If you’ve thought about teaching English as a second language (ESL), no doubt you have come across the term “TEFL” before. These four letters are an acronym for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”. Many people who want to teach ESL will obtain a TEFL certificate in order to show potential employers they are ready to take on the task of teaching English to students who do not speak the language natively. This kind of certificate and its equivalent is sometimes known under another name, TESOL, which stands for “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages”.

What exactly differentiates a TEFL course from a TESOL course though? Honestly, not a whole lot. The same basic principle underlies both programs: it is designed to educate people on how to become ESL teachers. The two terms are often used interchangeably, and most employers in this field understand they mean essentially the same thing.

What is a TEFL certification and why is it important?

Even if you speak English at native level, you should probably obtain a TEFL or TESOL certificate if you’re thinking of teaching English as a foreign language, particularly if you are thinking of doing so outside of native English speaking regions (the U.S., Canada, the U.K., etc.). This is because many countries outside of these areas require teachers to provide such documentation before they can be hired for English-teaching jobs.

Even if the position you’re interested in doesn’t require a certificate, it’s always a good idea to get one, as it is proof to any potential employer that you have taken steps to educate yourself in how to teach English properly, and it also gives you an advantage over other candidates who may not have such a certificate.

A TEFL or TESOL certification will also help you …

  • Acquire the skills and know-how to teach English to non-native speakers at home and abroad
  • Develop lesson plans for foreign language learners
  • Refresh your understanding of the English language and specific grammar concepts
  • Negotiate for higher salaries and better benefits

What are some ways I can get a TEFL certification?

There are many programs out there that offer TEFL and TESOL and certificates, some are physical in-person programs, and many others are online courses that you can complete at home.

Some people may prefer the experience of being in a classroom with an instructor present, while others may opt for the flexibility of being able to complete a TEFL/TESOL course online, but both paths are acceptable ways to acquire a certification. Just make sure you do your research to make sure you are joining a program that will educate you the most.

However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that obtaining any certificate slapped with a TEFL or TESOL label will do. You should always make sure that whatever certificate you do get is vetted by an authorized accreditation agency, which not only helps ensure the quality of the course you’re taking, but it also helps establish the validity of your certificate.

We obviously recommend getting certified with TEFL Adventure. This is because we are very meticulous about how our courses are put together and we are confident about the quality of our program. Those who helped develop TEFL Adventure all have real-world experience in teaching English to non-native speakers, and beyond that, they have experience doing so in a foreign environment. Our courses are also continually updated to make sure students are getting the most relevant information on how to ESL.

What do you learn in a TEFL course?

A good TEFL/TESOL course goes beyond instructing students on how to teach English grammar rules and sentence structure. It should also cover everything from lesson planning to classroom management and navigating the back-end administrative side of being a teacher.

For example, if you enrolled with TEFL Adventure, you would learn:

  • How to teach English language skills to students of all ages, including grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, reading, speaking, listening, pronunciation, and more.
  • How to plan effective lessons for your classes, whether you are teaching small classes of elementary students, large groups of adults, or a student you meet with regularly on a 1-on-1 basis.
  • How to manage a classroom, not only to ensure all of your students feel like they’re learning in a comfortable environment, but so that you know what to expect and how to respond if things aren’t quite going the way they should be.
  • How to adapt to unexpected situations, including revamping your lesson structure in order to accommodate students that are too advanced or too far behind.
  • How to prepare learning materials that engaging, effective, and relatable
  • How to incorporate digital resources into your course curriculum

Many TEFL/TESOL certification courses are also broken into different specialties, so that you can earn certifications for specifically teaching young children, high school students, test preparation courses, or even business English targeted at adult professionals.

Where can I use my certificate?

You can use your certificate in any country, program, and school that accepts that documentation. TEFL/TESOL certificates aren’t a must-have in most areas of the world, but there are still many programs (and countries) that require prospective teachers to have such a certification before they can even be considered for teaching work. However, keep in mind that even though your certificate will give you an advantage, many places may require you to provide other documentation as well, which may include a Bachelor’s Degree and/or proof of other qualifications.

Can I teach without a college degree and only a certificate?

You sure can. Many overseas and online schools and programs don’t necessarily require teachers to have a college degree. They are more interested in hiring teachers who speak English at a native level and who have actually learned how to teach English as a foreign or secondary language. Do your research to see if the program or school you’re applying to accepts certificate holders who do not necessarily have a university degree. If they do, and you can provide valid proof that you are TEFL/TESOL certified, you’re good to go.

Hopefully this has helped you understand what TEFL means, how to obtain a certificate, and why it can be of such immense value. Being TEFL certified opens so many doors for prospective teachers, especially those who would love to teach while traveling abroad and experiencing all the world has to offer.

And guess what? Getting your TEFL certification is only a click away.

Kaleigh McAdams

Teacher in Taipei
Kaleigh is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States. She has traveled extensively throughout Asia and is currently teaching in Taipei, Taiwan. Her passions are mountain hikes and great food!