TEFL, TESL, TESOL, CELTA and DELTA, what’s the difference!? You’ll be met with these TEFL acronyms and more if you’re looking at getting into TEFL and teaching English, so it is useful to know what they mean and the differences between them.
For starters they are all names of courses that you can take to get into the world of English language teaching, so let’s take a look at what each ones means:
- TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
- TESOL: Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages
- CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (now known as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
- DELTA: Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
If you’re still wondering ‘what does TEFL stand for?’ and are confused by these different acronyms, don’t worry! We’ll explain further below.
The first thing to remember is that TEFL, TESL and TESOL courses can all come under the same umbrella and are often used to describe any TEFL certification program that trains you to teach English to non-native speakers. CELTA and DELTA on the other hand are very specific, specialist courses and are sponsored by Cambridge university. Essentially, they are like a brand of TEFL course.
If that’s not confusing enough, ‘TEFL Course’ is normally used as the main all-encompassing word that covers all of these types of courses. For sake of simplicity that’s what we’ll also do here. If you’re onboard with that, you’re one step closer to understanding the differences between these different types of TEFL courses and their definitions.
So, if you want to get TEFL certified, you better start choosing your acronym/TEFL course! However, whilst they all refer to courses on teaching English, their methodologies and the options available to get TEFL certified can vary greatly.
TEFL courses can either be completed online – or in an intensive classroom-based course usually lasting 4 weeks – and are typically over 100 hours in length. Indeed, most employers look for teachers to have a 120 hour + TEFL qualification so taking a course of this length is a good idea. Once you’ve qualified and obtained your TEFL certificate you can use it to teach English to non-English speakers anywhere in the world, and for many English teacher it forms the start of their teaching.
To do a TEFL course you just need a good level of English (because you will be teaching it) and a willingness to study, although many of the courses can be completed online in your own time meaning that you’ll have the flexibility to do it around your schedule. If you’re on the hunt for a good TEFL course keep a look out for those that come recommended from recognised educational bodies or Ofqual, which is regulated by the English government.
TESOL courses are very similar to TEFL courses and in many cases can be used to describe the same thing. The main distinction is that a TESOL course is more centred to the teaching of English to speakers of other languages in an English-speaking country, whereas TEFL is teaching English as a foreign language which is done in a non-English speaking country. In this context a TESOL student will be immersed in an English-speaking environment, whilst a TEFL student will only hear English in the classroom or if they actively seek it out. Therefore, though TEFL and TESOL courses often contain very similar content they can both focus on specific types of students that you might encounter in your life as an English teacher.
The acronym TESL – ‘Teaching English as a Second Language’ – does a good job of describing exactly what TESL is. It can refer to teaching English to students in a country where English is used as a second language alongside the native language or to teaching English to immigrants in an English-speaking country, both of whom might be using English as their second language. TEFL and TESL often crossover and mean the same thing, but you may also see TESL being referred to as TEAL (Teaching English as an Additional Language), so watch out for this!
CELTA is a qualification provided by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES), and acts as a preparatory course where teachers learn and demonstrate their understanding of teaching techniques and approaches.
The CELTA course is offered by a number of schools and institutions around the world, and is usually highly intensive running full-time for four to five weeks and at a considerably higher cost than most TEFL courses. Due to their intensive nature, CELTA courses offer less flexibility than a TEFL course, although in some cases you will be able to do a part-time course. However, possessing the CELTA qualification is highly regarded by employers and in some areas where there is a lot of competition for teaching positions it may form one of the employer’s requirements in addition to, or over, a TEFL course. Furthermore, whereas you could just apply for and do a TEFL course online, a CELTA course has entry requirements that specify that you should have a near-native level of English – equivalent to IELTS 7.5 or a high C1 level – and you’ll need to able to demonstrate this directly to the course provider or by some form of formal English qualification.
DELTA is another qualification provided by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) and is similar to the CELTA course in that it is run over several weeks of intensive study. However, it is a diploma rather than a certificate and is a qualification that is aimed at helping the candidate develop as a teacher. As such, it requires a few years of teaching experience in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) before undertaking it, and is more like an advanced version of the TEFL course with the aim of enhancing and deepening your knowledge of teaching English as both a foreign and second language.
Which course should I do?
All of these options offer something different and it really boils down to what you want to do and where you want to go in your time of teaching English to non-native speakers. If an employer or a country you want to work in requires a specific course then you should consider doing that one, or if you’re just starting out and just dipping you toe in the water it might be worth doing a TEFL course to see if it is for you before taking the plunge into something more intensive like the CELTA or DELTA course. The key is to make sure you do your research and pick a good, reputable source that meets your needs and if you achieve this then you shouldn’t go far wrong.