How is TEFL Certification Different Than TESL and TESOL?

What's the Difference Between ESL Programs and Certificates?

tefl tesol tesl certification
What are the differences between TEFL, TESOL and TESL certification?

Last Updated: Jul 5, 2017

TEFL Certification vs TESOL/TESL Certification

In the world of teaching English abroad, two ESL certification types are often mistaken as the same one. These are TEFL certification and TESL certification.

TEFL and TESL share a lot of resemblances. But they’re different.

What does TESL stand for?

What is TEFL certification good for?

Let’s decipher the differences between TESL and TEFL…

TEFL Certification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

tesl tefl certification study

The best way to describe TEFL is that it’s universal. TEFL courses around the world have the same outcome in mind: increase fluency in English. You can take a TEFL course and you’re able to teach around the world.

TEFL is really just about proving you are able to give adults the information they need to learn a language. You are their learning guide.

But more specifically, if you want to teach abroad in a country where English isn’t a first language, than they will learn English as a foreign language. For example, if you want to teach English in Japan, then English is a foreign language in that particular country.

It’s a small, subtle difference in the name. But what’s important to know is that TEFL isn’t a single school, it’s more of an entire industry. Because TEFL certification isn’t regulated by a governing body, they come in all shapes and sizes.

For example, you can take TEFL online where you learn teaching theories and you have to submit assignments. Alternatively, you can take a TEFL certificate in classes from an accredited school, where you gain real teaching experience.

ESL Certificate Required Preferred

Either way, you’ll be certified and this boosts your credibility to get a job. For example, if you want to teach English in China, 64% of ESL employers state they prefer or require ESL certification. On the other hand, only 17% of ESL schools prefer or require ESL certification if you want to teach English in Korea.

Instead of a full-fledged program like CELTA certification, TEFL certification doesn’t invest you too​ much into the teaching profession. And this may be best suited for some. With this said, in most cases in Asia, all TESL, TESOL, CELTA and TEFL certificates are openly accepted.

ESL Certification Type

TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language

Opposed to TEFL certification, TESOL stands for Teaching English as a Second or Other Language. And TESL stands for just Teaching English as a Second Language. These acronyms are more common in Canada, United States and Australia. It’s rarely used in the United Kingdom.

But how is this any different from TEFL certification?

tefl certification study

If you plan on teaching in your home country, you’re teaching in an environment where English is already spoken. This means that immigrants who learn English, it will be their second or other language. This is how the acronym TESOL differs from TEFL.

As a result, TESL or TESOL could be more advantageous if you want to teach ESL in your home country. This is because this type of training prepares you as both a foreign language teacher and as a second language teacher. And all ESL certification types only enhance your job opportunities and salary.

Similar to TEFL, TESOL is not regulated by an overarching committee. You’ll often do a full course load with a bit of teaching practice, which may not be the case with TEFL. As a result, TESOL certification often costs more than TEFL. But it can really be a mixed bag depending on where you decide to get certified.

ESL Certification TEFL CELTA TESL Cost

The Last Word

Overall, in the eyes of many schools abroad, TESL and TEFL are treated equally. You’ll often see in ESL job advertisements that they are both included.

While TESOL and CELTA is often a better option for teachers who want to get some experience, TEFL is more for the casual teacher. All types of certification should prepare you with ESL activities so you can generate ESL lesson plans with ease.

Because of this difference, TESOL costs a bit more but also prepares you a bit more for the job.

What do you think of the TEFL or TESOL certification programs? Let me know with a comment below.

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