Guide to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)

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By Ben Davies

TEFL, CELTA, TESOL, DELTA... all of these acronyms relate to one thing: teaching English as a foreign language. The range of courses on offer can be quite confusing. Are you looking for a short course or an internationally recognised qualification? Are you new to teaching or have you been lecturing for 20 years? Our one stop guide to these qualifications should equip you to make an informed course choice.


The two most well known qualifications are Trinity TESOL (Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and CELTA (Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). Both are widely recognised by employers and by official bodies. The difference between the two courses is surprisingly little. The aim of each course is to equip adult learners with the skills to teach English to non-native students. At the same time, they address some of the issues the both teachers and learners face in the classroom. You will be expected to understand a certain amount of theory. Both courses also require you to be observed actually teaching small classes for a certain amount of time (roughly six hours). If you pass either of these courses, then you will be well-equipped to begin your career as an English teacher abroad.

Although TESOL is affiliated with Trinity College London, and CELTA with Cambridge University, both courses are conducted at independent study centres such as colleges in the UK and abroad. You can find a list of course providers on the respective websites (see below).

Short or long course?

It is important to note that, despite the fact that these courses involve as much as 130 contact hours and six hours of observed teaching, Trinity TESOL and CELTA are touted as being introductory courses, providing the groundwork upon which you can build through experience. This should give you reason to weigh up carefully the credentials of any shorter online or weekend courses. TESOL and CELTA courses normally run over a period of four weeks (know as the ‘intensive course') which involves full time study at a course centre. Alternatively, some course providers run part time courses at a more relaxed schedule (normally around 3 evenings a week).

Online or study centre?

The internet is rife with websites offering TEFL courses. A quick search on Google brings back countless course providers, mostly offering fully-online qualifications. As any course can go under the moniker of TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), it is important to be cautious when you are choosing a course provider. It is wise to check their credentials and not to be fooled by authoritative sounding affiliates. As a general rule, though, these TEFL courses are much shorter than the Trinity TESOL or CELTA courses as mentioned above, taking place over a period as short as a weekend (such as the i-to-i courses).

One advantage of these courses is, first of all, the reduced price (the average fee for such a course is around £200 compared to £900+ for the Trinity and Cambridge qualifications). Another advantage is the relatively easy schedule - weekend and online courses take around 20 hours to complete, on average. Bear in mind, though, that the comparatively easy nature of these courses is something that potential employers may pick up on too. But if you are looking for a basic grounding in teaching methods, these courses could be ideal for you, requiring little commitment in terms of time or finances.

What next?

So you've decided on a course. The next step is finding work. Some course providers offer work placements upon successful completion of the course. If you're looking for work off your own back, though, there are some useful organisations out there to help you. is probably the largest database of ELT jobs for across the globe and provides a very useful search function. The British Council is another secure way to find a job abroad, although it does have entrance requirements that are higher than many other employers. Click here to find out more.


ELT - English Language Teaching.

EFL - English as a Foreign Language.

ESL - English as a Second Language.

TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

TESL - Teaching English as a Second Language.

TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

CELTA - Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

DELTA - Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults


Trinity College London

Cambridge CELTA

British Council

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