Your Keys to Success

So . . . let’s assume the course has some substance to it and you will need to do a few things:

1. Prepare a bit before you attend the course. Refresh your knowledge of English grammar. Cruise grammar websites and possibly even pick up a copy of the ebook Fast Track Grammar Review for EFL Teachers – it was written specifically for people taking TEFL courses and it is a humor-filled run at grammar. And it’s only seven bucks. Be sure you know at least the parts of speech and the different aspects/tenses of verbs and how they are used. Why struggle with that when you will already be quite busy getting teaching method down.

2. Cruise the abundance of FREE TEFL Training over at TEFL Boot Camp. Buy a book like Jeremy Harmer’s How to Teach English and familiarize yourself especially with method (PPP or ESA) and lesson planning. My experience has been that TEFL trainees can consume an enormous amount of time getting their heads around those two ideas and integrating them on a practical level. When in training new teachers can spend six or even eight hours on a lesson plan that would take them less than twenty minutes to think through and plan after a few months on the job.

3. Stay sober and plan on studying at night. Okay, this part is the most difficult. Many people travel across the world to study in some of the world’s most exciting cities. Six weeks in Bangkok and not a night out on the town? Well, sure – get out there and have some fun, but do figure that most week nights you will be working on your lessons and preparing for the next day. Maybe even some weekends. You are, after all, preparing for a new occupation. Do your best to get it right.

4. Be aware that the original TEFL courses such as Trinity, RSA, CELTA and others were all developed at the level where high school graduates could take the courses and pass. And that level of demand is still there. That means if you have a lot of experience with study – like those of you who already have a degree, the course will not be super difficult. So have some confidence about your study and learning skills.

5. Understand that you will get feedback on how you teach. A few people want to teach “their way” and that isn’t how these classes work. The courses teach a specific method and a specific way of doing things. Desensitize yourself to feedback on how you are doing. You are learning some new skills -don’t expect to be perfect just out of the box and expect that someone will tell you that you are not perfect. No big deal. And that feedback is one of the most important parts of the course. And your ability to hear it and take it in will make a HUGE difference in your ability to learn the skills offered on the course and to continue to improve once on the job.

Got it? That was Easy!

TED’s Tips™ #1: TEFL Training is NOT rocket science. Go to your course prepared to wring out of it every dollar/pound you paid for it. It will be well worth your focus and discipline. I promise!

Where to Take your TEFL Teacher Training?

Deciding where to take your teacher training for Teaching English Abroad

A reader contributed this question for a topic:

I think I’d like to try eastern Europe (maybe Czech, Poland, or Hungary), but I’m not totally opposed to Asia. I know there are TEFL schools in those countries, but would you recommend getting certified in the country I would want to teach in or here in the US, then moving to the country?

It is almost always better to take your TEFL training in the country in which you first intend to teach. Many reasons, but the most important ones are that you will do your observed teaching practice with students similar to those you will teach on the job.

It just gives you a leg up on the competition especially if you need to give a demonstration lesson. It also helps you solve some problems that are often unique to a specific country. I’ve taught EFL in four countries and each had its own unique grammar and pronunciation problems.

Once you have some experience it gets easier to solve them, but doing your training with students with those problems will help you get up to speed much faster.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you have the time and money for a full out four to six week TEFL Course, it is usually better to take your TEFL Training in the country in which you first intend to teach.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Take a look at http:www.TEFLprogram.com/ to help you evaluate any in-class TEFL course that you are thinking about taking.

TEFL Certification and Your First Job Teaching English

I am taking a little vacation so the posts for the next few weeks will be responses to questions and topics suggested the readers of the blog.

Starting your career Teaching English Abroad

A recent reader wrote in and asked:

I am an engineer and thinking seriously of changing careers and getting certified to teach English abroad. I am very interested in TEFL certification. If I did that next spring, how long could I expect to have to wait to get my first job? I currently have a BS degree, some teaching experience while in college (late 90’s), but none after that.

My Response was:

Any good TEFL Certification will do a lot to help you land the job you want faster and usually will put you at the top of the list. Even if it is not required it shows that you are interested in doing a quality job. And that says a lot to a potential employer.

You asked, “…how long could I expect to have to wait to get my first job?”

The answer to that depends a lot on where you want to teach and even who you want to teach. If you want to teach in Korea or China, you can probably sign a contract within days. If you have something very specific in mind it might take a bit longer.

For example, if you want to teach at a resort on a tropical island, your job search should be more detailed and take a bit longer . . .

By the above, I mean what country and what kind of setting (university, preschool, language school, secondary school).

I would encourage you to read these webpages to help you sharpen your focus:

Types of TEFL Jobs



Please feel free to contact me and ask more questions.
Happy to help if I can.

Where to take your TEFL Training

Where is the best TEFL Certification program for you?

People frequently ask me where they should take their TEFL Training. They also ask if it is best to take their EFL teacher training in their home country or in the country in which they intend to teach.

First issue: I usually recommend a TEFL Certification school that I know well and I know the teacher-trainer(s) well. I know the primary trainer is very well educated and has extensive experience in two countries, teaching EFL abroad since 1992 to a wide variety of students.

When I was a teacher trainer I was awakened to just how little experience, training and education many trainers have. One teacher trainer was hired directly from my class to set up and teach a TEFL Cert course for another company.

He had ZERO experience teaching. Wow. I won’t go into any further details, but it wasn’t a pretty picture and that was not a purely unique situation.

Second issue: It is almost always better to take your TEFL Training in or near the country in which you wish to teach. There are many good reasons why.

First, taking your training in your new country gives you some time on the ground to adapt to the culture and get to know your way around, instead of just arriving cold and heading out to look for work.

Also helpful is that TEFL Certification schools usually know the best and biggest employers, who to try first and who to avoid (just as important!).

One of the most helpful aspects of taking your TEFL Training in your new setting is that your observed teaching practice will likely be with students that have similar grammar and pronunciation problems as those you will face on the job. This is important for several reasons.

Every country’s students have different issues with grammar and pronunciation and while this is not a big problem, even well-experienced teachers take some time to get a good grasp of exactly how to solve these problems when they arrive in a new country.

A new EFL teacher, of course, will take much longer. Getting that experience during your training, with an instructor who knows exactly what to do, will make you a much more effective teacher, right out of the box.

It is common in some countries to request a “demonstration lesson” as part of the interviewing process. Don’t you think that lesson will go much better if you already know what kinds of issues are common in the classrooms of that country? Of course!

In countries where demonstration lessons are common, you should have the opportunity to build that lesson and practice it as part of your TEFL Certification training course. You will have plenty of opportunity to build, practice and polish that lesson under the guidance of an experienced teacher-trainer.

How do you think that lesson might go if you are just off the plane and have no idea what the common issues are with local students?

Last but not least, you can job hunt while you are taking your TEFL Certification course and hopefully have something lined up about the time you complete your training.

If you are taking your training in the developing world, TEFL Certification courses are often much cheaper than in developed Western countries are as your accommodation and food costs.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Take your TEFL Certification course in the country where you first intend to teach.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Practice and polish your demonstration lesson during your training.