Student Advice

What is TEFL?

Ben Maples  · Jan 29th 2024  · 8 min

More and more people are looking into the possibilities of TEFL, with figures rising every single year, but what is TEFL?


TEFL is something many students look to as an additional qualification, but there are a few moving parts to get your head around. Here, we’ll break down exactly what TEFL is, how TEFL works and what it involves for you as a student.

We will also look at whether you should consider TEFL either before, during or after university as well as how to book a TEFL course online.

TEFL Cambridge

What is a TEFL certification?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and is an internationally recognised qualification. A TEFL course is a qualification for all those who wish to teach English as a foreign language abroad. The TEFL works in much the same as the Certificate of Higher Education or a Diploma of Higher Education in that the qualification you receive will be applicable anywhere in the world.

The TEFL can be an excellent pathway to a future career. The course allows you to qualify for more varied teaching roles both at home and abroad, gain the skills to facilitate working abroad and increase your chances of earning a higher salary at different schools or universities around the world. If you have a TEFL certification then you stand a really good chance of having your pick of the litter for jobs when it comes to applying!

What is a TEFL course?

A TEFL course can be studied both online and in person. While you can study TEFL courses online, it’s recommended for you to study this in person where possible, since a number of different learning institutions offer this as a viable option for students looking to teach English abroad.

The course will cover a number of different areas of study. Though you’ll most likely already have a basic to masterful grasp of the English language, you’ll need to demonstrate this and even learn how to teach it. Knowing English and teaching English are two very different skills!

Your TEFL course will cover:

  • Building your own learning materials: Whatever materials you are planning on using for students, you will most likely need to find, identify or build them yourself.
  • Identifying and teaching different learning styles: Identify the different learning styles that different students react to and implement them within your own lesson plans.
  • Classroom management: Make sure you are capable of managing your pupils and can deal with inappropriate behaviour from students as well.
  • Lesson plans: You’ll need to be able to deliver lessons that meet your objectives and meets the curriculum given to you.
  • Simplification of English language: You will have to simplify complex English grammar concepts and statements for those learning English.
  • Teaching English language skills: This will require you to teach reading, writing, speaking, pronunciation and listening skills to students.

The TEFL Academy course will teach you what you need to know and will also make sure that you have the correct approach to teaching when in the classroom.

How much is a TEFL course?

The cost of the TEFL UK course will usually cost somewhere between £99 and £419. The cost will depend on the method of your study. You may have a Groupon TEFL deal, but make sure yourTEFL Groupon deal hasn’t run out and that you are still getting the best TEFL courses and TEFL cost.

Those looking to study the TEFL online will have cheaper options than those who study in the classroom or as a combined course. For those who have previously studied the TEFL course, there are specialist courses that are also offered for students. These will allow you to teach Business, English and general subjects to young learners, and these typically cost between £99 and £119.

Is it worth having a TEFL certification?

A TEFL qualification shows that you are qualified to teach English abroad and that you are capable of handling classroom and lesson plans.

Whilst you don’t technically need a TEFL certification to teach English abroad, almost all employers will ask for a qualification of some kind, so having the qualification under your belt is best.

How do I book a TEFL course?

You will need to book your TEFL course online on the TEFL website. This will also allow you to look into the possibility of studying an online TEFL course, as well as be able to look up testimonies from any TEFL graduate if you're not totally convinced. If you want to book any TEFL courses UK or become a TEFL teacher or look up The TEFL Academy reviews, their website will always be the best shout for you.

You have the choice of how you pay for it. You can pay for the whole thing upfront or you can put down a deposit. If you pay a deposit online, you will be required to pay for the whole course in full before you can access any of your online work (just make sure you remember your TEFL login). If you’re studying in the classroom, it will need to be paid in full two weeks before any classroom work begins.

How long does a TEFL course take?

This depends on you and how you work. It is technically possible to complete the course in four weeks or an intensive weekend!

The most common time for a TEFL certification to complete is around six months. This gives you time to not only study the course properly but also to become familiar with teaching techniques, especially if teaching is something new to you.

TEFL jobs London

What is the difference between TEFL, TESL and TESOL?

The best way to differentiate is like this:

  • TEFL Courses: Teaching English in countries where English is not the native language.
  • TESL Courses: Teaching English to speakers of foreign languages in English-speaking countries.
  • TESOL Courses: Teaching English in countries where English is the native language and countries where English is not the native language.

The TESOL courses combine both TEFL and TESL courses together, while they have their own disciplines.

How to get TEFL certification

Your TEFL qualification will be sent out via post. If you live in the UK, it will be sent out by First Class Royal Mail. For those of you studying the TEFL abroad, a scanned copy of the TEFL certificate will be sent to you via email and a hardcopy will be sent out by AirMail.

What techniques can I use when teaching language abroad?

You won’t necessarily be tested on your teaching techniques when taking a TEFL course. You will mainly need to focus on this when you have already become employed, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start planning now, though!

Blended learning

Blended learning lessons are an exceptionally effective way to teach a class. These are classes that combine multimedia elements and are usually delivered through a virtual learning environment (VLE).

This generally allows students to have a bit more variety in their learning. This will keep students interested, teach them how to practically and theoretically apply their knowledge, and might even earn you a cheeky break from all the chaos too!

Communicative language teaching (CLT)

CLT isn’t as popular as it once was, but is still considered an essential teaching element in Europe, Japan and Taiwan. This is a lesson plan that focuses on actual interaction between students and teachers in different languages.

Online communications

Online communicative methods are sometimes confused with blended learning courses. This is where students will have some classes face-to-face with their teachers and others that are done online.

Most online courses are heavily accredited, however. Students will mainly need to use courses such as the British Council or Cambridge ESOL for TEFL courses, although there is no one specific authority.

Do I have to have a TEFL certificate to work abroad?

It’s not a necessity to work abroad without a TEFL certification, but it does help your application process and it very much depends on what it is that you want to do. Some companies, such as i to i TEFL and Premier TEFL exist for this reason too.

For example, you don’t need to have studied any French Studies courses or studied in France to live or work in France or be a native speaker, but it will make your life a hundred times easier. If you wish to teach English as a foreign language, then having a TEFL certification is a necessity.

It is also a great way for you to earn more money, be a more attractive employment prospect for companies, and have a better chance of gaining job experience as a result of having the TEFL.

TEFL jobs Spain

What other qualifications do I need to teach English abroad?

To be honest, you don’t really need anything other than a TEFL/TESOL certificate. Some companies may ask for more, but on the whole, the requirements are fairly basic.

You will mainly need:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Clean criminal record
  • Native or fluent in English
  • TEFL/TESOL certificate
  • Valid passport

The requirements have been known to change in other countries. In the Middle East, for example, there are stricter requirements to become a teacher. In other countries, you don’t even need a TEFL certificate! Make sure you check with where you are applying beforehand and see what their requirements are.

Is CELTA or TEFL better?

CELTA and TEFL are, essentially, two sides of the same coin. CELTA is the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (now known as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). It functions in a similar way to the TEFL, but there are some key differences between the two.

The TEFL is a certification programme that trains English speakers to teach their language to students. It is essentially a teacher training programme. The CELTA, on the other hand, is a programme that is far more intensive and extremely prestigious. The CELTA requires students to complete 120 hours of in-class learning and a minimum of 6 hours of face-to-face student teaching, which the TEFL does not.

The TEFL may also be considered somewhat insufficient compared to the CELTA in certain contexts. For example, students looking to become a translator will likely need to have a CELTA, more than a TEFL. TEFL can also be somewhat restrictive in who you are allowed to teach, as the TEFL usually focuses on teaching those from young ages to 18, whereas the CELTA focuses on this and adult learning too.

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