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TESOL or TEFL or CELTA: What is the difference?

17th September 23

If you have decided that you’re interested in teaching English online or overseas, you will be looking for the right course to make that dream a reality.

We bet, in that search, you have come across a lot of acronyms for training courses, like TESOL, TEFL, and CELTA. If these acronyms are becoming more and more confusing, and you aren’t sure which course you need, we are here to help you. In this blog, we will be giving you a breakdown of the main acronyms, so you know what each type of qualification can be used for and ensure you select the right course for you.

What is TEFL?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and a TEFL qualification does what it says on the tin! It trains you to teach English as a foreign language to non-native speakers of English, either in classrooms abroad or online.

When students study English as a foreign language, they’re studying it as an academic subject, the same way you might study Spanish or German. This means you’re responsible for not only teaching your students how to speak English but also how to understand grammar, vocabulary, reading and speaking for academic purposes. You’ll be teaching them all the ins and outs of this wonderful language.

TEFL qualifications are the most affordable option of the three, and Ofqual has classified all of them (TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA) as Level 5 qualifications. TEFL qualifications are also usually available online, so you can access your course 24/7 and study where and went it suits you!  


What is TESOL?

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and this acronym usually refers to the Trinity CertTESOL qualification, which is designed and accredited by Trinity College London and is well-known and respected throughout the world.

In the same way as a TEFL certificate, a TESOL certification will qualify you to teach English as a foreign language in classrooms abroad, in non-native English-speaking countries like Thailand, Japan, or online. It will, however, also qualify you to teach English in English-speaking countries, like the UK, Australia, or the USA. So, if you want the opportunity to work in classrooms abroad and in your home country (or another English-speaking country), this is the course for you!

If you are teaching English to non-native speakers in an English-speaking country, the TESOL course will also prepare you to help students learn to communicate more efficiently with the people around them, in particular with tasks such as food shopping and interviewing for a job etc.

TESOL courses are generally completed online or in a classroom and they have set programmes and lessons that you will need to attend in the evening for around 14 weeks (for the part-time course). So, although there is a set timeline to the course, it should be feasible to fit it around your current commitments.

TESOL courses are slightly more expensive than the TEFL courses, but not as costly as the CELTA qualification.

Sometimes people mistakenly use TESOL and TEFL interchangeably (to talk about TEFL) but now that you know the difference, you’ll be able to correct them.  

Teach English in English Speaking Countries

What is CELTA?

A CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults as it was formerly known) qualification is mainly geared towards teaching adults and requires learners to attend an in-person, 4-week course. CELTAs are part of the Cambridge Assessment in English, a highly respected TEFL provider.

It is a Level 5 qualification on the Ofqual regulated qualifications framework, which is the same level as our Advanced TEFL Diploma and our Trinity CertTESOL course. The CELTA, however, is more expensive, and you will need to ensure you have 4 weeks free to attend the full-time classes. CELTA courses also often have fixed start and end dates, so you would need to make sure you are applying and enrolling at the right time or wait for the next available course.

This isn’t ideal if you don’t have a lot of money saved already, if you are looking to study around your current commitments, or if you want to be able to start teaching English as soon as possible.

Finding The Right Course For You

Each course has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best thing to do is to ask yourself what you are looking to gain from your English-teaching certificate. This will ensure you select the right one for your needs.

Do you want to teach in a school in Thailand, or teach online while you travel the world? A TEFL course would be best for you.

Would you like to teach English to non-native speakers in language schools in the UK? A TESOL course is the right fit.

Are you looking to teach adults? Can you commit to 4 weeks, full-time, in-person classes? A CELTA could be the one for you.

If you’re still not sure and would prefer to have some help deciding, get in touch with our team today on 01202 006 464 or contact them online.

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