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Teaching English as a Foreign Language

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TEFL or Teaching English as a foreign language refers to teaching English to students for whom it is not their mother tongue (see English language learning and teaching, which explains the distinctions between different kinds of teaching of English to non-native speakers). TEFL can take place in English-speaking regions, for example in language schools or summer camps or before the start of a university degree, but usually occurs in the student's own country. There, TEFL can be either within the state school system, or private, either in an after-hours language school or with a one-on-one tutor. The teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English.

For a wider view, relating to both EFL and ESL contexts, and a full explanation of abbreviations (e.g. the difference between ESL and EFL, or TESOL as a subject and an organisation), see English language learning and teaching. For information about foreign language teaching in general, see language education.

Qualifications for TEFL teachers

The basic qualification for teaching English is an undergraduate degree in any subject, plus a TESL or TEFL certificate. There are numerous organisations that issue certificates which vary widely in acceptance. There is no international independent accrediting organisation overseeing the issuing of qualifications in general, although there are national ones, e.g. in Britain, which carry weight in many countries.

In general, language academies (employers) around the world will typically require a 4 week, 120+ hour TEFL/TESOL certificate of some kind. To the employer, this means that the teacher candidate has had teaching practice, completed the various projects and assignments and is willing to adapt to a foreign culture or environment, as most courses are abroad. There are also shorter weekend courses, online courses and quick training solutions, although these may not offer the number of teaching practice and lesson planning hours preferred by employers. In most large international cities, you'll find a number of 4 week intensive training course providers. For someone interested in a course, think about the location, time of year, cost and try to get in touch with previous graduates to hear more about their course. This is more than just sitting in a classroom, it's an experience. Meeting other people, networking, pushing yourself into new comfort zones, adapting and helping others are all a part of teaching abroad.

In the parts of the world influenced by Britain (the Commonwealth and the European Union), the three most commonly recognized certificates are the UCLES CELTA, the Trinity College, London CertTESOL and the School for International Training's TESOL Certificate. Some universities issue TEFL certificates as part of their undergraduate programmes.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The typical United States qualification is a pre-service MA TESOL, although many shorter certificates exist. In some countries it is possible to obtain work with much less than this. Schools willing to take untrained staff typically run short courses and may provide their own training. Chains such as Berlitz do not accept the CELTA and require all their teachers be trained in their particular methods. Additionally, many private unaccredited schools offer courses of varying quality which lead to their own certificates.


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