FAQs about the TEFL World
Understanding TEFL and the English Teaching Profession
What does TEFL mean?
TEFL simply stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
What the difference between TEFL and TESOL?
Essentially, they are the same thing.
TESOL refers to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Again, these two acronyms generally mean the same thing.
TESOL is more commonly used in English speaking countries like the United States, while TEFL is a term more frequently used in the United Kingdom. TEFL has evolved to be the more common term,
Both certifications enable you to work as an English teacher around the world.
What's with all this EFL, ESL, TEFL, TESL, TESOL, ELT, etc.
Confusingly, the English language teaching industry has a bewildering array of acronyms, many of which mean the same thing, and most of which have no official significance.
ELT stands for English Language Teaching. This is a blanket term that covers all forms of English language acquisition and the ELT industry.
EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language and involves the acquisition of English by non-native speakers.
ESL stands for English as a Second Language and involves the acquisition of English by non-native speakers.
ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages and involves the acquisition of English by non-native speakers.
EAL stands for English as an Additional Language and involves the acquisition of English by non-native speakers.
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and involves teaching English to non-native speakers.
TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language and involves teaching English to non-native speakers.
TEAL stands for Teaching English as an Additional Language and involves teaching English to non-native speakers.
TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and involves teaching English to non-native speakers. The acronym TESOL is also used by an American teachers' association, the full name of which is "Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Incorporated".
How big are Vantage's TEFL classes?
In a word: small. While some TEFL schools run courses with 16 and even more than 20+ teacher-student candidates, we limit our In-Class courses to no more than eight.
We deliver our course through a learning workshop which enhances interactivity,
which results in increased student engagement and learning—along with other skills like of adaptability, empathy, and critical thinking.
Bigger sized courses—say over a dozen—mean reverting to a lecture format where the TEFL candidates just listen and take notes, and are limited to questions only as the main form of interactivity.
Our workshop approach means our team of trainers can give you undivided attention and the individual assistance you'll need to learn be the best teacher you can be and highly effective in your classroom.
Is there a central institution that accredits TEFL programs worldwide
In short, no. The TEFL/TESOL industry has no international body that is recognized for accrediting courses. Instead, there are a number of rival agencies who have built up their own standards in establishing courses run under their name.
TEFL International (TI), on the other hand, is a non-profit organization (US registered) that maintains a board of professionals, who keep an eye on the standards.They operate in 20 countries.
Our In-Class TEFL Courses are validated and awarded three Masters Credits from Fairmont State University (FSU), USA.
These credits can be applied towards FSU’s Masters in Education in Professional Studies,
An important criterion in accreditation in the education field is how a program does it moderation of standards. See the next FAQ for more information on this.
What do you mean by "Moderation of Standards"
An integral part of accreditation is its continuous moderation. For each course we run, the moderator checks the coursework to make sure that the marking is fair and standardized. Vantage submits part of each trainees coursework to an independent moderator so they can check that the trainee has learned the TEFL methodology.
Additionally, all of our trainees also have an opportunity to give feedback about the course in a confidential manner. The moderator then produces a report regarding any improvements that have been suggested and, if appropriate, we'll implement these in the next course.
Some other TEFL courses may affiliate themselves with an academic institution or run their courses on a campus, making use of the institute's name and/or facilities on a commercial agreement. However, If the institute has no academic background in TEFL (ie a faculty or major of teaching conducted in English), then it’s probably not very credible in endorsing the course.
Accreditation with ongoing moderation ensures that the course you take is of the highest quality and that's why FHSU accredits our courses and your TEFL qualification is internationally recognized.
While many TEFL courses are correctly run by qualified staff with some sort of quality control approval, it’s more advisable to opt for a course that is known worldwide for its moderation, so that there can be no doubt.
Much of the TEFL industry is based on strong teacher demand and schools in Thailand may not be too fussy which TEFL course you did, provided you demonstrate skill and confidence in teaching correctly. But you may later find your choice regrettable when you try to move on to better-paying jobs in Japan and the Middle East, only to find their TEFL certificate isn’t recognized.
Are TEFL courses accredited by a Ministry of Education?
Since the TEFL world is so inconsistent and scattered, ministries of education generally do not oversee TEFL training. It’s not within their authority and the TEFL world is driven by private enterprise.
Specifically, here in Thailand the Ministry of Education (MoE) does not accredit, endorse or license any TEFL courses, contrary to what some course providers claim. What they actually mean is that they are also operating as a language or tutoring school (i. e. teaching English, Thai or other academic subjects like math) for which they need to be licensed. There are numerous companies in Thailand running training courses (e.g. cooking, Thai boxing, massage, etc.) that are not under the authority of the MoE. And the MoE does not make TEFL a required qualification for licensing teachers.
Finally, any MoE is country-specific. How far would your country-specific certification go if you decided to teach in a different country? For this reason, we recommend a TELF course that's from an accredited institute of higher education. A college or university that itself is accredited and offers a degree in teaching English as a foreign language that's accepted worldwide.
Why not just do an "online only" TEFL course?
Knowing does not make you skilled!
The practicum—observed teaching practices—is where knowledge is transformed into teaching skills.
When you go through a TEFL course book—whether online or offline—you can gain a lot of knowledge. Knowledge is information. It's acquired through sensory input: reading, watching and listening. Knowledge refers to factual information and theoretical concepts.
That’s step one in teacher training. But new teachers need more. They still need teaching skills.Skills refer to applied knowledge to specific situations. Skills are
developed through practice.
To make it simple, knowledge is theoretical and skills are practical.
You can know all the rules of a sport, know its key procedures and techniques and when to use them, but this only makes you knowledgeable about the sport; it does not make you any good at it. To become good at a sport you must play it, practice its techniques—improve your skills through practice.
That’s why step two—observed teaching practices—is essential in proper teacher training.
If you want to be a good English teacher, you will need to immerse yourself in an actual classroom with real non-English speaking students to see how they respond to your teaching.
You'll want to get professional feedback from trainers who have years of classroom experience—who are experts in the methodologies you’ve learned from the course book—as there are limits to how useful your own internal reflection is in understanding your personal skill development.
The observed teaching practices are a crucial ingredient in developing the skill set to become a successful and professional teacher—the best you can be.
That’s why a lot of professions have some kind of ‘hands-on’ practice training within their certification program. It’s why doctors do a residency after years of medical school before they can practice on their own.
That’s the value in a properly administered TEFL practicum. It will transform the knowledge gained from the course book into the teaching skill set you’ll need to be successful in the classroom.
This observed teaching practice - the practicum - is a crucial ingredient in developing the skill set to become the best teacher you can be. That's why most reputable schools don't consider a TEFL training course without a "practicum" to be a valid teaching credential.
Also think about this: shortcuts you employ today may come back to bite you tomorrow. The online-only TEFL course may get you an initial job somewhere. But after a couple of years of solid teaching experience, when you apply for a teaching position at a school with a prestigious reputation, they don't call you back to interview because you didn't make the shortlist. Any TEFL without a practicum will not be up to their requirements.
What is the Combined Course?
Online TEFLs do have their merits. They act as a good foundation or a cheap compromise if you are going for a volunteering job or low-paid internship that enables you to gain experience. Or it can be a solution those who are already working who can't afford to leave their job.
But if you're thinking more long term, if you're seriously about teaching your way around the world, then it's worth investing in a full TEFL program. You won't regret it when you decide to apply for jobs in Dubai that pay up to $4,000 a month.
There is one simple benchmark to determine a comprehensive and in the eyes fo many hiring authorities, an accredited TEFL: the teaching practicum. Without the six observed teaching practices, many of the best-paying jobs at better institutions probably won't call you back for an interview
So we've created a course, which is ideal for working professionals and others who can't afford one month away from their current responsibilities.In our Combined Course, you'll experience "best of both worlds."
You will first do the TEFL course book on-line and work your way through its 20 units and lesson planning exercises. This part of the class also includes a lot of best-practice videos so you will see how successful teachers work a classroom. You can work at your own pace as you 'll have up to six months to complete this part of the course.
Upon successful completion of the online portion of your course, you then join us for 10 days for your full practicum. You'll be teaching real students in a real classroom situation and we'll be giving you valuable feedback each step along the way.
Is it necessary to speak a foreign language?
No.In general, today's Communicative Approach to teaching English requires that the teacher speak only in English. Speaking a foreign language is therefore of no particular value.As such, the ability, therefore, to speak a foreign language is not a requirement for teaching English.
Having said that, some experience of learning and speaking a foreign language will help you understand any language in general and how we learn it. If you are teaching in a foreign country, some knowledge of that country's language and culture can also make your life easier and enrich your experience.
Can non-native English speakers take a TEFL course?
Large numbers of non-native English speakers successfully complete our TEFL courses every year and go on to have successful teaching careers either in their home country or abroad.
In order to complete the course, you will need to demonstrate a high standard of English. Typically that’s proficiency level of at least C1 on the CEFR scale.
In some ways, being a non-native English speaker can be an advantage in the classroom as you’ve already been through the same learning experience as your students are currently facing. This can help build a good rapport between the students and the teacher as they are often less afraid of making mistakes. It can also provide the students with a real incentive to succeed when taught by a teacher who has started from the same position as every other person in the room.
Anther common advantage non-native speakers have is that their understanding of English grammar is usually better than native speakers as they have had to learn it from scratch.
A large percentage of non-native speaking teachers complete a TEFL program with the intention of teaching in their home country.
This has many advantages for teachers and students. For the teachers, it means they don’t have to compete with native speakers in an unfamiliar country. The students also benefit from the mutual understanding of cultural and language issues.
Demand for English teachers has never been greater. Qualified teachers will find that their services are needed by employers in many fascinating countries around the world.
As long as you’re a fluent speaker of English – with TEFL qualifications – there is no reason why you can’t make your dreams a reality! For more thoughts on this, have a read of the BBC's recent article on why native speakers need to recalibrate their English.
A Vantage TEFL Certification Testimonial
One of our TEFL students, Hamza, talks about his advantages of being a non-native English speaking teacher. You can hear what our graduates are saying on our testimonials page.
What if English is not my mother tongue?
If you have your Vantage TEFL certificate, not being a native speaker should not be a problem. One of our entrance requirements for any serious TEFL course is the ability to speak (and write) English fluently.
We define that at the C1 level on the CEFR scale.
Thus anyone—native- or non-native speaker—will be on a level footing. Non-native speakers do have to demonstrate a very high degree of fluency and your TEFL certification is one way to do that.
Are there any age limits for TEFL?
Yes and no. This depends very much on the country, the culture, the school, whether it’s a public or private institution, and legal requirements.
It can work both ways. Some schools actually prefer more mature teachers, especially if their clientele are mainly business people. Others consider—rightly or wrongly—that younger teachers are more "dynamic".
Some countries are so desperate for teachers that age is irrelevant. TEFL teachers can be any age from 18 to 80, though it has to be said that it is more difficult to find employment under 21 and over 50. And while, some countries have compulsory retirement ages of around 60 or 65, these rules don’t really apply to private situations which could be a language school or your own students.
Bottom line: don't let the question of age put you off. With a Vantage TEFL certificate, you will find employment in many rewarding situations.
Can I make a real career out of TEFL?
Yes! There are many opportunities for long-term or permanent positions, or for advancement to Director of Studies or administrative positions. Other possibilities are teacher training and materials writing. We detail this more on our Careers in English page.
Even if you want to just teach English abroad for a few years as a way to see the world, the training skills you will learn may help you in a future job in a non-teaching position.
How much can I expect to earn teaching English?
Do I need a degree to teach English?
The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no.’
Increasingly countries are requiring English teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree—in any major. This policy to possess a college degree is the first step to work legally through a Work Permit.
But even in countries that have the degree requirement—Thailand is a good example—there are exemptions to the rule. We’ve detailed how you can teach in Siam without a college degree.
But it’s a big world. There are still a number of other countries in Asia, Europe and South America in great need of English teachers that do not require for you to have a degree.
Here are 12 Countries where you can teach English abroad without a bachelor's degree.
Please keep in mind that if you don’t have a degree, being TEFL certified is even more important. It demonstrates that you’ve been trained to teach a language. Not too many schools will hire someone on just a high school qualification.
Your Vantage TEFL Certification will go a long way in demonstrating your worth as teacher if you don’t have a degree.
Why are TEFL courses so expensive?
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 on a good course, you will get 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.
How do I get a job teaching English in Thailand?
You may also find our updated article Five Keys to Finding a Teaching Job in Thailand particularly worth looking at.
What's the best time of the year to apply for a job in Thailand?
While there are optimal times to apply for jobs in some sectors in Thailand, given the high demand for English classes positions for TEFL teachers in Thailand are available throughout the year. Private language schools and institutes will hire year round depending upon individual school demand. Indeed, private centers may experience more demand when regular schools are on break.
Government run schools regularly hire for year long contracts 3 times a year. May/June-September/October and February/March. In addition, many of these year-long government contractual positions can also open again mid-year.
International programs, on the other hand, will follow the western school calendar beginning in August/September for the first semester, January for the second and June/July for the summer programs. In addition, many other countries follow slightly different calendars as well.
Is it better to get my TEFL Certification in my home country or abroad?
Deciding to get your TEFL certification is a big decision that will change the rest of your life in the best way. After receiving your TEFL certificate you will be equipped with the skills to teach others a language, a skill that not many people possess.
While your home country may offer great TEFL certification programs, remember that quality is not a zero-sum game and you can also receive your certification abroad, likely for a fraction of the tuition cost.
Getting your TEFL certification abroad allows you to deepen your cultural experience with the host country while positioning you for success as a TEFL teacher. And you'll already be on the ground and ready to interview after your course.
Many schools aren't interested in hiring or even corresponding with teachers who aren't already living in the country. Teachers plans quickly change. The guy sitting in Canada who shoots off a few speculative emails and accepts a job at a school in February won't necessarily be around for the start of term in May.
Schools have wised up to this so they much prefer local hires. When it comes to finding a teaching job in Thailand, nothing beats actually being here and pounding the pavements, arranging interviews and knocking on a few doors. Her
I’m an English native speaker. Do I need TEFL training?
You may think that your status as a native English speaker precludes you from needing a TEFL certificate, which proves you can teach others how to read, write, and speak the English language. After all, you use English every day and, if you say so yourself, you use it pretty darn well.
Unfortunately, having the gift of gab or the ability to write well does not make you a skilled instructor capable of imparting those capabilities upon others. Teaching any subject requires a special skill set; teaching English to non-native speakers will require an even more specific skill set (and a lot more patience).
You may be anxious to get this next chapter of your life moving and to get started teaching English in Thailand without wasting time on a TEFL certification.
Think again. TEFL will give the foundational skill set to confidently deliver a successful English lesson to your students. 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 finally let’s not forget the very pragmatic reason in that the best jobs go to the best qualified. A native speaker may get hired without a TEFL, but those jobs are more at the margins. You may not be treated all that well and a discouraged you may leave the profession after a short spell.
Wherever the winds carry you, you’ll find your TEFL training will equip you with the professional skills you’ll need to not just succeed as a teacher, but to thrive!
How to make a good teacher?
What matters most in schools is teachers. Fortunately, teaching can be taught.
The premise that teaching ability is something you either have or don’t is mistaken.according to a recent article in The Economist. The magazine elaborated: "They become better teachers in their first few years as they get to grips with real pupils in real classrooms, but after that improvements tail off. This is largely because schools neglect their most important pupils: teachers themselves."
Good teachers set clear goals, enforce high standards of behavior and manage their lesson time wisely. They use tried and tested
instructional techniques to ensure that all the brains are working all of the time, for example, asking questions in the classroom with “cold calling” rather than relying on the same eager pupils to put up their hands.
With teaching as with other complex skills, the route to mastery is not abstruse theory but intense, guided practice grounded in subject matter knowledge and pedagogical methods. Trainees, The Economist concluded, "should spend more time in the classroom."
The best Instructors hone their craft through observation and coaching. They accept critical feedback and learn how to make great lesson plans from their more experienced peers and trainers.
That's why the "practicum' is so essential in a TEFL course. the initial practice you get in your observed classroom session is essential to developing the foundational skill set you'll need to be effective in the classroom.
The full article from The Economist can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
Where can I stay in Bangkok during the course?
Bangkok welcomes more visitors than any other city on planet earth. Today it's full of rooms of all classes and that includes lots of economical and reasonably nice rooms available all over the city.
But places to stay in Bangkok go well beyond just hotels and guest houses.
There is also apartments and/or condos - typically one room flats. For these units, the low end would be approximately THB 4,000 (US$ 115) per month with some very nice one bedroom studios in the THB 6,500 (US$185) to THB 12,000 (US$ (US$350) range.
These studio units can be well designed and most apartments have websites with photos of the room types and common facilities. Most air condition accommodation includes fridge and free Wifi...often with a flat-screen cable TV.
There are some great places within walking distance of Vantage. Please visit our Bangkok Accommodations page to learn more.
Your Essential Road Map to a Successful Teaching Career
Want to learn more about the English as a Second Language (ESL) industry?
As more specifics about Thailand in particular.
Our free Teaching English in Thailand is the definitive TEFL guide. And it’s a free eBook. Just click the image to download.
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