TEFL Training for a Career Change

A reader recently asked:

I would like to become a TEFL or ESL certified teacher. Is this certificate necessary to teach abroad for an educated American?

If so, where is the best place online to study and affordable?

I was laid off so I don’t have extra income, but this is my dream to stop working for corporations and do something I’ve always wanted to do.  I enjoy helping people.

A TEFL certification is not a requirement to teach English in many countries, but knowing HOW to teach well is a nice idea.   It is only fair to your students who are spending money to sit in a classrrom with you.

You asked about an online course and you’ll find that China, Korea and Japan – three of the world’s four largest EFL employers accept them – so you will be in good shape.   I am a fan of the TEFL Boot Camp course, but that’s my bias.  I wrote it.  Fair warning!

There is a good amount of free information about teaching and how to teach on that website.  Give it a read even if you don’t wish to sign up.

I quite understand that the price of in-classroom courses can be prohibitive when you are first starting out and some colleges and universities do offer such courses, but they are often as costly as the commercially priced TEFL training schools that can run about US$1500-2500.  Add in the cost of not working for four to six weeks and room and board and it can begin to get expensive.

That is not always true though – so keep your eyes open!

Taking a course just for the certificate is not a bad thing. It does helps fluff up the resume and says you are at least interested enough to learn more and spend a  bit of money to do so.

Why not consider teaching in Korea, where you can save some serious money or even China where you will work a bit less, can have a university position and see a bit more of  the world?

Saying that, I am assuming you have a BA/BS degree? Lots of options are out there for you, take a look at:  TEFL Jobs in Korea and: TEFL jobs in China.

If you want a certification with a guaranteed placement offer – try TEFL Internships for a placement in China.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   It can be a lot easier than you think to actually get started teaching English abroad.  The most difficult part is making the decision to do it.

Teaching Internships in China


Should you Get a TEFL, TESOL or TESL Certification? Which is Best?

This is almost an FAQ type question because people often ask as they are unsure about what each of the acronyms really mean.

Not just the words they represent, but what does each area actually deal with?

How might the teaching be different?

Let’s get these ideas sorted out today . . .

TEFL Certification vs. TESL Certification

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is probably the most accurate description of what teachers who teach English overseas actually do.

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) is what teachers do when teaching English in their home country when teaching immigrants the language skills needed in their new land.

We’ll address TESOL later down the page.

Purpose Defines Function in TEFL and TESL

When teaching TEFL, your students are usually in their home country, may never even visit an English speaking country and they usually need to study English to progress in their education or for work/occupational reasons.

Some definitions of TEFL would include the idea that students will not often have opportunities to speak English outside the classroom.  These students will have distinctly different needs and motivations for their study than English as a Second Language students.

When teaching TESL, your students are typically living in an English speaking country and need to learn (quickly!) the language skills needed for their daily lives.

From grocery shopping to mailing a letter to finding a job or even renting an apartment.  Their needs are real and immediate when it comes to getting English skills.

You can see here that the motivation of ESL students will likely be much stronger that of EFL students.   They have immediate and real problems that need to be solved using English.  And the topics taught might be very different.

It would be unlikely that you would want or need to teach an EFL student the language needed to mail a letter in a post office where English is the language in use.

Yet, for an ESL student this will be an important skill, becoming less so in these days of the internet and iPhones though, but I think you get the idea.

For the ESL student, this particular need is greater than for the EFL student – who may never step foot in an English environment post office.

As there is such a huge amount of language that our students need, we obviously need to focus on the specific language most relevant for our students.  We don’t want to spend time teaching them language that they will likely never need and never use.

If you wanted a general observation, possibly you might think that EFL is typically more generic language and ESL might be more specific to a certain task – but that conclusion would not really be accurate.   A lot of EFL is specific occupational language or language needed to pass a certain test like TOEFL, IELTS or GMAT.

TESOL versus the others

Teaching English to Speakers of other languages ( TESOL) encompasses both TEFL and TESL, but the reality is that essentially the same methodology is used in all three of these variations.

So the way you learn to teach ESOL will be the same as you learn to teach EFL or ESL.

You’ll tend to find Americans using TEFL, Canadians using TESOL and Brits using all three acronymns.

Methodology and lesson planning are the core of most courses and once you get that down, you are good to go in any of the three areas – you need only to determine the specific needs of your students and get to work.

Language Teaching Methodologies used in TESOL – TEFL – TESL

The most common teaching methodologies – PPP and ESA – are really just good teaching strategies that you could – really – just as easily apply to a simple mathematics lesson.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   Simple enough.  Don’t make too much of the differences of a TESOL, TEFL or TESL course – or methodology.  There really isn’t much difference and the only real difference in these types of classes is in the specific language needs of your students.  A good needs analysis will tell you that and get you going.

Teaching Internships in China


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!