What is TEFL Certification?
In order to understand what TEFL certification is about, let’s look at some background information and the current context of language learning and language teaching.
How to get tefl certification?
TEFL qualifications can be bought or earned. The TEFL industry is changing: the way you become certified therefore matters more and more. TEFL certificates are available from a wide range of organisations, some established others new. But don’t just look at how long an institution has been around, look at the quality of the course. This is what you should be looking at, not the price or just the reviews you will find online. Liaise with the company that you are hoping to train with before committing to a course or teaching programme.
If you compare a tefl course to a postgraduate university course or a job, look for the same pointers:
- You need a vetting process. If you do not go through any interviews, the course you are applying for is not qualitative.
- You need CPD, continuous professional development, not just theory.
- You need an exam or some monitoring process.
- You need lots of support: materials (media, books, hand-out), an online course (as a supplement, as it is modern) and in person (mentoring and direction).
Also, learning on the job is key. As teaching is not like university. It isn’t an isolated subject that you can cram for. It is about relating to people and relating your subject knowledge to learners, understanding their perspective and always looking out for ways to help them improve. So getting your subject knowledge across to your learners, pacing the course content and finding a balance between appraisal and error correction are key elements you can only learn in practice.
You need to put things into perspective as the industry has changed and is still changing. Indeed 10 years ago, you could be a native person travelling the world and looking to teach English as a summer job or as a break in your career. Being native was sufficient to teach English as a Foreign Language. You could also pay 1000 or 2000 pounds for a TEFL Certification and with hardly any teaching experience you could be paid to teach.
Things are now very different. Nowadays, more and more people are looking to teach and more and more people are travelling. More and more people have a university degree and work experience. You are also competing with international, bilingual or multilingual people. The way people learn a foreign language is also changing. People really need to speak English. Before, some people used to attend language schools as a hobby. Now learners of English want to succeed. If you look at another factor, EFL exams are also changing. The band scales and the formats of many internationally recognised EFL exams have been amended to meet the demands of this ever-changing landscape.
So what are the criteria I should be looking for when choosing a certification course? What is the best tefl certification to become employable?
So to answer the question on certification: we have to be looking at the number of hours of teaching before anything. If you only get half a dozen hours of teaching experience, you are not an experienced teacher. You have to look for a teaching programme that throws you in the deep end, with support – some support. So that leads to the second criteria you should be seeking: support. A programme which offers support isn’t just some observed classes and some feedback on your teaching. It is a programme that encourages reflection and provides you with all the supporting materials and lesson plans. If you are an inexperienced teacher, creating your own lesson plans is impossible. What are the reasons for this?
You can’t relate to the learners (their expectations, their common mistakes, What they have learned so far, What they need to relearn, What exam they could potentially be preparing for, etc.) as you haven’t experienced the interaction in the classroom. You are overthinking certain aspects and lacking knowledge in others.
Supposedly you won’t be prepared to relate to the materials (What is the CEFR? What is a constructive mistake for an advanced learner? How do I use certain teaching materials with a basic user of English? How do I explain a grammar point without lecturing my student? How do I find a balance between following my lesson plan and adapting it to the needs and mistakes of my student – those that come up in context? etc.)
Without any prior TEFL experience, you are also very likely to be worried about classroom management (How do I give every student the opportunity to speak? How much time should I give the slower or faster learners? etc.).
So when choosing a programme, do not just look at tefl certification cost!
What should such a course of study prepare you for? What is tefl certification?
Despite online learning being sometimes very convenient for learners, due to the multifaceted smartphone applications, enabling students to practise on their journey to work or when they have some free time at home. It is much easier to find ten minutes spare time every day to learn in this manner than to find several weeks in your life to dedicate to a full-time training course. Doing a part-time course therefore seems like an ideal format, combining further professional development whilst still receiving some income. However this also has its shortcomings. When you are training to become a language teacher, you are a learner yourself. Not being 100% concentrated on the task at hand means that you might not make the most of the course. Your ability to learn can indeed be compromised. Motivation to learn helps the learning process but having a teacher led class means being exposed to more stimulus, more Q&As, more interaction, making the subject more relatable and relevant.
Due to modern-day technological advances, online-based learning is increasing in popularity however I am not fully convinced that this is the best way to learn a subject. I think the lack of ability to efficiently teach certain skills is why I would always choose teacher-based classes rather than online-learning. A combination of the two would probably be the ideal scenario, having classes every day but using online-based programmes the other days to keep your brain active with regards to the subject and lingo.
Whilst training to become a TEFLer, as a neophyte what you really need is exposure to natives, something which does not occur when doing an online course. The best thing about this for students is that they are able to ask questions which you cannot ask to a computer-based programme. This means that any doubts can be easily resolved, especially regarding speaking. From my experience, a lot of students have a sound understanding of the grammar from the activities they have done online or in school however they find speaking in English very difficult, especially regarding pronunciation. The ability to teach speaking well is something that a computer cannot do like human being because they cannot correct pronunciation to the same standard as a native.
One of the biggest challenges I encountered early on was explaining the difference between two words in English, where in Spanish there is only one. An example of this are the verbs ‘to make’ and ‘to do’, which have just one Spanish equivalent: ‘hacer’. Explaining the difference is complex, time consuming, and in my experience requires several lessons on the subject, revisiting the topic regularly as the students’ level improves. A similar challenge appears when attempting to explain the difference between ‘to’ and ‘for’, which in Spanish have just one equivalent: ‘para’. When asked this question by an A1-A2 student I could not answer her straight away because as a native speaker it is something I have never questioned. I did some research and formulated a list of rules and situations as to when to use each, and I explained these to the student using examples, and exercises. She went away and the following week I asked her how she was getting on with it. She said she had been practicing with exercises on the Internet and she now understands the difference a lot better.
This is just a small selection of some of the challenges I have come across while teaching in Spain. Alongside these, there are many pronunciation errors that are common to Spanish speakers, differences with prepositions, not to mention the endless difficulties with phrasal verbs. On first impression these challenges may make teaching in Spain seem difficult, however with experience they can be overcome, thus making the job all the more satisfying. Furthermore, once teaching strategies to overcome these problems have been developed, this experience, combined with a sufficient understanding of Spanish, could be transferred to teaching in other Spanish speaking countries, in South America for example, or even Portuguese speaking countries, as the challenges are similar.
Taking into account a variety of ways of learning and teaching: something you will learn in high quality tefl certification programs.
When following a teaching preparation course, the variety of ways of learning and teaching is also something you can benefit from. Observing your peers, being observed, by very experienced and less experienced teachers will give you the multifariousness you won’t get with a simple online course or an exclusively teacher-lead programme.
“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere” (Chinese proverb)
When we speak about teaching languages in general, according to some experts, languages cannot be taught, they can only be learned. Having someone – may it be a tutor, a mentor, a teacher, a friend – or having something to aid with and guide through the process is of a great benefit. I would like to compare teaching languages with sailing: on certain occasions, the sea is calm, smooth and when it changes, we still should be able to sail through the high and low sea. It is a never ending challenge and we should make the most of it at all times.
There are different types of learners: EFL students learn in a variety of ways. There’s no proof that matching the teaching style to a learner’s style will maximise the whole experience and speed up the learning process, although, in my opinion, it is worth a try, we should be confident enough to dare to explore the most effective way of teaching and inspiring students.
Teachers should have excellent communication and organisational skills, a good sense of humour, a flexibility and willingness to adapt, a natural flair for encouraging students to achieve their full potential. Teachers should be committed to the learning and development of pupils. We learn from each other through effective communication to maintain our understanding, skills and expertise, whilst also working collaboratively to develop new ideas.
When we create a stimulating and positive environment, when we inspire trust and confidence in our students, we also establish a high expectation of them .
There are different styles of learning, some students are the visual, the auditory or the kinaesthetic type or just simply prefer to read and write essays or diaries. The most important thing is that everyone should find topics they are interested in as well as finding the motivation and time, preferably every day, to practice.
Learning English should be fun, entertaining and engaging. There are countless resources accessible online, in the form of blogs, videos, films, games, documentaries, multiple choices and quizzes, scripts or prepared questions, articles, vocabulary building exercises and grammar, ebooks, comprehensive e-learning courses and platforms, countless video clips, they can listen to the music, radio stations, read the lyrics, some poems, going to the library to read English books, magazines, newspapers, going to the cinema or watching films and DVDs at home. Travelling, going out, working and socialising in a more international environment is a great way of learning and practicing languages.
We are absolutely surrounded by the English language so we should let our guard down and fall in love with it, let’s start exploring and enjoying it!
And finally, is certification sufficient to be fully employable?
With this article we hope to have answered your question – what is tefl certification? We are a very different franchise to other TEFL course providers. Unlike other brands or providers, our packages cover extensive hours of teaching whilst presenting our course takers with theory organically and in a drip-fed fashion. Therefore if you wish to work certain accredited schools in the UK, they will prefer their own certificate – as it belongs to the same business. But that is only true in some schools in the UK and a handful of others outside the UK. However on an international level, please note that in most TEFL Job Listings, you will find 3 main requirements: a Bachelor’s Degree, several months of Teaching Experience and a TEFL Certificate. With our programme we provide you with 2 of those 3 key requirements.