What is TEFL and what is a TEFL course?

What is TEFL? It’s confusing, I know. You’ve heard the term, you’ve listened to the buzz, but what is a TEFL course?

In short, TEFL is an acronym meaning Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification.

A TEFL course is a qualification that allows you to teach English to foreign students anywhere in the world. And don’t worry, you don’t need to speak their language. The lessons you teach will be 100% fully immersive in English. So if you want to teach English overseas. And you want to travel the world while you work.

You also want to live in far-flung and exotic countries and you want to enhance your CV and learn a language. Perhaps you even want to have a host of small Asian children running around with an Irish accent (ok that last bit was just me). Then the whole ‘teaching English overseas’ thing can be far too confusing.

A google search offers a horde of mind-boggling acronyms (TEFL, CELTA, IELTS, TOEFL, DELTA, ESL) arrrrrrrgh! What does it all mean?! Let me help you out once and for all.

What is tefl
Me teaching English in South Korea

So to recap:

What is TEFL & What Does TEFL Mean?

It means ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’

What is a TEFL course? 3 Types

What is a TEFL course? Well first, there is no one specific TEFL course. A TEFL course is any diploma/certificate/qualification that teaches you how to teach English overseas. There are literally thousands of different teaching courses available (much in the same way that there are many different types of degrees available) so which TEFL should you choose and how do you distinguish the legitimate offerings from the cowboys?

To simplify things, I have crudely cut the TEFL world into 3 main sections below:

1) In-Person TEFL courses (CELTA or Trinity):

The type of TEFL course that I personally did. These are the most expensive, most difficult, most internationally recognized and, all in all, the best TEFL courses you can do. There are two main courses that will have the schools fighting to hire you, Trinity College CertTESOL or the Cambridge University CELTA. You don’t study online, you have to physically attend the courses in-person. 

In-person TEFL courses currently cost around $1600 USD for one month of intensive learning with 2 full-time tutors ($2k to $3k if you study overseas and include accommodation). They are audited by the universities during every course to ensure the school is delivering the course as directed,. Also, ALL schools which offer the CELTA or Trinity MUST follow the exact guidelines or they will be dropped from the franchise. They offer a minimum of 120 hours of in-class instruction (which many reputable schools actually demand a minimum of in their job specifications).

2) Independent Language School TEFLs:

A growing industry. When you sift through 10 billion Google results for TEFLs the majority you see will be independent language schools that offer certification in teaching English. They are often legitimate schools offering legitimate courses but make sure you do your research before you commit to one of these as many of them can be 2bit operations where the TEFL isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

3) Online TEFL courses:

The type of TEFL course my mum did. A great option for getting qualified inexpensively and quickly. A TEFL from an online provider will permit you to work in countries where a TEFL qualification is a prerequisite of a work visa. Thailand and China for example. They are relatively easy to pass, inexpensive, fast to obtain and allow you to tick the right box in your teaching application. Ideal for someone who isn’t entirely sure if they will teach as they travel around the world but would like that extra string to their bow should they require a job at any point on their trip.

Some of these are better than others, some are internationally accredited, and some not. Personally, I think these guys offer the best online TEFL course around and would suggest if you’re going to do an online TEFL, that’s the one to do. 

teaching english overseas
TEFL courses open your world

Which TEFL is for you?

There we have it, folks. I hope that answers your ‘What is TEFL’ question. The entire TEFL world sliced neatly into 3 perfect piles.  Which one is best for you? Check which one you are below.

  • If you are thinking about teaching English as a career. Or you dream of working in more than one country. Maybe you want to work in a university then CELTA or TRINITY is for you.
  • You plan to take a year out teaching English in one country and want a guaranteed job on arrival. Sign up for a specific local LANGUAGE SCHOOL TEFL and you’ll be all set to go.
  • If you want to have a teaching certificate on your resume just in-case. Or you are thinking that at some point you may teach for a few weeks or months to supplement your income on your gap year, get yourself an ONLINE TEFL.

I hope this has helped clear up the teaching English world for you guys (partially at least). Feel free to email me on johnny ‘at’ onestep4ward ‘dot’ com for any further questions, I’m always happy to help.

Don’t forget to check out the 16 FAQ ABOUT TEACHING ENGLISH OVERSEAS for further info on this awesome industry. Good luck and happy travels =)

Travel Insurance While You Teaching English in Thailand (or anywhere)

When I was teaching English in Thailand, there was no online insurance that would cover me for traveling AND being based somewhere else. At least nothing that was for people on a tight budget. I broke my leg in a tuk-tuk crash, and thankfully my school covered the hospital bills. Now though, living in Thailand, you can have proper insurance for $9 a week. You can check it out here. I call it my digital nomad insurance, and you can check out my review too.

what is tefl

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