TEFL vs TESOL vs TESL vs CELTA vs...

© <a href='http://www.flickr.com/nagatta/' target='_blank'>Nagatta</a>The world of teaching English is full of acronyms‏‎. One question which pops up all the time is: what is the difference between TEFL and TESOL and TESL and CELTA and... and also: should I get a TEFL certificate or a TESOL certificate?

This article explains what these terms means and looks at differences between them when it comes to qualifications and finding work.

TEFL, TESOL, TESL

These are the main acronyms in question. They all refer to teaching English‏‎ to people who do not speak English as a mother tongue‏‎.

TEFL

This stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Simply put, this is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who live in a non-English speaking country and who want to learn English for business or to take an exam, etc. It's slightly more commonly used by British and Irish teachers.

See the main article, TEFL‏‎ - Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

TESOL

This stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. This is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who do not already speak English. It's more commonly used by American teachers.

See the main article, TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

TESL

This stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. This is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who are living in an English speaking country and who need to learn English to live in that country (e.g. find work visit the doctor, etc). Although this term used to be popular it's going out of fashion and to a certain extent has been replaced by TESOL. Again, it was more common with American teachers.

See the main article, TESL - Teaching English as a Second Language‏‎.

A TEFL Certificate or a TESOL Certificate?

Most jobs require a degree and certificate which proves you can teach English. This certificate goes by different names:

  • a TEFL certificate
  • a TESOL certificate
  • a TESL certificate

and you will occasionally see some others as well.

However, there is essentially no difference between these types of certificates. If you see a job you like asking for a TESL certificate and you happen to have a TEFL Certificate (such as the ICAL TEFL Certificate) then by all means go ahead and apply! The school will almost certainly accept your TEFL certificate as a TESL certificate!

Remember this, for pretty well all jobs, there is no difference between the name on the certificate: TEFL or TESOL or TESL. 

CELTA

Another common misconception is with the acronym CELTA. This stands for a Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults. It is, effectively, a high-level TEFL certificate. The CELTA is more expensive than most courses, very intense and it's usually best to have experience before taking it. (In addition, the certTESOL is a similar course which is run by Trinity College, London.)

Conclusion

Although there are technical differences between TEFL, TESOL and TESL, remember that in 99% of cases it will make no difference to the way you teach in the classroom. If you are thinking of getting qualified to teach English then a good TEFL certificate is the same as a good TESOL certificate which is the same as a good TESL certificate!

Useful Links

Train to Teach English - the ICAL online TEFL certificate

How to Choose a Good TEFL Course - a guide to choosing the best certificate course for you

What Qualifications do I need to Teach English?

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