What is a TEFL Certification?

by Tammy Dray

TEFL certifications have become increasingly popular over the last few years. As more and more Americans head overseas to teach English, the importance of having a certification as a way of showing their capacity as teachers has become essential. Numerous TEFL certifications are available to meet the needs and budget of almost everybody.

Significance

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and it applies to teachers who work overseas, in a country where English is not the primary language. Those who teach English in the US or Canada, to immigrants, are ESL teachers or tutors of English as a Second Language. Other denominations for the same are Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). Most names are interchangeable and use varies depending on the educational institution using it.

Types

A TEFL certification is a course that allows people to instruct others in the use of the English language. The certification can take many forms, from online workshops to year-long courses. The most respected TEFL certifications are the ones given by The Boston Language Institute, the CELTA (UK-based) and the Certificate in TESOL (CertTESOL). All three can be obtained following a four- or five-week intensive coursework period. You don't need to be a native speaker in order to qualify for a TEFL certification, but your level of English should be native-like, both in writing and in spoken communication.

Features

A certification course usually covers a series of topics, including language-teaching techniques, error correction, how to select appropriate material, lesson planning, teaching grammar and cross-cultural issues. Graduates from TEFL courses have a better idea of how to deal with students who speak little to no English, no matter their age. Because most graduates look for work overseas, the courses often include help learning interviewing techniques and contract negotiation.

Considerations

Shorter certification courses, such as the ones that last a few weeks, usually cover the essentials mentioned above and cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Some more comprehensive courses of study, such as the California Teachers of English Learners Certificate, a graduate certificate program offered by the University of Phoenix, last longer. (This comprehensive program, which consists of four six-week classes and a one-week orientation, is designed to prepare teaching professionals to get the Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development, or CLAD, certificate.)

Geography

Because requirements vary from country to country, it is difficult to estimate what type of certification would be better to open international doors. Countries such as Japan ask for a CELTA plus a bachelor's degree in order to secure a teaching visa for you. Others, such as Russia, are happy with any type of TEFL certificate, in which case it may make sense to obtain a cheaper one. Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe are main destinations for TEFL teachers.

About the Author

Aside from writing experience, I also have coaching/teaching experience, both as an writing coach (currently teaching three workshops at www.coffeehouseforwriters.com) and an ESL (English-as-a-Second-Language)teacher abroad. I'm a certified Nutrition Consultant and fitness trainer and a longtime contributor to health/wellness publications, from Self to Marie Claire. I am fluent in Spanish and have worked as a translator and a language instructor. I also have two books forthcoming in 2008.