What is TEFL again?
Teaching the English language is categorised by who you teach and where it is that you teach. TEFL for instance stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. English is considered a foreign language in countries where it is not usually spoken, so TEFL is the teaching of English to people who have another language as their first and who do not use English in their wider community.
You would be considered a TEFL teacher if you were teaching English in, for example, countries such as China, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Oman, Laos, Jordan or Vietnam as well as many others, countries in which English is not commonly used. This also means that you will be living in countries where English is not commonly used and this is an exciting and slightly terrifying prospect.
What are some of the benefits of teaching abroad?
Living in a country other than the one in which you were born or grew up in will provide you with a distinctly unique opportunity to learn deeply about another culture, it will also allow you to further understand your own because of the contrasts you will observe. It will teach you a lot about yourself as well as you navigate life in a new place and have to communicate with people with whom you may not share a language.
Some TEFL teachers teach abroad to gain teaching experience, some for life experience, some do it for the ability to travel further afield during their time off, some to learn a new language and some to save money. Whatever your motivation is when you begin to teach abroad researching specific countries before you leave will help you set realistic expectations, not everywhere is as interconnected as Europe and not everywhere is as flush as the United Arab Emirates. If you can match the place where you will teach with your personal motivations for teaching you will be in a better position to soak up all that your host country has to offer.
OK, so what does it mean to be TEFL certified?
TEFL certification is a qualification often required by English teachers who are looking to teach abroad. A TEFL certification provides evidence to schools and other educational institutions of training in the specific domain of teaching English to English language learners.
The training you will receive will educate you on what to teach, going through such aspects of language as grammar and phonetics (sounds of the language) as well as how to teach, so aspects of teaching such as classroom management and lesson planning.
A good course should also give you an opportunity to put into practice what you have learned and provide a space for you to have a go at planning and teaching a lesson whilst guiding and critically appraising your practice so that you will know what you did well and how you can improve.
What to look for in a TEFL certification?
There are many institutions offering TEFL certification so how to differentiate them? Look for a course which is officially recognised by the UK and the US governments’ regulating and awarding bodies. In the UK this would be a qualification regulated by Ofqual, the UK government’s Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, and recognised by Qualifi, the UK government’s awarding organisation. In the US you can look for a course recognised by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) as it is one of the United States Department of Education’s approved accrediting agencies.
These organisations guarantee that the qualifications you receive are of an internationally recognisable standard and that the curriculum you have been taught is approved and quality assured.
This translates into a course that
- has been designed and developed by subject matter experts
- is informed by the latest research in the field
- is taught by qualified instructors
- is delivered by teachers who competently and effectively teach and assess the learning outcomes of the course
- is moderated by external entities ensuring the continuity of quality
Is an accredited course all I need?
A TEFL qualification which is accredited and moderated by the organisations mentioned above will be recognised world-wide and will be what foreign embassies and employers abroad look for in your qualification. In addition to being accredited, courses are typically viewed by the hours of study they take to complete, with 120+ hours usually being that which is sought after. Employers also look for courses which provide a practical component so that they can be assured that the teacher they are hiring has had some instruction and practice in actually leading a class.
In addition to a thorough preparation course a good sense of humour, an ability to, as they say, roll with the punches, and the ability and creativity to explain idioms like ‘roll with the punches’ will also be required. Teaching abroad will be an experience like no other and being flexible, adaptable and willing to try new things will help you to thrive in your new environment.
A TEFL certification will assure employers that you have received an acceptable amount of professional level training and is your first step toward living abroad, working as an English language teacher. The rest, as they say, is up to you.