TEFL Acronyms Explained

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Research into teaching English as a job brings up an amazing array of confusing acronyms.  In this article, we have tried to demystify all these acronyms for you so it's far less baffling.

General Acronyms Let’s start generally with what the discipline is called. You’ll see it called ELT, ESL, TESOL and TEFL, depending on where you look. These four may have different words, but they are exactly the same thing. ELT – English Language Teaching ESL – English as a Second Language TEFL – Teaching English as a foreign language TESOL – Teaching English to speakers of other languages Basically, all the above mean that you teach English to students who have a different first language. It doesn’t matter whether these students are in an English speaking country, in their home country or somewhere else, it’s the same thing. You help students to improve their ability to communicate in and understand English.

What makes this all more confusing, is that the teacher training course providers use the same acronyms for their courses. In fact, TESOL is used for courses and as the name of one of the professional bodies. Generally, it’s just a generic term to mean teaching English.

ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages This one is a bit different. It’s usually used to talk about language provision to people learning English because they have to live and work in English speaking countries. These classes usually focus on practical aspects of life such as applying for jobs, dealing with the bank, understanding payslips and working with your child’s school.

Acronyms for Courses If you want to be an English teacher, it’s a very good idea to get yourself some training. There are many different qualifications out there to choose from, with a multitude of acronyms. This is where it gets really confusing.

CELTA – Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults This is a specific brand of course operating under Cambridge University, similar to a TESOL. This course is usually taught full-time over 4 weeks or part-time over 6 months. It’s run by Cambridge University, which also run many of the international English language exams for students and who have a huge English language teaching publishing arm. You don’t need any experience to do it and it includes both taught input and practical classroom experience with real students.

TESOL – Teaching English to speakers of other languages (as above!) The only real CELTA equivalent is the Trinity TESOL certificate, run by Trinity College, London. Again, you don’t need any experience to do this, and it includes taught input and practical classroom experience. You can do this course all over the world as well, although it is less widespread than the CELTA. The CELTA and the Trinity are accepted worldwide and by the big English language teaching companies such as the British Council and International House. However, a lot of other companies also use the name TESOL to describe their certificate. This name alone does not guarantee quality or acceptability. If you are looking at a non-Trinity TESOL, you need to check out the course and the organisation carefully. Find out who accredits the course and if it is a genuine accreditation organisation. Check out if your teaching practice is with real students or teaching your classmates.  Google it and see if any reviews or positive and negative stories come up from past teachers.

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign language (as above) TEFL is also a term used by many companies to describe their certificates.

CELTYL – Cambridge English Language Teaching to Young Learners This is an extension course to the CELTA course, specialising in teaching children. I’m not sure that your initial teaching qualification needs to be an actual CELTA to take it, but you do need some kind of teacher training qualification. This course seems to have stopped now.

TYLEC – Trinity Young Learners Extension Certificate This is the Trinity version of the course above, again an extension of an initial teacher training course specialising in teaching children.

Delta  – This used to stand for Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults, but they have dropped the capital letters to make it just a name. This is because you can now do a Delta if you teach children. DipTESOL – Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language These are Diploma level qualifications, designed for experienced teachers of English who want to develop their knowledge and skills. The Delta is run by Cambridge University, and the DipTESOL by Trinity College, London. These are longer courses – about three months if you do it intensively or up to three years if you do it while working. You need a minimum of two years experience to take one, and it’s recommended that you have more.

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