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How is TEFL Certification Different From TESL and TESOL?



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

  • TEFL Certification: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESOL Certification: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • TESL Certification: Teaching English as a Second Language

TEFL, TESOL, and TESL share a lot of resemblances. But they have slight differences. Let’s explore what the differences are.

TEFL Certification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

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 students the information they need to learn a language. You are their learning guide.

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But more specifically, if you want to teach abroad in a country where English isn’t the first language, then 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. The best way to describe TEFL is that it’s universal. Because TEFL certification isn’t regulated by a governing body, they come in all shapes and sizes.

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TESOL vs TESL Certification

Opposite 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, the United States, and Australia. It’s rarely used in the United Kingdom.

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

As a result, TESL or TESOL certification 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 a second language teacher. And all ESL certification types only enhance your job opportunities and salary.

CELTA is the most rigorous certification

Instead of a full-fledged program like CELTA certification, TEFL certification doesn’t invest 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.

Although you can take CELTA certification in different countries around the globe, you are ultimately assessed by the world-renowned Cambridge University.

Based on CELTA graduates’ feedback, many have found tremendous value in it for pursuing a teaching career. When you get certified with CELTA, you invest in yourself as a certified teacher. You earn a gold mine of practical resources and teaching experience for your class.

Overall, CELTA certification gives you that competitive edge putting you ahead of other applicants. And if you have a strong desire to teach as your career in the future, then without a doubt CELTA is an optimal choice for you.

There is no overarching committee

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. For example, ITTT certification allows you to choose a TEFL or TESOL certification.

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The Last Word

Overall, in the eyes of many schools abroad, TESL and TEFL are treated equally. There is absolutely no reason to get both and just either a TESOL or TEFL certificate will suffice.

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While TESOL and CELTA is an often better option for teachers who want to get some experience, TEFL programs like the International TEFL Academy is more for casual teachers.

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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