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Teacher Training Courses: What’s the difference between TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA?
Mainly, this is jargon. All we need to know is that TEFL means teaching English as a Foreign Language, so it’s the name of what we do. If we are teaching students English because it’s not their mother tongue, we are teaching English as a foreign language.
TESOL is teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. This is the same as TEFL, it’s just a more updated description, because many of the people we teach might speak two or more languages.
CELTA is actually a TESOL certificate. It’s also a TEFL certificate, because both TESOL and TEFL describe our jobs as English teachers. That is basically the difference, if there is one. Of course, there is a bit of further confusion caused by the fact that there are a lot of TEFL courses around.
So as a sum up, TEFL is the umbrella and it’s the old name, the new one is TESOL (Speakers of Other Languages) and CELTA is a TEFL/TESOL course by Cambridge Assessment English. Nowadays, we describe CELTA as a TESOL course but it’s also a TEFL course, so these are just general terms, nothing more.
And what is a TEFL course in general?
Nowadays there are many TEFL courses, and TEFL courses are a general name for all kinds of courses where you learn to teach English. At IH Cairo, basically a TEFL course also prepares you for teaching English as a foreign language and our course is just another version. It’s a sort of a modified version of CELTA, but it’s a lot cheaper and the English level is often lower.
In our case, a B2, even a B1, higher end of B1 or B2 is an acceptable level of English to do an IH Cairo TEFL course, for example, whereas for CELTA courses, you must be at least C1, the higher end of C1 according to Cambridge, or the lower end of C2. This is the difference really between Upper Intermediate English and advanced English.
So TEFL courses at IH Cairo only require higher end of B1 or a good B2 level, whereas CELTA always requires a C1 or above.
The course length will be differ sometimes. Some TEFL courses are longer, some are shorter. The one that we are offering at IH Cairo is around a similar length of a CELTA, a hundred and twenty hours.
Is a TEFL course the same as a TESOL course?
Some courses are called TESOL courses and they are the same as the TEFL course because it’s old terminology and new terminology. So some institutions prefer to use the term TEFL and some institutions prefer to use the term TESOL, these are general terms.
The big difference between your General TEFL/TESOL courses and something like CELTA is recognition. In some countries, a short TEFL course might be absolutely fine, especially if you’re not planning to travel abroad. But of course, this is why you pay more money for a CELTA course, because it is internationally recognized. Most countries around the world accept a CELTA for teaching at various institutions, like language centers or foundation programs at universities and in some cases international schools.
So I’m an English teacher, or I want to be an English teacher, which course is the best and why? How can I choose the best that fits me?
It is very important to look at the course details very carefully and think about your goals. What’s your future plan? Are you planning to leave your country? If you are planning to work abroad, then you’ll probably need to take a CELTA, it’s your most valuable certificate for traveling because it’s so widely recognized.
However, it’s a lot of money to pay for a course, so if your plans for the time being are to stay in your own country, then it might be best to take a TEFL course and especially if you’re not sure that your English level is high enough to take the CELTA at this time.
So take a TEFL course, you’ll certainly learn a great deal from it, it can start you off. And you might find that in a year or two or a few years later, you might decide you want to take the CELTA, so it gives you a nice background.
When you’re searching online for courses, look at the course outline, what components are they covering. Is it about teaching vocabulary? Grammar? Pronunciation? Are these the things that you want to know? And is there any teaching practice? This usually tells you a lot about a course, because if the course is only input and just sessions, then you’re not getting any teaching practice. So that’s always the Litmus test for a good TEFL/TESOL course, because it’s teaching experience.
So it is recommended that you take a TEFL course that includes teaching practice, because at the end of the day, you want to prove that you can teach. Otherwise, the course is just theory if there wasn’t any teaching practice, so it’s important that somebody observes you teaching and gives you some feedback.
Those things are guaranteed on a CELTA because you can’t not do teaching practice on a CELTA.
Some of the technical courses available don’t always provide that, unlike the IH courses.
Another point to consider, are you teaching students or are you doing peer teaching where you just teach each other? It’s not always the same, teaching your colleagues is completely different from teaching students.
In CELTA, we have to teach real students who don’t always know English very well, whereas if you’re teaching your peers, it’s not quite the same because they probably know English well and they are just pretending.
So the best TEFL course is the one that fits your needs, take a look at the course content and what suits your level in English.
People who’ve been rejected from CELTA courses before should not give up hope. Maybe do a TEFL course now and then later do some refresher courses on your own English and get it up to the level, then you can apply for a CELTA. Some of our most successful candidates on our last course have done a TEFL course and it showed. We also offer a CELTA preparation course at IH Cairo.