What is TEFL

TEFL is an industry with one goal; to teach English to non-native English speakers. You’ll hear many different phrases like teaching English as a foreign language, teaching English as a second language, or teaching English for special purposes. There are slight differences between them, but in general, they all have the same aim of teaching English. 

When starting to look into TEFL as a career, your first step is to get an English teaching certificate. This is achieved by enrolling in a course and completing it. Once you complete an online course, you’ll receive a certificate and be able to teach English to non-native speakers. We’ll go through the different types of courses in a bit, but first, let’s touch on all those acronyms that get thrown around. 

never stop learning

What is TEFL: Acronyms Explained

Here is a list of acronyms that you will come across during your TEFL career:

CEELT Cambridge Examination in English for Language Teachers

CELTA Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

DELTA Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

DOS director of studies

EAP English for academic purposes

EFL English as a foreign language

ELL English language learner

ELT English language training or teaching

ESL English as a second language

ESOL English for speakers of other languages

ESP English for specific purposes

EST English for science and technology

IATEFL International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language

IELTS International English Language Testing System

L1 first language

L2 second language

PGCE Post Graduate Certificate in Education (UK teaching qualification necessary for state sector)

PPP Presentation, Practice, Production (Teaching method)

TEFL Teaching English as a foreign language

TESL Teaching English as a second language

TESOL Teaching English to speakers of other languages

TOEFL Test of English as a Foreign Language

TOEIC Test of English for International Communication

TSE Test of Spoken English

TTT Teacher talking time

TWE Test of Written English

VSO Voluntary Service Overseas

idk acronym


TEFL and TESOL qualifications are primarily remote learning with flexibility and affordable options. CELTA and TrinityTESOL are primarily in-classroom, tutor-led classes that are intensive full-time learning, which does end up being on the more expensive side.

So, what is the difference between TEFL and TESOL? TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language, while TESOL stands for teaching English as a second language. What this means is that TEFL courses are geared towards teaching abroad or online when the student is in their home country and teaches more the grammar and vocabulary and how to speak properly in every English-speaking country, while TESOL is geared towards teaching English in YOUR country to non-native speakers and focuses on a more unique English language, like British English or American English. 

In saying this, the two are interchangeable as they both cover all aspects. However, TEFL is looked at more favorably in Asia and may even be asked for in terms of visa or employment. If you do already have a BEd or CELTA but need a quick certification, we recommend the 120-hour TEFL Course, which will be fast to do as you are already trained, affordable, and will cover all visa requirements. For this reason alone, getting a TEFL certificate is worth it! 

What is TEFL: The Different Types of TEFL 

There are two main TEFL qualifications; the 120-hour TEFL Course and the 180-hour Level 5 TEFL Course. They both have the same agenda; to give you a qualification to teach English as a foreign language. The Level 5 Course is the higher qualification and will open up more opportunities for you. If you have the time to study a little harder and a little more within your budget, definitely choose the Level 5 course. This is not to say that the 120-hour course will not suffice, but just that the level 5 qualification is looked at favorably by potential employers. It’ll give you an upper hand. There are exceptions like experience. So if you choose an internship or are an educator already, the 120-hour course will do perfectly for you. 

There are also specialist courses that will help you to gain access to niches of TEFL that are higher paid or in an area that you can see yourself in! If you want to adults business English or find the curriculum structure around exam preparation suiting you, then these specialist courses can help you immensely. There is so much that you can learn in the world of TEFL, and the main TEFL courses cover a wide variety of subjects, but going into depth into one subject can be seriously beneficial for you. It’s like doing a PhD and focusing on one sector of your degree. Become a master in what you want to do as a TEFL teacher. 


What is TEFL: The Opportunities

We’ve mentioned just a few times the doors that a TEFL qualification can open. And we’re not wrong! To finish off this blog, we leave you with a few scenarios of past TEFL students that you yourself could live out: 

  • Teach young learners in a classroom setting in your dream destination through a program. Meet amazing people and join the TEFL community in that destination. 
  • Earn extra money while teaching English online. You can have prior commitments like a 9-5 job or while raising a family. Your schedule is flexible and you can work when you want to work. 
  • Volunteer in a developing country and teach the locals English, helping them to join the international world and reach their goals. 
  • Prepare non-native speakers for English exams so they can gain a certificate to help with visas or their careers. 

TEFL is an acronym for teaching English as a foreign language. Simply put, TEFL teachers teach non-native English speakers to be fluent in English through TEFL methodologies. It covers a wide variety of methods depending on the age range of your students, the class size, the English level, and the students’ country’s standard methods of teaching. A TEFL course will teach you how to teach English to non-native speakers and help you gain the certification to become a TEFL teacher.

This depends on the type of learner you are. People who find the TEFL course easier are those who have a BEd, have recently studied in another sector and are in the zone, or are self-motivated to complete an online course. Unlike other courses, TEFL courses can be quite lenient in terms of repeating the tests, so it can be a little bit of a trial and error scenario. This takes the pressure off a bit and makes it a little easier. The level 5 TEFL course is significantly harder than the 120-hour TEFL course as it’s government-regulated and needs to meet certain standards from the students’ answers.

TEFL is an amazing career and opens a lot of doors for you! Because the industry is so varied, any type of person can be a TEFL teacher. Prefer to work online than abroad or in a classroom? No problem! Want to work part-time while raising a family? Absolutely! Want to travel the world with friends in your 20s while earning money? Why not! TEFL teachers around the globe are normally on western wages, meaning that between currency exchange and cost of living, you’ll be on a premium wage.

Each TEFL course is different with its own agenda on what to teach you. Both the level 5 course and the 120-hour course are your main TEFL qualification that teaches you from basics of methodologies, lesson planning, and classroom management, as well as grammar and pronunciation. These two courses will give you the qualification to be able to teach English as a foreign language. They touch on a range of topics for every scenario. There are also specialist courses that have niche subjects to help you to specialize in certain areas, such as Business English and Exam preparations. Most importantly, TEFL courses give you the opportunity to travel and work abroad or online. They give you freedom and a handy paycheck!

The 120-hour TEFL Courses are equivalent to a UK level 3 qualification. The Level 5 TEFL Course is a UK Level 5 TEFL Course. Check out this comparison chart if you’re not quite sure. Other Level 5 ESL Qualifications include CELTA and TrinityTESOL.

The minimum requirement to become a fully qualified TEFL teacher is the 120-hour TEFL Course. This course starts at entry level so you won’t need any prior training when starting the course. It’s an all-rounder and teaches you the skills you need in virtually every scenario of TEFL teaching. Of course, you can aim higher by enrolling in the Level 5 TEFL course, and there are lots of specialist courses to choose from if you’d like to go into the more lucrative, higher-paid TEFL jobs. If you have no experience in teaching, you might want to consider the 10-hour virtual course which includes teaching practice and will say so on your certificate. This will give you the upper hand against other newly qualified teachers.

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