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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about the TEFL Certificate


flags of the worldTEFL is the acronym for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language,” the profession of teaching English to students whose first language is not English and who live in a region where English is not the official language. TEFL is often confused with Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), which applies to English teachers who instruct students in a region where English is the native language. Both TEFL and TESL fall under the umbrella term Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), which does not distinguish between English as a foreign language or English as a native language.

Who Can Become a TEFL Teacher?
Anybody with the proper certification can become a TEFL teacher. It is a widely held notion that a TEFL teacher must be a native speaker of the English language. Actually, around 80 percent of English language teachers in the world are not native English speakers. Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers (NNEST) are usually employed in the state schools of countries abroad and are qualified to teach English in accordance with that country’s requirements.

How Do I Become a TEFL Teacher?
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) have slightly different requirements for certification. If you’re looking to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) — which is technically a version of TESL — in the United States, then the process will comprise of the standard teaching certification for your state, as well as additional ESL training. While requirements to become a teacher vary by country, teaching abroad does not necessarily require TEFL certification. Most TEFL opportunities simply require a bachelor’s degree and the appropriate papers to work abroad.

What TEFL Certification Do I Need?
The most basic TEFL Certification offered is the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), an initial qualification for people with minimal teaching experience. CELTA is awarded by Cambridge ESOL and is internationally recognized by organizations that employ TEFL teachers. Other resources are also available for online teaching certification, such as the University of Toronto’s TEFL Online, the International TEFL Corporation, and TEFLonline.com. TEFL courses can be completed online in as little as four months or as long as eight months, depending on the program.

Where Can I Find Teaching Jobs as a TEFL Teacher?
Because of its global use and influence, the English language is always in high demand and countries all over the world are looking for TESOL teachers. There is always a market for TEFL teachers in state, private or specialized schools, and even as individual tutors. With the proper certification, the prospects are there and there are many organizations and resources available to help you find a job teaching English. Teachaway.com is a website that offers recruiting services, career resources, and a very extensive database of job listings — similar to TESOL Inc. and Oxford Seminars. The International TEFL Corporation also offers TEFL job search assistance, as does the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. The United States Department of State also provides information on working abroad in general.

What is the Salary for a TEFL Teacher?
The salary for ESL teachers in the United States varies by grade level. For a TEFL teacher abroad, the salary varies by nation and program, and is usually paid in the host nation’s currency. Payment changes whether you are full time/part time and can either be an hourly wage or salary. Many places also offer yearly vacation days, free furnished housing (dormitory, hotel or private lodgings) or adequate housing allowance, free or partially-reimbursed round-trip airfare, full or partial medical insurance coverage and bonuses. Most countries pay their TEFL teachers enough to live comfortably, with enough money to enjoy their free time and vacations. Moreover, there is the experience of travelling and seeing the world. How can you put a price on that?

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