TEFL Certificate Program Overview

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TEFL Certification Programs: A Beginner's Overview to ESL Certification

Newbie definitions:
ESL - English as a Second Language
EFL - English as a Foreign Language
TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Whether you're just starting out as an ESL/EFL teacher, or whether you've been teaching English for a while, you may find that obtaining a TEFL certificate is either required in order to get a job (as it is in some cases), or it's simply a good way to improve your teaching skills, thereby making your life easier. The following is a quick overview of what's involved in a TEFL certificate program.

1. TEFL Certificate Reputations

If you are hoping to get a job in the more prestigious language schools and universities, then where you do your certificate may make a difference. Be they good or bad, different programs have their reputations. Potential employers may be aware of these reputations. That said, potential employers are also aware that many more TEFL certificate programs are popping up everyday. It's impossible to keep abreast of all of them. Just because a program is new doesn't mean it's a fly-by-night, easy-money-making scheme. However, there are plenty of fly-by-night, easy-money-making TEFL certificate programs out there these days.

As with any business, you won't stay in business very long if you don't offer something of value and take your customers seriously. You may be able to get a sense of how serious a program is by talking to them and doing a little bit of research. Check out their websites and send them an email. Of course talking to past attendees is a good idea too. But keep in mind that you would need to talk to a fair amount of past attendees to get an accurate picture of the course. Especially out on the internet, where anonymity breeds bravado, many people are grinding axes for reasons that have little or nothing to do with what they say they're grinding their axes about.

There are many quality certificate programs out there, some with very good reputations. A certificate from one of these programs would likely impress any potential employer. But if variables such as convenience, cost, and length of the program come into play and you simply can't make it to one of these well-known programs, that's no reason to give up the idea of taking a course. More than likely there is one nearby, wherever you are, and of course there are also programs online.

As with all educational institutions, much depends on the teacher(s). Programs with good reputations can have the occasional bad teacher, and programs with shaky or non-existent reputations can have excellent teachers. Your fellow course students will also play into making the program a successful one or not. Simply being with other teachers, discussing methods and practices in depth can be reason enough to attend a course. When taking a course in a non-English speaking country, you may also find local teachers as your classmates. These teachers can add valuable insight into the habits and mentality of the local language learners. These types of insights are more apt to come out in a TEFL course than they would in more casual, everyday interaction you might already experience with local teachers.

2. Program Length

There is a wide variety of TEFL certificates programs open for business all around the world. Some courses are intense and require a lot of time and energy. Other courses are less intense, but can still provide you with useful skills and knowledge.

Most TEFL courses run anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. There are also some one or two day seminars that, while not outright TEFL courses in the traditional sense, may be helpful nonetheless. From the more established and respected programs, you can expect at least a hundred hours of class time as well as some practice teaching.

3. Certification Programs Content

TEFL certificate courses generally focus on practical teaching skills and many will include practice teaching as part of the course. Although there may be some general linguistic theory included, the focus of a TEFL certificate course is to give you practical knowledge. Any theory provided is there to provide a backdrop for the practical skills being learned.

In a typical TEFL course, you will get strategies and guiding principles. A teacher-trainer might model an activity with the TEFL certificate class, then the activity will be explained and discussed, bringing forth the theory behind it and possibly even stimulating the trainer or others to additional insight. Many courses will allow for peer teaching sessions in order to practice and refine the newly learned material.

The typical TEFL certificate program will focus on a variety of aspects of language teaching from very practical skills such as learning how to teach vocabulary and using games effectively, to somewhat more abstract but no less important aspects such as understanding the teacher's role in the classroom and assessment of students' skills and progress.

4. TEFL Certificate Specialization

Along with the increase in the number of certificate programs, there has been an increase in the number of specialized courses available. Teaching young learners, teaching business professionals, teaching online. The list seems to grow everyday. Although some general TEFL certificate courses may give you a brief introduction to such areas, the specialized courses will examine the areas more deeply. Whatever your specialization, there's probably a course out there for you. While this may seem to multiply the number of certificates you might need, specialized courses do provide useful, practical knowledge that will make your life as a teacher easier. “But do I really need a specialized course?” you might ask. To that the question to ask would be: "Is teaching a 45-year-old department manager and father of three really the same as teaching a 10-year-old girl?" And there you find your answer.

5. The Cost of a TEFL Certificate Program

With the wide variety of TEFL certificate courses available in a wide variety of locations throughout the world, it's impossible to give an accurate answer to the question, "How much does it cost?" The answer would be anywhere from a few hundred dollars (US) to a few thousand. The smart approach would be to determine first what type of course you need, and then begin comparing costs of programs that can compete on those grounds. One thing to keep in mind is that even spending a few thousand dollars on a course will likely come back to you relatively quickly with the extra money you will be able to earn. A job that gets you $200 a month more is going to pay for that $2,000 TEFL certificate course in the first year alone. After that, as they say, it's all gravy.


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