Have you ever thought about teaching English abroad, but found they use top-secret codes like TEFL, TESL, and TESOL? Lucky for you, you don’t have to join the CIA to crack these codes. We’ve got you covered. TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TESL is Teaching English as a Second Language and TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. While these three acronyms are used interchangeably in informal settings, in reality, they are quite different.

Taking TEFL classes gives you the skills you need to teach English to those living in countries where English is not the native language. TESL classes, on the other hand, help you learn how to teach English to immigrants who are living in an English-speaking country. TESOL classes give you basic skills for teaching English to both immigrants and non-native English speakers abroad. Bottom line, TEFL certification is more commonly recognized over TESL or TESOL certification.

You can TESOL in your very own country, either at a primary or secondary school or college or at a language school. Or you can teach non-native speakers English abroad in fascinating countries like China. English teachers can be native or non‐native English speakers; however, in China, most schools prefer you are a native English speaker.

Why should you get certified?

To be a recognized TEFL teacher, you’ll need a TEFL certificate.  With a certificate, your base teaching salary tends to be higher than if you don’t have this certificate. More importantly, certification is now one of the requirements for obtaining a work visa in China.

What does certification require?

TEFL classes are usually given online and last on average about 4 weeks or 120 hours. During this time period, you’ll learn everything from teaching basics to tips on how foreign learners best learn English. If you think you can’t teach English because you don’t have a bachelor’s in Education, guess what? You can still teach abroad! Certification is a great next step for anyone thinking about teaching abroad and gives you the confidence you need to be a great teacher.

How to get certified?

Many online sites and schools offer certification and it’s easy to take the course. You simply find a respected course provider, pay their fee, sign up online, and start your classes. If you’re not sure which TEFL course provider to choose, ask which course your school recognizes. If you don’t have a school picked out, feel free to ask us here at Top Notch ESL which courses our teachers prefer to take.

Some schools may not really care where you got certified, but it’s better not to risk it. Unless you’re a professional teacher with loads of teaching experience or studied Education in college, we recommend that you get TEFL certified before coming to teach in China.

For those who want to teach younger students, there are TEFL courses specifically for teaching young students. However, a well-known TEFL certificate for teaching adults is better than having a TEFL for Young Learners from an unknown company or course. CELTA has a Young Learner Extension that can be taken as part of their TEFL requirements.