TESOL or TEFL: What’s the difference?

So, you’ve decided you want to teach English abroad – amazing choice! If you’ve only just started your research into teaching English abroad, you might have found yourself a little bit confused. With so many different acronyms out there (TEFL, TESOL, ESL – the list is endless!), it can seem a bit overwhelming. Don’t worry, everyone feels the same and we’re here to help! TEFL and TESOL are two acronyms you’ll have come across a lot. But what do they mean? And more importantly, what’s the different between them? Carry on reading to find out…

What is TEFL?

TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language. It’s really as simple as that. TEFL is for anyone who wants to go abroad to teach English to students in a country where the main language isn’t English. When students study English as a foreign language, they’re studying it as an academic subject, the same way you might study Spanish or German in your home country. This means you’re responsible for not only teaching your students how to speak English but also how to understand grammar, vocabulary, reading and speaking for academic purposes. You’ll be teaching them all the ins and outs of this wonderful language.

What is TESOL?

TESOL stands for teaching English to speakers of other languages. TESOL is generally aimed at people who want to work with learners who are non-native English speakers but live in an English-speaking country. A TESOL course will teach you how to help students use English to communicate in their daily life in an English-speaking country. This will include things like going shopping, ordering food at a restaurant, interviewing for a job and how to make small talk with co-workers. But both TEFL and TESOL can be used interchangeably – confusing, huh?!

Which course is better?

Students raising hand in class

Well, there isn’t necessarily a better course. Choosing between TEFL and TESOL depends on your budget, how much time you have available, and where you want to teach English. Both TEFL and TESOL certificates will open up teaching job opportunities but it’s best to research the specific visa requirements for English teaching in the country you want to teach in to know which course will suit you best. Every country has its own unique policies for work visas, so before you invest the money, make sure you’re doing the following:

  • Decide exactly where you want to teach. If you want to teach in a country where English is not the main language, a TEFL certificate will probably be better than a TESOL certificate.
  • Research the qualifications and visa requirements for teachers. It’s a great idea to look at the embassy’s website and see at what they say about working visas, especially any information they have about foreign teachers.
  • Look at job ads posted by employers to see what skills and requirements they have for English teachers.

In short, a TEFL course will suit you best if you want to teach English abroad in a country where the main language isn’t English. A TESOL course will be better if you want to teach English in an English-speaking country.

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