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Just what is TEFL?
Just what is TEFL? Should I take a course, isn't it just a waste of my time and money? Which course should I take? Where should I take it? These are questions all prospective English (ESL) teachers should be asking - and I'll do my best to give you a good answer!
(A bit of a spoiler - the answer is you SHOULD take a course - but you need to be VERY careful WHICH course you take!)
TEFL (Teaching English to Foreign Learners) is what most people call English Teaching.
Around the world millions of people are trying to learn English, for their jobs, for school, or simply just for fun.
TEFL is an extremely rewarding career - travel the world, and get paid for it! See parts of the world tourists never see and have cultural exchanges with a huge range of people - wonderful!
But sadly, most TEFL teachers are extremely poor. They do not understand the basics of teaching - and one of the resons for this is most have never taken a TEFL course.
If you are serious about teaching English you MUST take a teaching course. But just WHICH one should you take - there are as many bad courses as there are bad teachers!
Should I take a course, isn't it just a waste of my time and money? Which course should I take? Where should I take it?
I'll answer these questions together as they are all very related.
TEFL courses CAN be a huge waste of time and money. They can be expensive (the course I took cost around $1,500) - and many people ask, do I really need one?
That depends on YOU. Do you REALLY need a TEFL course? The answer is perhaps not. Most schools around the world never ask to see your certificate and as there are so many TEFL courses most schools would probably wouldn't know if you made up a certificate yourself at home!
So...the certificate itself...not very useful (mine is still in it's envelope (in 10 years of teaching I've never once shown it to anyone!) but what about the course....
There are many types of courses, but to simplify things we'll break them into 4 cateogries.
1) Online courses
2) Short courses
3) Mid-length courses
4) Professional courses
Online courses are not a bad way to begin. If you are unsure if this is a career for you or not, a short online course is a very inexpensive way of getting at least a little insight. They are not terribly useful as they don't contain any actual teaching (of course) but for the money you pay - a fair way to start.
Short courses are often weekend things. Now, let's be realistic, what can you learn in a weekend? Nothing! Or close to. Can 2 days really prepare you for a career? Not a chance. I would never recommend these kinds of courses.
Mid terms courses are usually around 4 weeks in length. You might be thinking - even 4 weeks - even that cannot be long enough to study (after all teachers in schools study education for at least a year - if not a lot longer). Well, it's not. But 4 weeks can be enough to teach you a LOT. The two most recognized courses world wide are the Trinity Certificate (the course I took) and the CELTA. These are both 4 week courses, and are both excellent. They include a lot of practical ideas and help with lessons, they brush up your grammar, and most importantly they give you real teaching practice. Don't underestimate the value of teaching practice - to be watched and evaluated by professional teachers will give you a huge boost. After completing the 4 week course you won't be a good teacher - but at least you will be a teacher, with an understanding of what you need to do!
Long term courses (like the DELTA and various M.A. programs) take at least a year to complete. They are mostly good - but only really worth doing if you have plans to be teaching English for life - and it would be better to get some real teaching experience before you even try.
Now... as to WHERE... it doesn't really matter! You can take courses in every country in the world. I would pick a country close to home, or a country that is cheap to live in, but anywhere would be good! For a list of schools around the world that offer TEFL courses check out our directory http://yourenglishcafe.com/teachers/courses/
So...I would strongly recommend you take a 4 week course.
The Trinity of London Cert. or the Cambridge University CELTA are the two best. Not only are they excellent courses but they are also well known by schools around the world.
I know myself how much I learned in those 4 short weeks - not enough, (it's never enough and as a teacher you are always learning) but it WAS enough for me to be able to stand with (some) confidence in front of my first class and actually teach them something!