What Is TEFL? Travellers Guide To TEFL 2022
We get asked all sorts of questions about TEFL, TEFL certificates and TEFL courses, so we decided to make this guide to answer all the main TEFL questions in one place. If you are brand new to the world of TEFL or have known about it for some time and have more questions that you don’t see below, leave a comment at the end, and we will add it to the list for our future readers.
WHAT IS TEFL?
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a career path chosen by those who wish to go to foreign countries where English is not the first language and teach adults and children to read, write and speak English. TEFL is also used to teach English to non-native speakers in English speaking countries. You must take a course and earn a certificate before you become a TEFL teacher.
WHAT DOES TEFL STAND FOR? AND TESOL, ESL & EFL?
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It is often confused with other acronyms such as TESOL, which stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, ESL, which means English as a Second Language and EFL English as a Foreign Language. Overall, they have the same meaning, and they are about teaching English to non-native English speakers.
TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TEFL is the most common form of course taken and certificate held by English teachers abroad. It is accepted throughout the world by schools when you apply for a position. If you plan to teach abroad in non-English speaking countries abroad rather than in your home country, it would be best to take a TEFL program rather than TESOL or TESL certificate as TEFL has become the industry standard.
TEFL is the industry standard because when you move abroad to work in English language teaching, you teach English as a subject in all its glory. By this, I mean you are teaching young learners that are actively studying reading, writing, listening and speaking for academic purposes, i.e. school & college exams.
Think back to when you were in school and had your French, German or Spanish classes. This is the level you, as English teachers, should aim for. You will cover all aspects of the language for all age groups, from kindergarten to business English for adults.
An Irish citizen teaching English to Thai citizens in language schools in Bangkok, Thailand, would be a TEFL teacher.
TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
TESOL certification is primarily for people from native English speaking countries that want teaching jobs in native English speaking countries.
Many people say it is just TEFL without the travel, but that’s not entirely true. TESOL certification mainly focuses on conversational and day to day English, which non-native speakers need to get by in that country. They are not learning English for any particular academic purpose, such as school or college exams, and they mainly do it for their benefit and at their own pace.
An Irish citizen teaching English to Thai citizens in Dublin, Ireland, would be a TESOL teacher.
ESL – English as a Second Language
English as a second language, or ESL for short, is used to describe the students of English (as it is their second language) and the classes students take to learn English. Similar to TESOL, it applies when talking about non-native English speakers in English speaking countries.
It is not like TEFL and TESOL, as both refer to the courses that teachers take to become certified and later teach English.
If you see a notice about ESL classes, for example, this is aimed at students wishing to learn English. To find teaching jobs in ESL you need TEFL or TESOL certification.
A Thai citizen learning English in London, England, is an ESL student.
EFL – English as a Foreign Language
English as a Foreign Language is very similar to the example given above. EFL refers to English language learners from countries where English is not their primary language.
A Thai citizen learning English in Bangkok, Thailand, is an EFL student.
WHAT IS A TEFL COURSE?
A TEFL is what fluent English speakers take to certify themselves to teach English in foreign countries. The industry standard course a person should take if they wish to teach in a school abroad should be a minimum of 120 hours. A good system or curriculum should provide live teaching practice with students and also be accredited.
TEFL courses can be taken online, in your home country or abroad.
Most online courses don’t provide real-life TEFL teaching practice with students, some will task you with finding a local ESL school to complete this section of their course, but this is rare. These are usually the cheapest options, but that old saying of ‘you get what you pay for is sometimes true, depending on which course you take. The amount of English language teachers we met throughout our careers who admitted that the online courses never prepared them for life in the classroom is staggering.
Those who are planning far ahead or have jobs which they are still employed at home tend to take the courses in their local towns or nearby cities. These courses can be pricey, but they will prepare you for your future TEFL job! They will have live TEFL teaching practice and can be better for those who benefit from learning in a classroom environment rather than their kitchen.
Lastly, our favourite way to take a TEFL course, TEFL courses abroad. If you plan to get a certificate that will take you to that country you have always wanted to go to, would it not sound better to go to that country and study there for four weeks and then begin to teach English abroad.
You would be with other TEFL teachers on the same journey. You get to explore the country and culture you plan to live in, alone or with your group. You even get to do your live TEFL teaching practice with the locals of that country in language schools, which means you will get to see what works for them, their customs and how they prefer to learn, etc.
HOW MUCH IS A TEFL COURSE?
Online TEFL courses can be found from $300-$1500, in-person TEFL courses in your home country from $1250-$2500 and TEFL courses abroad from $1299 to $2100. Prices depend on location, duration and what’s included. Some courses abroad come with accommodation included in the price.
You will find TEFL courses online for as little as $50, but not all of these courses are legitimate, and the TEFL certificate you receive may not be recognised by schools or governments and they could then not allow you to teach English abroad.
The school will request a copy of your TEFL qualification when you apply, but you will have to submit the TEFL certificate to government officials to gain a work permit for that country. You do not want to be in a situation where you travelled to that country, paid for accommodation and transport, only to find your TEFL qualification is not accepted. You cannot be granted a work permit or legally work in the country if this happens.
Make sure to ask who the accrediting body of the TEFL certification is and research them to be positive it is legitimate.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A TEFL COURSE?
A TEFL course should provide a minimum of 120-hour training, including live teaching practicum with students. You should be given an accredited TEFL certificate and letter of recommendation upon completing the accredited course and lifetime job support.
You should expect to be trained to handle young and adult learners, discipline students and much more. Here are some other topics a TEFL course will cover:
- Teaching receptive skills (reading and listening)
- Teaching productive skills (writing and speaking)
- Educational theory and strategy for helping students and making lesson plans
- Teaching techniques for grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation
- Teaching business English
- Building rapport with students of different ages
- English language teaching practice and observation in a natural classroom environment
- How to find a job in the TEFL industry & CV/ Resume and cover letter building
Choosing a course with classroom observation and teaching practice is the one thing many English language teachers we meet say they valued the most about their course. It was in a controlled environment and if anything happened that they struggled with the trainers were always there to help, and it made that first day of teaching English abroad in their actual school much less stressful.
For many people, an in-person TEFL course provided them with more significant support when they needed help. They were also surrounded by other students on their journey to teach English abroad and were able to work together on group projects and discuss lesson plan ideas and practise games. This is something you cannot find in an online course. An online course can provide a tutor who can assist you via video call, and many are available 24/7, which is very useful.
ARE TEFL COURSES HARD?
TEFL courses can be intensive with a large amount of information to learn in a short period. Having a teaching practicum makes the process better by putting the theory into practice. It is possible to fail the course, but most people put in the effort for the four weeks and pass without any issues. Joining group courses makes it easier as you have others to practice with and motivate each other.
Many TEFL courses require you not to skip or miss more than 3 to 4 days of the course. This is because the course packs so much information into such a short period of time that those 3 to 4 days could be a large portion of your end of course exam.
The majority of people that take TEFL courses are native English speakers.
This means many of the topics you cover will be easier than most as it will not be alien information you are learning. Teaching English abroad will be easier for you as you know your language very well.
The modules that focus on dealing with students should not be too difficult as we know how to act with adults and children already.
It is essential to learn how to control a classroom without raising your voice or getting angry. This can be a skill that takes time and practice, and you will not learn this overnight or from any textbook.
Overall, please do not go into a TEFL course thinking you can’t teach English abroad or online! Of course you can!
Think of it as using your native tongue for the language part of the course and common sense for handling students’ part. We are not in school or college anymore, we choose to do these courses, and the organiser understands this. They make sure that the entire experience is at a comfortable pace and that you have a great time learning.
The TEFL courses abroad even include day trips to local attractions and nights out to beach parties so you can relax and have the best experience possible.
ARE TEFL COURSES WORTH IT?
TEFL courses are worth it for those who want to earn an internationally recognised certificate to travel and teach English to those looking to improve their English abilities. It is an excellent opportunity for people that wish to work away from home or have a gift for working with people. You can change lives and have great experiences along the way.
The number of doors and opportunities a TEFL course can provide you is undeniably why so many people enrol in TEFL courses every year.
As English is rapidly becoming the international language for business, many countries need their staff to upskill and learn or improve their English. TEFL courses give you all the skills you need to teach English to help others around the world. You will be giving people the potential to find bigger and better jobs at home or abroad.
English is also becoming a requirement in many colleges and universities in Asia, Africa and South America. There are currently not enough TEFL graduates teaching English in the world to fill every position. The number of TEFL jobs available is rising faster than the number of English language teachers being produced.
This means the demand is higher than ever, and taking a TEFL course to teach English abroad is more crucial than ever.
It can also benefit you personally. When an employer sees you have experience working abroad and that you can teach others, it makes you stand out from the crowd. It shows employees have the ability to work and succeed in a foreign environment and that they can potentially train others and handle groups of people.
You also get to see places you may never have seen before, and you get to live locally and experience the culture first hand and not as a tourist.
WHICH TEFL COURSE IS BEST?
The best TEFL certification course to choose is one over 120-hours long with accredited TEFL certification that allows you to legally work in a foreign country and provides teaching practicum and job assistance.
Here is a list of TEFL schools and providers which can supply all of the above:
- Once Upon A TEFL
- International TEFL Academy
- TEFL Pros
- i-to-i TEFL
- International TEFL and TESOL Training
- Teach Away
- The TEFL Academy
You should decide which course is best fits your needs and desires, whether it be studying abroad or from the comfort of home.
Once you have this figured out, you should reach out to a TEFL course provider and ask them for more information, start dates and prices.
WHAT DO YOU LEARN IN A TEFL COURSE?
TEFL courses teach the skills needed for classroom management, teaching strategies and language skills, how to plan lessons, and finding a TEFL teaching job. You will also be involved in live practice teaching where you will go to English language schools to observe and participate in the class.
WHICH IS BETTER: AN ONLINE TEFL COURSE OR AN IN-PERSON TEFL COURSE?
In-person TEFL courses are better than online TEFL courses because they are in a group setting of trainers and other students. You can swap ideas and practice your methods with the other teachers when you do in-person courses, and teaching practicum is always provided.
This isn’t to say that online courses are all bad. They sometimes lack that social element that in-person courses give. It can be beneficial to have the trainers in the room with you when you have an issue. Online classes provide you with access to very knowledgeable and helpful tutors, but they are a video call or email away and not present at all times.
Online courses tend to be cheaper than in-person courses, which many people prefer, and the syllabus will be the same. The highest level online courses can sometimes be close in price to the in-person courses. It will then be a personal choice if you think you work better at home than in a classroom, which is the case for many people.
In-person TEFL courses abroad and in your home country are very similar in price. If you are currently working in your hometown but are planning to get certified to teach in the future or take the course to see if teaching is right for you, it would be best to do a TEFL course in your hometown or country.
If you are ready to move and have itchy feet or want to do the training in the country you wish to live in, then taking a TEFL course abroad is the best option. For the same price as doing it at home, you can do it abroad. It may cost more with flights and accommodation, but it is worth it to be somewhere new, meet new people, and have a wild adventure.
WHAT IS A TEFL CERTIFICATE?
A TEFL certificate is the documentation you receive upon completion of a TEFL course. It proves that you are prepared to teach English as a foreign language in countries abroad. It signifies to schools that you have completed your training and that you are eligible to work legally.
A legitimate TEFL certificate will be accredited by an official body. It will be accepted in every country worldwide, allowing you to gain a work permit and long term visa to teach English in that country legally.
It is always good to ask who the accrediting body is for the TEFL certificate, as many online TEFL courses will say their certificate is accepted worldwide. Still, when you travel and present it to that country’s government, you may find out it is not legitimate, and you will be refused a work permit and long term visa.
HOW DO I GET A TEFL CERTIFICATION?
You get a TEFL certification by completing an accredited TEFL course. You must apply to a TEFL school or provider, get accepted to the course, pay the fees, not fail any modules, and you will receive your TEFL qualification.
TEFL certifications are like every other academic qualification. It must be earned by learning from the classes, course books, passing exams and showing attendance to classes.
If you fail a specific training module or miss too many classes, you will fail. Some schools will allow you to retake the classes or exams you missed, and some will require you to go back to the beginning. You are not guaranteed a certificate or pass simply by paying the course fee.
If you are removed from the course for not showing up, bad behaviour or breaking the law, you will not receive your TEFL certification.
HOW LONG DOES A TEFL CERTIFICATE LAST?
A TEFL certificate does not expire and can be used for the entirety of your teaching career. Similar to a university degree, it can be used when applying for your first job until your last.
WHAT IS TEFL CERTIFIED?
If a person is TEFL certified, it means they have received their official certification for completing a TEFL course. The certificate must be supported by a legitimate accrediting body for that person to be certified. This gives you access to TEFL jobs abroad, work permits and visas.
CAN I GET TEFL CERTIFICATION WITHOUT A DEGREE?
A college degree is not needed to do TEFL certification programs. Once you are over the age of 18, have fluency in English and complete a TEFL course, you can get TEFL certification without a degree. You will be able to start teaching English abroad in most countries and online.
Some countries and schools require a degree to teach, but most do not, and it is possible to teach English without a degree.
Asia is very strict about its requirements to teach. Although it happens regularly, it is illegal to work as an English teacher without a degree in all Asian countries except Cambodia.
Teaching English in Cambodia is an excellent opportunity for those without a degree wishing to teach in Asia.
All countries in Central and South America and in Europe allow TEFL teachers without a degree to work legally.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH MY TEFL CERTIFICATION?
TEFL programs will allow you to teach English abroad to students of all ages. It can be used to get a teaching position in schools, language centres and online teaching companies. English language teachers can live abroad long-term in the countries of their choice while earning an income.
Think of TEFL certification as a golden ticket to work legally in almost every country. A way for people to travel and experience new cultures long-term while earning a salary to fund the adventure.
This does not mean TEFL certification and a TEFL career is something to be taken lightly. Teaching English is an important job, and your students rely on you to provide the best training and education possible to help them further their learning and careers.
TEFL is not a holiday. You will work 25 to 40 hours over 3 to 6 days a week. The benefit of this is that you get to do it in a new country and have a completely different experience than working in your home country.
WILL TEFL CERTIFICATION IMPROVE MY CHANCES OF FINDING A TEACHING JOB ABROAD?
You will have a greater chance of being hired for a teaching job in a school abroad when you have TEFL certification. 120- hour TEFL certification is the minimum industry standard that schools require. TEFL certificate holders will be hired ahead of those without TEFL certificates.
When you apply for a job in a school abroad, they will ask you for a copy of your TEFL certification as proof that you have professional-level training and have done live practice training.
When a school hires you, they will send you to apply for a work permit from the government to attain a work visa. You will be asked for a hard copy of your TEFL certification by the government officials so they can prepare your paperwork and grant you your work permit.
Qualified teachers with university degrees and multiple years of teaching experience can get teaching jobs abroad without TEFL certification. This depends on the school and also the country you are in, and their visa laws. Most still do a TEFL course to have the certificate for a work permit and visa purposes.
HOW TO GET TEFL CERTIFICATION ONLINE?
You must apply to an online TEFL school or provider. Once you are interviewed and found to have fluency in English and are over 18, you will need to pay the course fees and complete the course by passing all modules. Your certificate will be emailed or posted to your address.
Similar to an in-person TEFL course, you must complete all modules on the online TEFL course syllabus. Unlike in-person TEFL certification courses, you will have a longer time to complete the course.
In-person courses are usually held over four weeks, while online courses are taken in your own time.
Online TEFL certification courses can be completed in 3 to 6 weeks, and some people take up to 4 months to complete them with a busy schedule in their everyday lives.
ONLINE TEFL CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS
There are many online TEFL courses out there. For more information about finding the perfect course for you, leave a comment below or through Instagram.
We can tell you which course will be best suited for the countries you plan to teach and which courses fit your budget.
IS TEFL A GOOD CAREER CHOICE?
It is perfect for those wanting to travel, experience new cultures and earns a decent salary. Salaries in the Middle East and Asia are the highest, but most people who do TEFL do it for the life experience, opportunity to work in new countries and help students learn English.
You have the potential to work in many gorgeous destinations and meet amazing people. Yes, you can do that while working in your home country, but it will just be a one or two-week vacation, and then you have to go back and dream of your next vacation.
Why not choose a career where it feels like a permanent vacation? Check out our article about TEFL as a career choice where we spoke to English teachers from different countries.
HOW MUCH DOES A TEFL TEACHER EARN?
TEFL teachers earn between $600 and $4,250 per month. This depends on the country, school, contract length and level of teaching experience. South America and some Asian countries have the lowest salaries while the Middle East, Japan and China have the highest. Universities pay higher than public schools.
Most teachers that stay in a school for more than one contract, are often offered a higher salary. Also, qualified TEFL teachers with university degrees and teaching experience can command a higher wage than the first time TEFL teacher without a degree.
Universities, private schools and international schools offer high salaries, with language centres are close behind. Public schools usually pay less than private and international schools but still more than enough to live comfortably.
Public schools are the most common jobs for TEFL teachers as they outnumber all the other school types, meaning they have the most positions.
TEFL teachers with the most qualifications and teaching experience are chosen for the positions in universities and international schools. These high paying positions are frequently held long-term by ex-pats who do not plan to leave that country.
It is pretty common to begin your TEFL career in public schools and language centres, gain your experience and move up to higher-paying positions.
CAN I TEACH ENGLISH WITH JUST TEFL?
You must be fluent in English and have a TEFL certificate to teach English as a foreign language. These are the minimum requirements for most countries. In the Middle East and Asia, except Cambodia, you must be a degree holder and have a TEFL certificate. Europe, Africa and South America require a TEFL certificate only and prefer native English speakers.
You can also teach TEFL with TEFL. Most schools will require a degree but some do not and you could begin a career as a trainer or even better, open your own TEFL school!
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO TEACH ABROAD?
Consider salary, climate, language and culture when choosing where to go. If your goal is to build savings, then the Middle East, China or Japan are best. However, the cost of living is much higher. If you are on a budget, South America and South-East Asia are the best options.
If this is your first time teaching abroad as a TEFL teacher, I recommend starting your adventures in Cambodia, Indonesia or Mexico. There is a more laid back attitude in these locations, from what we have heard from many teachers. It would be best if you did your job professionally, however. Still, compared to the schools in the Middle East and Japan, where professionalism and work ethic come above all else, it can be daunting for your first experience.
Teaching English in Mexico ticks all the boxes, the most job opportunities for TEFL teachers in the world, beautiful towns and cities, world-famous beaches, a party atmosphere, unbelievable weather, extremely lovely people, oh yeah, and Mexican food is the best… don’t deny it! Find a job in a local school that is looking to hire teachers by the beach and never leave! The salary may not be the highest in the world but use it to gain your experience and also enjoy yourself.
These have been the main topics and questions we receive daily about TEFL. Hopefully, this article will have given you an insight into the world of TEFL and answered some of your general questions.
If there are questions about TEFL or TESOL certification that you did not find in this article, please feel free to comment below, and we will answer them and add them to the blog post for future readers.