TEFL as the first step for a teaching career

TEFL as the first step for a teaching career

Diary submitted by Lorenzo R. Valencia

What is TEFL certification?
TEFL as the first step for a teaching career

With our world being increasingly moving faster and increasing the web of relations across the globe a good knowledge of a lingua franca has become extremely relevant. And as the number of potential students augments, the demand for qualified teachers follows the same path. It is in this framework that TEFL certifications have gained momentum and popularity.

The acronym TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and the certifications that fall under this category attest the ability acquired by the aspiring teacher. In fact, one thing is to speak English at a native or very fluent level, but being able to teach is a whole other matter. When teaching someone with a different native language, the first issue that teachers face is the linguistic barrier; they not only need to talk to their students, they also need to communicate with them, making sure that they have understood the lesson and are able to apply what they have learnt. In other words, they need to be ready to adapt their teaching style to the need of the students as well as bridging the cultural difference they may come across. This is what a TEFL certificate can provide aspiring teachers with, an insight into the teaching world and a taste of the issues they may encounter, encouraging a positive, proactive and culture-sensitive attitude.

As a matter of fact, especially the internship block of the certificate allows aspiring teachers to familiarise themselves with the main problems that students stumble upon, be it pronunciation, syntactical or grammatical mistakes. On the other hand, it allows to test out different teaching strategies that may prove successful with a certain group age or with people with a similar cultural or linguistic background. Kids tend to have a shorter attention-span than adults, thus some useful games, especially in pairs, may be used to practice the grammar points. For instance, with imperative, a good game may be to tell them to give orders either to the teacher or their fellow students, whom then must obey and swap roles. This, in turn, can test their comprehension of how the imperative is formed and used, revise the use of object pronouns, and encourage them to ask for new verbs they could use. Once learnt, this activity becomes part of the portfolio of the teacher, who then can use it whenever necessary.

However, being awarded a TEFL certificate does not equal to having reached the end of one’s journey, thus qualifying as an experienced teacher; rather as Jenny Johnson (2006) writes on The Guardian, ‘once [one has] passed [his] test (…) [one does] have the necessary foundation on which to build as [one gains] experience through practice.’ As it occurs in every discipline, certifications cannot substitute experience. On the one hand, the TEFL certification attests that a teacher possesses the necessary knowledge and theoretical understanding of how to teach English, be it through grammar classes or exam preparations. On the other hand, experience helps mastering the skills that have been acquired through the TEFL preparation. When one is told of the main issues that she will face when teaching non-English students, she may not fully grasp what these entail. Conversely, when facing them first hand she needs to come up with a solution, which may prove successful or not, thus warranting ways wherein it may be improved for future uses.

To conclude, a TEFL certification provides aspiring EFL teachers with the necessary notions to carry out their job, which can only flourish and be refined through experience. Therefore, these aspects are nothing but two sides of the same coin, since the former lend the theoretical tools and practical activities to make the most of the latter, for both teachers and students.


  • Johnson, Jenny. 2006. «How to choose a Tefl course .» The Guardian, 30 November.
    It can be retrieved at: https://www. theguardian.com/education/2006/nov/30/tefl

TEFL as the first step for a teaching career

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