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TEFL or Teaching English as a foreign language refers to teaching English to students for whom it is not their mother tongue (see English language learning and teaching, which explains the distinctions between different kinds of teaching of English to non-native speakers). TEFL can take place in English-speaking regions, for example in language schools or summer camps or before the start of a university degree, but usually occurs in the student's own country. There, TEFL can be either within the state school system, or private, either in an after-hours language school or with a one-on-one tutor. The teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English.

For a wider view, relating to both EFL and ESL contexts, and a full explanation of abbreviations (e.g. the difference between ESL and EFL, or TESOL as a subject and an organisation), see English language learning and teaching. For information about foreign language teaching in general, see language education.

Teaching techniques[]


TEFL, that uses literature aimed at children and teenagers, is rising in popularity. Youth-oriented literature offers simpler material ("simplified readers" are produced by major publishers), and often provides a more conversational style than literature for adults. Children's literature in particular sometimes provides subtle cues to pronunciation, through rhyming and other word play. One method for using these books is the multiple-pass technique. The instructor reads the book, pausing often to explain certain words and concepts. On the second pass, the instructor reads the book completely through without stopping.

Communicative language teaching[]

Communicative language teaching (CLT) emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language. Despite a number of criticisms,[1] it continues to be popular, particularly in Japan, Taiwan,[2] and Europe.

The task-based language learning (TBLL) approach to CLT has gained ground in recent years. Proponents believe CLT is important for developing and improving speaking, writing, listening, and reading skills, and that it prevents students' merely listening passively to the teacher without interaction. Dogme[3] is a similar communicative approach that encourages teaching without published textbooks, instead focusing on conversational communication among the learners and the teacher.[4]

Blended learning[]

Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face teaching and online interactions (also known as CALL or computer-assisted language learning), achieved through a virtual learning environment (VLE).

VLEs have been a major growth point in the ELT industry over the last five years. There are two types:

  • Externally hosted platforms that a school or institution exports content to (e.g., the proprietary Web Course Tools, or the open source Moodle)
  • Content-supplied, course-managed learning platforms (e.g. the Macmillan English Campus)

The former provides pre-designed structures and tools, while the latter supports course-building by the language school—teachers can blend existing courses with games, activities, listening exercises, and grammar reference units contained online. This supports classroom, self-study or remote practice (for example in an internet café).

Qualifications for TEFL teachers[]

The basic qualification for teaching English is an undergraduate degree in any subject, plus a TESL or TEFL certificate. There are numerous organisations that issue certificates which vary widely in acceptance. There is no international independent accrediting organisation overseeing the issuing of qualifications in general, although there are national ones, e.g. in Britain, which carry weight in many countries.

In general, language academies (employers) around the world will typically require a 4 week, 120+ hour TEFL/TESOL certificate of some kind. To the employer, this means that the teacher candidate has had teaching practice, completed the various projects and assignments and is willing to adapt to a foreign culture or environment, as most courses are abroad. There are also shorter weekend courses, online courses and quick training solutions, although these may not offer the number of teaching practice and lesson planning hours preferred by employers. In most large international cities, you'll find a number of 4 week intensive training course providers. For someone interested in a course, think about the location, time of year, cost and try to get in touch with previous graduates to hear more about their course. This is more than just sitting in a classroom, it's an experience. Meeting other people, networking, pushing yourself into new comfort zones, adapting and helping others are all a part of teaching abroad.

In the parts of the world influenced by Britain (the Commonwealth and the European Union), the three most commonly recognized certificates are the UCLES CELTA, the Trinity College, London CertTESOL and the School for International Training's TESOL Certificate. Some universities issue TEFL certificates as part of their undergraduate programmes.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The typical United States qualification is a pre-service MA TESOL, although many shorter certificates exist. In some countries it is possible to obtain work with much less than this. Schools willing to take untrained staff typically run short courses and may provide their own training. Chains such as Berlitz do not accept the CELTA and require all their teachers be trained in their particular methods. Additionally, many private unaccredited schools offer courses of varying quality which lead to their own certificates.

Pay and conditions worldwide[]

As in most fields, the pay depends greatly on education, training, experience, seniority, and expertise. As with much expatriate work, employment conditions vary among countries, depending on the level of economic development and how much people want to live there. In relatively poor countries, even a low wage may equate to a comfortable middle class lifestyle.[5]

There is a danger of exploitation by employers. Spain in particular has encountered widespread criticismTemplate:By who given the overwhelming number of small to medium businesses (including TEFL schools) which routinely dodge the teachers' social security contributions as a means of maximising profits[How to reference and link to summary or text]. The result is that most teachers are entitled to less unemployment or sick pay than they would be entitled to if their salaries and contributions were declared in accordance with the law. Similar situations increase in countries with labor laws that may not apply to foreign employees, or which may be unenforced. An employer might ignore contract provisions, especially regarding working hours, working days, and end-of-contract payments. Difficulties faced by foreign teachers regarding language, culture, or simply limited time can make it difficult to demand pay and conditions that their contracts stipulate. Some disputes arise from cross-cultural misunderstandings. Teachers who can't adapt to living and working in a foreign country often leave after a few months.

See also[]


  1. van Hattum, Ton (2006), The Communicative Approach Rethought
  2. The Trend and Challenge for Teaching EFL at Taiwanese Universities
  3. Meddings, L and Thornbury, S (2009) Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching. Peaslake: Delta.
  4. includeonly>Luke, Meddings. "Throw away your textbooks", The Guardian, 2004-03-26. Retrieved on 2009-06-22.
  5. TEFL Pay. Cactus TEFL. URL accessed on 2010-05-19.

External links[]

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