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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

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Bad case of alphabet soup? TEFL / TESOL / TOEFL

I quite often get asked by a lot of people, "What certificate do I need to teach in Mexico" (or any other country I have been).

Before I say anything else I want to make it clear that my advice is usually on how to get legal jobs (it's safer!)and that's what I recommend. However this does not consist of legal advice. ALWAYS check with a country's rules before going.

Quite often you don't NEED any certificate. If you are a native speaker with a college degree this will already get you several job opportunities.

Alright, to start if you aren't a "native" speaker(From England, South Africa, The United States of America, New Zealand, Australia etc), you will want to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The TOEFL IBT (Internet Based Test) is the most known now as it includes speaking and writing, though the Paper Based Test is still accepted in some places. Be sure to check before you take the test to know what scores you need and what test is preferred. This is to prove your English level to your school. While it doesn't always substitute for being a native speaker (especially if it is a visa requirement), sometimes it does.

So that's the TOEFL (different than a TEFL)

Sometimes schools want more than just a native speaker; they want someone who has shown some commitment to teaching and has a certificate. That's when you'll see them ask for a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Two of the more well known (and thus more valued) are the Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) and the Trinity College London Certificate in TESOL (Trinity). There are a lot of different courses out there, but the CELTA and Trinity are by far the two best known; that doesn't necessarily mean they are the best but they are reputable. They have hours of in class teaching and hands on time with the moderators. While the CELTA is technically focused on adults, I rarely see problems with this if you apply for younger learner jobs.

I think it is easiest to think of the whole thing and compare it to shoes.

The TEFL and TESOL certificates are shoes, and you need a pair to get where you are going. The CELTA and the Trinity are like Nike and Adidas; if you tell people you have them, they know you have "good" shoes.

Now there are a lot of online certificates; I wouldn't encourage these as many schools won't take them, BUT if you already have a job and you'll get a pay raise or you are just looking at jobs that take online ones then this is great.

CELTA has started to offer an online version, but it still requires you to to some in person time as well.


My advice: Look for a school you would want to work at that is hiring right now. It is too early to actually look for a job for you, but you can see what requirements they want. These are the requirements you should shoot to have. If they say, "minimum 100 hour certificate" then that is what you want. "No online certificates" then you need to do one in person. "TEFL with classroom observation" means that most online certificates are out. "CELTA or equivalent" tends to mean Trinity or CELTA.

I recently came accross a free basic TEFL course here: http://www.udemy.com/basic-tefl-certificate-course/ I wouldn't suggest it as the ONLY course you take, but it does seem like it has a nice background. If you don't have time to do anything else, or you really have no money (and can't get a scholarship) please at least check out the course at Udemy or CCPED Something is better than nothing after all!

Thoughts? What certificate do you have? Is it enough? Do you wish you had a different certificate?

16 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. The TOEFL listening actually changes depending on if you are taking the IBT or the PBT. The PBT you cannot take notes (as your bloog suggests). Hopefully people planning to teach English wouldn't need to study too hard for the TOEFL, but I would reccommend if someone were interested they take at least one practice test so they know the format.

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  2. Thanks for the information, you really helped me to decide on what to do and made me think of things I haven't

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    1. So glad you found it helpful! Best of luck!

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  3. Just to add a little to the non-native speaker options. IELTS and Cambridge CAE/CPE can also demonstrate your near-native speaker ability, as can actually holding a CELTA (or equivalent), or doing an degree entirely in English.
    It depends a bit on the country and the school, which they will accept.

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    1. Great addition! Very true, and a useful item to keep in mind.

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  4. So are you saying an online course with in class room time wouldn't count as TEFL with class room observation?

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    1. I depends. Some of them are just with you watching other teachers. Some you are actually being watched teaching. Some have it more evenly divided (online is theory, but in person you watch other classes and have your classes be watched). All of these differences will affect what schools take.

      Regardless, some schools simply have so many options when it comes to choosing teachers than online certificates are not considered.

      Try to look at the requirements of some jobs you are interested in to get a better idea of what suits you best!

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  5. Thank you very much for the hint regarding TEFL. That was really great. Do you have any idea on how I can teach in the United States (English is not my first language, I have the TEFL certificate you talk about, a technical bachelor in the English language, a PGDip in Translation and Interpretation, and a PGDip in Philosophy/Language/Logic from Australia (UQ))?
    Please write to trmsorfiap@yahoo.com in case you do.

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    1. Since I am from the U.S.A. I am not really aware of the difficulties for non-USA citizens to find jobs. I'd assume to teach in the U.S. it difficult because of the visa issues. Your best bet would be getting a Masters at an American University and teaching while you earned it. Then just hope for the best!

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  6. Great article! Here are a few other articles to help understand TEFL Classes:

    Evaluating a TEFL training school:
    http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/blog/bid/47541/7-Key-Tips-to-Evaluating-a-TEFL-TESOL-Training-School

    What is Accreditation for TEFL Certification Really All About:
    http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/faq/bid/115148/What-is-Accreditation-for-TEFL-Certification-Really-All-About

    Here are a list of over 100 FAQ's and articles on teaching English abroad http://www.internationalteflacademy.com/article-and-faq-index/

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  7. The certificate course at Udemy nows costs a nominal fee, but it has a lot of very good information, especially the additional resources. If you take this course, you can zip through it, pass the easy tests, and get your certificate in a few days (if you are a native speaker or otherwise very proficient in English); or you can take it more slowly, following up on most of the additional resources and come out with a real, albeit basic foundation that will stand you in good stead in teaching English for years to come. My teacher trainees (non-native speakers) successfully took the course in less than two weeks outside of their regular course hours with me. I recommend this course (there is also another version of the same course for free but with no certificate: exact same content) for all beginners and in general for practicioners. It includes practical ideas and information not present in CELTA. Of course, having evaluations of your actual teaching is something that every teacher should also have.

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    1. I had heard that the udemy course had started charging, but I kept forgetting to update this blog. Thank you for reminding me :)

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  8. i liked your blog, the shoe example was brilliant. is this a reputable website?? http://globaltefl.uk.com/learningplatform/

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    1. I am glad you like the shoe comparison. It depends. From what I can tell this course does NOT offer supervised teaching practice, which many schools require. As such, it probably won't be accepted everywhere. However, if you are applying to places who don't care about that portion, you should be fine. Something is better than nothing!

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