TEFL: Your Guide to Teaching English as a Foreign Language

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: February 22, 2022  •  10 min read  •  Education
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If you’re considering teaching English abroad to non-native English speakers, you will need the right certification. As you start to research, you might get confused when you discover TEFL, TESOL, and TOEFL. All three of these are important, but they are not the same thing.

Teaching English as a foreign language is a great way to see a new country and enjoy your job. If you love the idea of teaching English as a foreign language, you probably need a little bit of help getting set up to do so. There are several things to consider, but your journey starts with figuring out what TEFL, TESOL, and TOEFL are.

TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language

What is the TEFL Certification?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. The TEFL Certification provides you with the qualification you need to teach English as a foreign language both online and abroad.

There are several acronyms and certifications you can get to teach English as a foreign language, but the TEFL certification is one of the most common.

What is a TESOL Certification?

Another certification you can get to teach English as a foreign language is called the TESOL certification. TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. For the most part, TEFL and TESOL are interchangeable. However, TESOL tends to apply more to those teaching English to non-native speakers living or working in native English-speaking countries, such as Canada, Ireland, South Africa, the UK, or the USA.

What is the TOEFL Test?

The third of the very common acronyms you will likely discover when you decide you want to teach English as a foreign language is TOEFL. This acronym stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It’s actually a standardized test that will measure the skills of the test taker when it comes to mastering the English language.

If you plan to teach English as a foreign language, you will likely be preparing some of your students to take the TOEFL. You may also prepare students to take the TOEIC test. The TOEFL is used mainly for those trying to get admitted into a college or university, while the TOEIC is used for those trying to get a job or a work visa in a native English-speaking country.

Along with these acronyms, you might also come across CELTA and DELTA, which are:

These are not interchangeable with TEFL and TESOL. They are a bit more specific and used for different types of qualifications.

Most likely, if you plan to teach English as a foreign language, you will get a TEFL certification. It’s the most common you will find and often the certification employers require for teachers, whether teaching online or abroad.

How to Get Your TEFL Certification

It’s important to understand, not all TEFL certification provides are the same. Since there’s no accrediting body for TEFL courses, you have to be careful with the one you choose for your needs. Some are not nearly as good as others and you want to make sure you get the proper certification accepted by employers.

Getting your TEFL certification can be done with online TEFL courses. The TEFL is a course that can run from as little as 20 hours to more than 200 hours, which is required to become certified. It’s common for employers to require a course with at least 120 hours.

It can be done completely online with the right TEFL course. Some TEFL courses are cheaper than others and some provide better materials than others do. Here are a few steps to make it easy for you to become TEFL certified.

Step #1 – Choose an Online TEFL Course

The first thing you want to do is choose the right TEFL course for your needs. While a shorter course might seem attractive to you, especially on a budget, it will likely not be worth the money you pay. Most overseas employers want to see a TEFL certification with at least 120 hours of teaching time.

With the right TEFL course, you will also gain the power to earn a larger salary and land a better teaching job, whether online or abroad. Take your time and compare a few TEFL courses before making our final decision.

Step #2 – Get Organized with Your Course

After you have chosen the TEFL course for you, get organized and get to know your course. You should learn how to use the dashboard or interface and get an idea of how things will work. With an online TEFL course, you can work on your certification right from home, but you need to create the right atmosphere for studying and learning.

Make sure you have a quiet place to work and when you’re using your computer, turn off all notifications so you won’t be distracted. Create an organization system for your TEFL training that works best for you.

Step #3 – Work at Your Pace

With online TEFL courses, you can work at your own pace. You don’t want to burn yourself out by trying to complete the course too fast. instead, take your time and work at a pace that works best for you.

Studying and learning is best done when you’re fresh, energized, and happy. If you’re tired or frustrated with something else going on, you won’t retain as much information.

Step #4 – Pass Your TEFL Course

After doing all the course work and preparing yourself for the final tests, you will be ready to pass your TEFL course and get your certification. It doesn’t need to be difficult if you choose a good TEFL course and you do the work.

Top 5 TEFL Courses Found Online

1. PremierTEFL

With more than three decades of experience, the PremierTEFL course is a great choice. They are accredited by the ACDL or Accrediting Council of Distance Learning. They offer several different types of TEFL courses to choose from.

Fast-Track Courses

PremierTEFL offers three levels of fast-track courses including the 120-hour Advanced, 240-hour Expert, and 250-hour Hybrid. Each level offers personal tutor support and an internationally recognized certificate when completed.

The 120-hour Advanced TEFL course provides an online option with 24/7 study access and an app. It takes between three and six weeks to complete. With the 240-hour Expert TEFL course, you will take four TEFL-Pro short courses and it will take between five and eight weeks to complete.

The 250-hour Hybrid TEFL Course also takes between five and eight weeks to complete, but it provides quite a bit more than the other two courses. It comes with a grammar guide eBook, 10 hours of virtual teaching practice, a lesson planning eBook, and 10 online lessons.

These courses range from about $195 to $315 and offer six months of course access.

Government Regulated TEFL Courses

PremierTEFL also offers Level 5 TEFL courses to meet Ofqual regulations. These courses are preferred by employers and offer a great option to start a career as a TEFL teacher with specialized training in a high-paying niche area. There are three courses ranging from 168 hours to 300 hours and all three include the free teach online course, life tutor support, DELTA-qualified tutor support, and the English Government-regulated qualification.

These courses range from $285 to $385 and each one offers a little bit more than the other. If you’re looking for a Premier TEFL accreditation, this course is regulated by The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation or Ofqual.

Virtual & Hybrid TEFL Courses

PremierTEFL also offers virtual & hybrid courses ranging from 190 hours to 300 hours. These courses come in at $315 to $385 and offer different levels for the needs of different teaches. If you want to teach English abroad, this set of courses is likely the right option for you.

All three levels come with 10 hours of Virtual teaching practice and TEFL-Pro short courses. You will also get expert qualified tutors to help you. With the two higher levels, you will get more TEFL-pro short courses and live tutor support sessions. It will take from four to eleven weeks to complete one of these courses, depending on which one you choose.

2. BestMyTest

Offering three options, BestMyTest is actually for TOEFL verification. They offer a Last-Minute, Premium, and Custom option allowing you to choose which option fits best for your needs. Those on a tight budget will love the pricing as it starts as low as $39.

You will gain access to more than 1,000 TOEFL practice questions, more than 2,000 commonly used TOEFL vocabulary words, hundreds of TOEFL lessons, and TOEFL test simulations. More expensive packages also include essay grammar corrections, Ask-An-instructor questions, TOEFL speaking reviews, TOEFL writing reviews, and more.

If you’re planning to take the TOEFL test, this is a good prep course to improve your score.

3. TEFLPros

Another good option for your TEFL certification comes from TEFLPros. This course is a 120-hour Digital TEFL Course and offers 10 modules for your learning. You will gain access to lesson plans for reading, speaking, writing, and listening, along with self-reflection with proven activities throughout the course. You will also learn how to manage difficult classroom situations and prepare your classroom materials.

With the TEFLPros course, you will work through 10 modules and 32 units. The course includes nine trainer chat videos, 17 hours of in-classroom observation videos, explanatory videos, and video instruction for lesson planning. It also comes with several quizzes and assessments, along with worksheets and assignments.

TEFLPros provides all students with a graduate package, a professional portfolio, and lifetime job assistance, as well.

4. The TEFL Academy

The TEFL Academy offers Level 5 TEFL courses with a few different options. All of their courses are DEAC-approved, Ofqual regulated and accredited by Qualifi. The Level 5 qualification offers the same level as CELTA/Trinity CertTESOL, as well.

Choose from two different levels ranging in price from $500 to $900 (they often run specials making the price much less expensive). The Combined Level 5 TEFL Course offers a 168-hour course with 20 hours of classroom training, while the Online Level 5 TEFL Course doesn’t offer the classroom training. Instead, it’s completely online. Both courses provide the following:

30-hour top-up course in Teaching Young Learners, Teaching Online & 1-1, or Teaching Business English

With the Combined TEFL course, you also gain 20-hours of classroom teaching practice and teaching experience.

5. The TEFL.org

The TEFL.org offers several choices for TEFL and TESOL courses. They provide online courses with a 120-hour and 180-hour option. All the courses are internationally recognized and accredited by ODLQC.

Along with the online courses, they offer Combined TEFL Courses with online and virtual classroom options. TEFL.org also has Virtual TEFL Courses and Advanced Courses. No matter the type of course you’re looking for the TEFL.org offers a good option.

Prices range from around $254 to about $579 depending on the option you choose.

Frequently Asked Questions about TEFL Courses

Is TEFL difficult to pass?

Yes, TEFL can be difficult to pass, if you don’t do the work and get the right course. With the right TEFL online course, you will be prepared to pass and earn your certification.

Can I choose a 100% online option?

Yes, many of the TEFL course providers offer a completely online version with options for virtual classroom learning. You can connect with an online community and complete your TEFL course without needing to travel abroad.

If you choose a completely online version, make sure your TEFL course is accredited and offers everything you need to start your career.

Does the TEFL certification allow me to teach English online?

Yes, you can teach English as a foreign language online with the TEFL certification. This is a very fast-growing market and many employers and teaching websites are seeking both full and part-time teachers with a TEFL certification.

Final Words

If you’re thinking about becoming a teacher of English abroad or online, getting a TEFL certification offers a great first step. With the right TEFL course, you can be well on your way to teaching English as a foreign language online or abroad.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.