Teaching English as a Foreign Language – or TEFL – is the professional practice of teaching non-native speakers how to communicate in English.
English has become the de facto language of international work, study, and travelling. However English, as a language, is not spoken by everyone in every country. This means countries, organisations and schools need to find language teachers who can teach English in an engaging way.
The most common, and effective, way of doing this is through face-to-face teaching in small groups using a communicative, student centered method. This is different from teaching in a high school or lecturing in a university, because it is about learning a skill rather than gaining knowledge. You can’t really learn English on your own from books or the internet, you need a good teacher!
What is TEFL? What's with all these acronyms?
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. In the field of education, it specifically refers to teaching English to learners who do not speak English as a first or home language.
The acronyms TEFL, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Second or Other Languages) and ELT (English Language Teaching) are used interchangeably. EFL (English as Foreign Language), ESL and ESOL (English as a Second/or Other Language) refer to the broader discipline or industry.
What does it mean to be qualified or certified in TEFL?
Like any are of professional practice, to have a career in teaching English as a foreign language requires specific professional training. There are a huge range of TEFL courses out there, from 20 hour online courses, to Postgraduate Diploma and and Master’s qualifications. To get a job with most good employers, you will need qualification that meets the following thresholds:
- include a minimum of 120 hours face-to-face teaching contact time;
- include a minimum of six hours assessed teaching practice;
- are accredited by a Higher Education Institution
There are some countries and companies where you can get an English teaching job without having a TEFL course, but these tend to be much less well paid and have less job security.
What will I do on a TEFL course?
On the course, your time will be split between input sessions, teaching practice, preparing to teach or watching your colleagues teach. The experience of understanding, observing and becoming critically aware of what works and does not work in a language classroom is helps new and developing teachers improve their classroom skills and competencies.
Input sessions deal with into the theory and methodology of language teaching, while at the same time expose in-training teachers to teaching techniques they can employ in their own classrooms. Teaching practice allow trainees to experiment with and put these methodologies into practice.
The final component of the course is assessments. The assessments require trainees to research and demonstrate an understanding of some of the fundamental principles of English Language teaching.
Do I need to be first-language English speaker?
Not at all, in fact some of the best teachers are those who have been through the process of learning English themselves. Of course, you will need to have a high standard of written and spoken English, equivalent to CEFR level C2 (proficient), IELTS 7.5 or a good result at Matric English first additional language.