What is an ESL teaching certificate?

Acronyms associated with English language learners include ESL, EFL and ESOL. They all essentially mean the same thing in that these are learners of English, whose first or native language is not English.

The teaching of these learners produces a new set of acronyms which have ‘Teaching’ at the start. Hence we have TESL, TEFL and TESOL for the teaching acronyms.

Most employers around the world require some form of teaching certification for you to be employed as a teacher. This is true of both government based schools, private language centers and many online teaching companies.

There are three general routes to this type of certification, which are;

  • Onsite courses
  • Online courses
  • Combined courses
  • Onsite courses

These are taken at some location in the world, typically in a country where English is not the native language. They often require an attendance of about 4 weeks and produce a 120-hour certification. One of the major positive points of these courses is the fact that they are often operated in practicing language schools which allows the trainees to get real ‘hands-on’ teaching practice with real ESL learners. One of the drawbacks is that they can be expensive, particularly if the country where the course is located is an expensive place to live.

Online courses

These courses may also produce a 120-hour certificate and have a couple of benefits in that they can be taken from anywhere, including your own home and therefore require no travel. This also means they are generally less expensive as travel and accommodation is not required. The fact that they are taken online means that no teaching practice is typically undertaken and some employers prefer their teachers to have some experience of the classroom.

Combined courses

These courses combine the best elements of both the other types of course, by breaking the theory and practical elements of the course into two. The theory may be done as an online component and the practical teaching practice is done at a physical language center with real ESL students. As the practical component is the only element that requires travel this can be done in ten days to two weeks, rather than the normal four weeks of an onsite course.

Typical certification options

There are a number of certification options and these include the standard 120-hour TESOL course which is the normal entry level qualification required by employers. There are also a number of specialist courses which may be undertaken, typically, Teaching Business English (TBE), Teaching of Young Learners (TEYL) and Teaching English Online (TEO).

120-hour course: Completed as an onsite, online or combined course format. Usually there are two main components of study, these being, Teaching Skills and Language Awareness. Onsite and combined courses also have a teaching practice component.

BE courses: Typically 50 hours of online study. As business English students are all adults these courses cover factors important to adult learners. This will include motivation techniques for this group among other andragogy factors.

YL courses: Typically 50 hours of online study. As young learner English students are all children these courses cover factors important to young learners. This will include motivation techniques for this group among other pedagogy factors.

TEO courses: Typically 50 hours of online study. Teaching English online will involve teaching children and adults, so courses will cover factors important to both these groups.

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