What is TEFL / TESOL?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) can be conceived as a long or short-term career. It is a great opportunity to travel the world, meet exciting people, discover new cultures, earn a living and help others learn.

TEFL / TESOL classes generally take place in the students’ own country with most of them sharing the same mother tongue. An exception to this are summer language schools in an English-speaking country where classes are formed by a mix of nationalities. Summer language schools are a rich source of employment for qualified TEFL / TESOL teachers.

English language teaching (ELT) to students living in an English-speaking country, such as The United States or Great Britain, whose first language is not English, is referred to as ESL (English as a Second Language). A TEFL / TESOL qualification may also be accepted for ESL positions.

TEFL / TESOL teachers are generally employed in private language schools, also known in some countries as English Language Academies. Classes may take place at any time during the day, although most occur in the late afternoon and during evenings after school and work hours. TEFL / TESOL teachers may be native or non-native English language speakers. However, they must be proficient in the use of the English language. A TEFL / TESOL teacher working full time should expect a weekly working schedule comprising 25 to 30 contact hours. This means that lesson planning time is not included and teachers must devout part of their own time to such an end.

TEFL … TESOL … Which one?

Essentially, there is no difference between these two acronyms. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) are simply alternative terms used to describe the teaching of the English Language by native or proficient English speakers to those that do not speak the language. Thus, a certificate in TEFL or in TESOL is the same thing. Employers from all over the world will accept either as a suitable qualification for an English language teaching position.

Which course is for me?

The answer to this question is ‘depends on your goals’.

If your goal is to be a strong candidate for TEFL /TESOL jobs on the international market then you should choose a course whose estimated length is 120 hours minimum. This meets the minimum requirements set by The British Council for a full initial TEFL / TESOL certificate and employers around the globe usually expect this minimum number of hours.

It is also an important consideration whether the course includes a minimum 6 hours’ teaching practice and is accredited by an external independent TEFL / TESOL accrediting body. Employers tend to look more favourably upon courses that meet such requirements.

If you are considering English Language Teaching (ELT) as a long-term career, you are strongly advised to take the 190 or 220 Hour Certificate in TEFL / TESOL with Teaching Practice. This CELTA/Trinity Equivalent qualification covers the theory and practice of English Language Teaching comprehensively and can be the key to many job opportunities worldwide.

If your goal, however, is to gain an overview of current methodology and practice in  the world of TEFL / TESOL then a shorter introductory course might be appropriate.

If your goal is to specialize in an area of TEFL / TESOL such as Teaching Young Learners or Teaching English for Business then a good option is to take a specialization course upon completion of your initial TEFL / TESOL certificate course. 

TEFL / TESOL related Terminology

TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Second or Other Languages
TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
TEAL: Teaching English as an Additional Language
EFL: English as a foreign language
ESL: English as a second language
ELT: English Language Teaching
ESOL: English for Speakers of Other languages
TEB: Teaching English for Business
TBE: Teaching Business English
TEYL: Teaching English to Young Learners
TESP: Teaching English for Specific Purposes
EAL: English as an additional language
ESD: English as a Second Dialect
EIL: English as an International Language
ELF: English as a Lingua Franca
EAP: English for Academic Purposes
ELL: English Language Learner

The use of these terms will largely depend upon the geographic areas in which they take place, or the purposes to which the teaching of English is put within a specific learning context, the most widely used and accepted on an international level being: TEFL, TESOL, ELT, ESOL and ESL.