Top Ten TEFL Myths—Busted

We’ve come across a lot of talk regarding English teaching and the validly of doing a TELF. Most of the time, the reasoning comes up short when all the key factors are considered. 

1. You need to speak your students’ language to teach English.

Teaching is not Translating.

According to the principles of modern language instruction embedded in the ‘communicative approach,’ you as the teacher will want to immerse your students in an English-only environment as much as possible when they are in your class.

In many cases, by using your students’ own language, you are providing a crutch for them that may impede their progress in learning English. Your students need as much practice as possible using English within its unique structure. How is that going to happen if you revert to their native language?


There are plenty of non-verbal tools and resources to help you effectively teach your students English without speaking their language in class.

That’s why a large part of your Vantage TEFL training is dedicated to developing the teaching skills needed to communicate with non-native speakers of various levels of English proficiency.

2  Teaching a language is the same as teaching core subjects like math, science or history.

Not true. Teaching English is very different from traditional teaching we’ve all experienced in school. That type of learning involves a lot of lecture-style presentation and the students mostly memorizing the course material. Here they are acquiring knowledge.


Language teaching is more like teaching a musical instrument. Your students are acquiring a skill. It involves much more student participation. Participation requires communication and this communication is a natural form of language practice. Students learn and practice the target language through the interaction with one another and their instructor.

The more practice a student gets, the more their English should improve. If the students aren’t participating much in class, it could mean that the teacher is talking (lecturing) too much.

It’s a key reason why Vantage TELF employs the communicative approach to language learning.

3. I'm a native born English speaker.  Why do I have to be trained to teach something I already know?

Well, I’ve eaten food all my life, so I can just waltz into any kitchen and become a 5-star chef, right?


Mastering a subject is knowledge. But knowing how to teach effectively it involves skills.  How will you develop these requisite skills if you haven't been formally trained?


Do you really want to stand up in front of a class of 35 students without any idea of how to teach? Untrained teachers don’t know what to do. They often burn out winging it within a year.  


On the other hand, proper training can lead to a successful classroom session--and a highly rewarding experience. That’s something your students will notice…so will your school…and the ultimate decisions makers—the parents.

4. Online only TEFL courses are equivalent to an In-Class TEFL

TEFL Observed Practice Teaching

New teachers are born in the classroom. Yes, doing an online-only TEFL can be a lot cheaper. It definitely wins on convenience. It could, however, end up being a short cut that bites back. 


In the hundreds of candidates we’ve trained, almost everyone has developed their teaching skill set in their observed practice teaching sessions (the practicum).


How do you replicate the experience of teaching real non-English speaking students in a live classroom online?

Getting professional feedback on your performance is where the knowledge of course book becomes the teaching skill set you’ll need in your new career.


That’s why many good schools shun online-only course offerings. They want a TELF with a minimum of six hours of observed practice teaching

5.  A TEFL is not necessary. In some counters, like, in Cambodia, it's not a requirement.

It’s true that you can find an English teaching job without a TEFL. The demand for English teachers is high so some schools and/or countries will take English speakers who haven’t been formally trained in teaching a language.


Typically those schools are not the best institutions in their respective country.  The best schools want the best teachers. A TEFL certification says at a minimum that that candidate has passed a program of professional training.

Bottom line: For the best jobs, a TEFL (and teaching experience) is a must, no matter what country you work in. If you wish to settle for any teaching job, you probably could skip doing a TEFL or just do a cheap online-only one. But if you want the best job that your background and qualifications can bring, a120 hour TEFL with a practicum will help in differentiate yourself as a career teaching professional.


But there’s an even more important reason to do TEFL on

6. Getting a teaching job is the single most important reason do to a TEFL?

Many would say that a TEFL is the ticket to getting better teaching jobs—as important and true as that is.


But probably more importantly—at least in the long term—is that your TEFL teacher training will give you the foundational skill set—the tools and the know-how—on how to be successful in the classroom. 


The better you can perform your job, the more you will enjoy it, the more your students will learn and the better asset you'll be to any school where you teach.

And being good in your job can lead you to a world of rewards as your value is increasingly recognized.

7. I’m an experienced teacher.  I don’t need to do a TEFL now.

You could be right. TEFL programs are designed assuming a trainee has no teaching experience.

Having said that, we’ve trained teachers with as much as 15+ years of experience and who’ve taught in diverse cultures like China, Korea, and Turkey. They came back to get TEFL certified because they weren’t getting invited to interview at the prestigious schools where they felt now they were now qualified to teach. They were good teachers who had lots of great experience, but they also said the learned a lot from their Vantage TEFL experience.

It’s not uncommon for institutions to pre-screen out all applicants without a TEFL. Often that’s done before it gets to the hiring authority.  They never see all that great experience because their resume never reaches them.

Bottom line: Shortcuts may bite back. Skipping TEFL training when you’re just starting out as a teacher may mean you’ll lack a differentiating qualification you’ll need in the future.

8. TEFLs are expensive! Why should I do one?

They aren’t. You will be paying approximately the same per hour as your students will be paying to be taught by you in your first TEFL job, but at Vantage, you'll be on an award-winning course, trained by hugely experienced trainers, job search help, small class sizes, and an internationally-recognized certificate at the end.


Try comparing the cost of a TEFL course to almost any other face-to-face qualification such as IT training.


The better schools typically want a TEFL certification.  It demonstrates competence in the classroom and they’re willing to pay more to those teachers who have one.

This can range from $100 to $200 a month in additional salary.  So usually in a year or so, the extra compensation will reimburse you for a full TEFL program that can cost around $1,500.


You should approach a TEFL certification in term of an investment in a potential future career. And the experience you’ll gain from better schools will usually be perceived better on your resume.

9. You have to teach kids

School-age children are definitely a big market for TEFL teachers. But if kids aren't your ticket—with more than 1 billion people learning Engish—there are other large market segments that need teachers such as private language schools.


They’re often looking for TEFL teachers to deliver one-to-one lessons, business English and conversational English classes for adults.


This infograph on the many kinds of English teachers may give you more ideas.

10. Combined TEFL courses are better than online-only programs


Combined courses are designed to bring the best of both worlds—the digital power of online eLearning and the traditions of a classroom setting.


These are hybrid courses where you do the course book online at your own schedule. Then when you've passed all of Vantage's 20 units pass—as well as successfully completing a lesson plan—you will join the practicum practice teaching sessions of non-English speaking students in a real classroom.


This typically is done over approximately ten workdays.  Combined programs go a long way to addressing the shortcomings of online-only TEFL courses.  For those working full time, this may be the only way to complete a TEFL with a practicum while still holding a full-time job.

The Big Picture


Teaching English is a competitive market. Schools want the best teachers and your TEFL demonstrates that you’ve been trained to teach. That should get you noticed. Your resume won’t be the only application they’re looking at.


Markets are also efficient. There are good reasons why institutes will pay more for professionally certified teachers. Schools themselves are in competition against other schools for the best students (who often pay more).  A school’s quality of teaching is a key way they can differentiate themselves from competing institutions.


It’s not the textbooks that make Harvard or Cambridge world famous.  It’s the quality of their professors.

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