In the age of the Internet any person can pop on a backpack and go to another country and eventually find the odd client here or there willing to pay money for conversation with a native speaker of any number of languages. But make no mistake about it. If you wish to have gainful employment at any reputable firm that’s worth its salt, you will have to have qualifications. Language learners and parents of students BEWARE! If you would like to make sure that your child is in good hands then check to see if their teacher has the relevant, universally recognized qualifications. For the purposes of this blog I will not be writing about work experience. Having 20 years teaching experience may or may not make someone a good teacher. That is an interesting topic for another blog.
CELTA – The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
This is the basic course which runs usually for 1 month intensively with part-time (weekend) versions of the course running somewhat longer. It involves a great deal of language analysis, methodological instruction and several hours of observed teaching. The observed teaching involves full, normal and meticulously planned lessons being taught to real students under the watchful eyes of other candidates as well as a professional trainer who provides feedback and guidance.
RSA Trinity – This is the Trinity College answer to Cambridge’s CELTA and the courses are very similar in nature and expectations. It is also as widely known and universally respected as a teaching qualification.
CELTYL – The Young learner Extension to CELTA
This is a special adjunct to the CELTA which involves teaching young learners (8-13) taking into account the unique needs of children at this age. This also includes observed lessons.
DELTA – Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults
This is the BIG one. This is a Level 7 qualification (according to Qualifications and Credit Framework for the UK Teaching) and is currently the highest qualification available in TEFL. It is also available in part-time and full-time/intensive versions. It consists of three Modules covering a LOT more learner awareness education, linguistic knowledge – phonetics, phonology, grammar and experimental practices in TEFL.
CTESOL – Certificate in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language
This is a qualification that many North American university students acquire in conjunction with their Linguistic or English Literature Degrees as a teaching qualification.
Online Specializations after Main Qualifications
NILE – This is a qualification for teachers who would like to specialize in VERY young Learners – ages 3 -7
SEN– This is a qualification for teachers who would like to specialize in teaching students who have special educational needs such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder among others. While not teaching diagnosis or management of these disorders, the qualification does teach a lot of methodological approaches and tactics for engaging students who may have unique needs.
State Teaching Degrees/ Bachelor’s in Education etc.
Language Institutions recognize the PGCE and North American Teacher’s College diplomas with fairness and respect and these qualifications can ensure employment opportunities abroad. However, in fairness, teaching English as a second language is not exactly the same as teaching geography or history to a large group in their native language. The lessons are scaffolded in slightly different ways and the learners have different needs. This simply means a short period of adaptation for the teacher.
A Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Linguistics and Applied Language Studies is a great thing to have. But let’s be clear, it provides no practical methodologies for the classroom. Linguistics is a study of the form, meaning, organization of language, aspects of culture that language affects and how people internalize speech. However it does NOT prepare a person for managing a classroom or presenting language to learners. Directors of Studies often see a Linguistics degree as a kind of ‘bonus’ / a nice complement to a language teachers CV but it is NOT a requisite to teaching.
Native Speaker or Not?
You will notice that I made no mention of the „nativeness” of the teacher as being a qualification of any sort. A great non-native speaker teacher with the appropriate qualifications is just as good and sometimes better. They know the struggles of the learner.
One final argument for the “backpacker/passport-qualified” teachers – It is not entirely bad to meet up with a native speaker for a bit of conversation or language guidance. This can be helpful in many ways but adjust your expectations accordingly. If you need things explained well, level appropriate activities to practise the language or a larger group managed in an educationally justifiable way then get a qualified TEFL teacher.
This is a topic that is very personal to me and close to my heart. Once every few years I will have a relative or the child of my mom’s friend contact me because they are searching for something to do with their life and the conversation will look like this:
- Person: Hi Ricky. I am contacting you because I don’t know what to do with my life and was thinking of coming over to Europe or Asia to see if I can find some English teaching jobs. Any schools hiring?
- Me: Why would you like to teach English? Why not become a dentist? It pays better.
- Person: Haha Ricky. I’m not qualified to be a dentist!
- Me: Exactly.
Ricky hangs up the phone.
- worth its salt – competent, reliable in its performance
- TEFL – the entire field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- complement – something that fulfils or makes something complete and satisfying NB this is NOT the same as ‘compliment’. These two words are often confused.
- scaffolded – scaffolding- this is a temporary framework used for holding something up. The ‘scaffolding’ of a lesson or how a lesson is ‘scaffolded’ refers to how lesson activities logically flow one into the other.