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Thought Piece

Your Guide to Understanding the Difference Between TESOL & TEFL

By Mikey
Successfully sending volunteers abroad for 10 years

If you’re considering some charity work volunteering that includes teaching English overseas, TEFL and TESOL are just two of the excellent certification routes to ensure you’re qualified to do so. You don’t necessarily have to have certification to teach, it all depends on the programme you are applying for, but they are useful nonetheless.  

Hands up who knows what TESOL and TEFL stand for…

There are a bunch of acronyms flying around that are associated with teaching certification abroad and it can become confusing. Therefore, we’ve taken the time to make sure you understand two of the main ones in more detail. In doing so, we’ll be helping you to determine which is the more relevant choice for your needs.  

Do you know what TESOL is an acronym for?

If you didn’t know, it stands for “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.” Typically, a TESOL certification is for English teachers who are looking to teach basic conversational English to people who are non-English speakers but live in an English-speaking country. 

Do you know what TEFL is an acronym for?

TEFL is short for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language.” A certificate in TEFL is a special kind of teaching documentation that has to be achieved before it is legally acceptable to teach English in many foreign countries where English isn’t the primary language.  

Understanding the differences between TESOL and TEFL

The TESOL certification is often the more suitable route to go down for anyone looking to educate non-English speakers within an English-speaking country. A good example would be if you live in the UK and have plans to teach refugees in your community, the TESOL qualification would be the wiser choice over the TEFL certification.  

On the other hand, TEFL courses allow you to gain certification specifically tailored for anyone aiming to teach English in a foreign country where English is not the native language. As a rule, any teachers who possess a TEFL certificate will be able to cover academic courses that fall in-line with preparing their students for further educational prospects. 

Will you have to renew a TESOL or TEFL certificate?

The simple answer is no. TESOL and TEFL certificates stay with you for life and require no further studying, coursework or practical work. Think of it as a regular education-based accreditation such as a degree; once it’s yours, it’s yours for keeps! 

Are there significant benefits associated with TESOL and TEFL qualifications?

Both TESOL and TEFL qualification opens up the skills required to teach English to anyone who is learning the language. A great deal of the organisations that provide enrollees with certification will offer extra, bespoke assistance to help with job searches/volunteering opportunities.  

TEFL certification organisations are known to be invested in the success of their students and are more than willing to help you find placements to teach English. What’s more, this assistance is regularly provided even after you’ve completed the course and the certification has been awarded to you. 

What is the cost of a TESOL course?

A course certification to apply for TESOL jobs is around £850 for a 4-week course. This will give you a certification that is accredited at Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework. 

Some courses may cost more/less depending on the length, where you enrol, if you complete the course online or in-person, for example.  

What is the cost of a TEFL course?

TEFL certifications also vary in terms of the cost, and again, this depends on your choice of course and who it’s provided by.  

The cheapest online courses (with fewer hours required) - which are often more than adequate for volunteering opportunities – will cost as little as £150 - £200. An onsite university-level TEFL course can see the prices hike to around £650 - £1500. 

In Conclusion, which is better; TESOL or TEFL?

After reading up on both TESOL and TEFL and you’re still pondering which is the route to go down, then we’ve got a little summary you can go by.  

Essentially, if you’re looking to sign up to volunteer abroad or in your own country, the TEFL qualification is better-suited to your needs; this is mainly because it allows you to teach English in countries that don’t use English as its native language. If you’re remaining in the UK/US, for example, TESOL might be the choice for you.  

It’s worth bearing in mind that some international teaching abroad programs might be more than willing to let you sign up for a programme with either certification. 

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