TEFL vs. TESOL: What should you choose?

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TEFL and TESOL are two courses which both prepare you for English teaching. They don’t differ a lot from each other, however, there are some big differences! We will look at some similarities and differences throughout this article.

TESOL: Teaching English Around the Globe

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Basically, you’re qualified to teach English to anyone who wasn’t born speaking it, no matter where they are in the world. This could mean helping immigrants and refugees in your own city, guiding international students at a university, or even training business professionals. A TESOL certification shows you’re a professional at explaining grammar and making English click for everyone.

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language, focuses on teaching English in countries where it’s not the main language. Think Thailand, Spain, or wherever your heart takes you! This is perfect if you dream of exotic locations, new cultures, and classrooms full of enthusiastic students. TEFL programs typically cover special techniques for teaching English when it’s not the language everyone speaks at home.

While there’s some overlap, the main difference is where you want to teach. TESOL keeps things open, letting you teach English at home or abroad. TEFL is your ticket to international teaching adventures. In most cases, employers might not even care which certification you have.

Similarities vs. Differences

Target Audience: Both TEFL and TESOL qualify you to teach English to non-native speakers. This means your students will come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, and their native language won’t be English.

Essential Skills: Both TEFL and TESOL equip you with the skills necessary to be an effective English language teacher. This includes:

Grammar Instruction: You’ll learn how to explain and teach English grammar concepts in a clear and understandable way, even to students with no prior knowledge.

Vocabulary Building: You’ll develop strategies for introducing new vocabulary and helping students practice and retain them. This can involve using visuals, games, and real-life examples.

Lesson Planning: Both certifications will teach you how to create engaging and effective lesson plans that cater to different learning styles and student needs.

Teaching Methodology: You’ll explore various teaching methodologies that promote active learning and communication in the classroom. This can include communicative approaches, task-based learning, and technology integration.

Assessment: Both TEFL and TESOL programs will cover techniques for assessing student progress and providing constructive feedback.

Employer Recognition: In many cases, employers advertising English teaching positions won’t differentiate between a TEFL or TESOL qualification. Both are recognized as valid credentials for teaching English to non-native speakers. This gives you more flexibility when applying for jobs, both abroad and in English-speaking countries (depending on the specific certification).


Location: TESOL is broader, and motivates to teach English anywhere in the world, including your home country. TEFL focuses specifically on teaching English in countries where English isn’t the first language.

Target audience: TESOL prepares you to teach English to a diverse range of learners, including immigrants and refugees seeking to integrate into their new countries/cultures, international students navigating academic environments in a new language and business professionals needing English for global communication. TEFL on the other hand, focusses on equipping you to teach English to students in non-English speaking countries, where English is likely encountered in more formal settings like schools or language institutes.

Course content: TEFL programs might delve deeper into methodology for teaching English in environments with limited exposure to the language. This could involve strategies for maximizing comprehension using visuals, real-life examples, and simplified language. Additionally, TEFL courses might place a stronger emphasis on classroom management techniques specifically suited for multilingual classrooms.

Overall, choosing between TEFL and TESOL depends on your career goals. If you crave international adventures, TEFL might be the better fit. If location is flexible and you’re open to teaching English in various settings, TESOL offers broader opportunities.

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