Teaching English:

Teaching English: TEFL or TESOL?To many people, teaching English TEFL is the only option. But do you know the difference between TEFL and TESOL?

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TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
It usually refers to teaching people who are not living in an English-speaking country, although they may be visiting for a short time to study there.

TESOL is an acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

This usually refers to people who are resident in an English-speaking country. They are usually there either permanently or long-term.

If you do not want to work in an English-speaking country, then you will need to teach TEFL, but if you live in an English-speaking country you may have the choice of which one you want to teach.

Sometimes the two are very similar but there are differences.

TEFL and TESOL Compared

There may be different qualification requirements for the two different disciplines, but broadly they require the same skills.

The specific qualifications required will depend on which country you are in.

The biggest difference between the two is in the course content.

Students who are resident in an English-speaking country will need to be able to communicate.

This is far more important than having perfect grammar. So TESOL (or ESL/ESOL) lessons usually focus on practical skills such as applying for jobs, finding accommodation, booking travel tickets, etc.

TEFL classes, on the other hand, are much more concerned with accurate grammar, with expanding vocabulary, and with academic skills.

Another difference is often in the general educational level of the students.

Students who have moved to an English-speaking country often (but not always) have had a low level of education in their country, and may even be illiterate in their own language.

This means that their reading and writing skills are often a long way below their speaking and listening skills. You will probably have a mix of nationalities in an ESOL class.

TEFL (or EFL) students are often students in their own country, or successful adults who have a good standard of education and can afford to pay for private English lessons.

If you are teaching short-stay EFL students in an English-speaking country they may be of mixed nationalities, but if you are teaching abroad then they should all have the same first language. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage!

Advantages and Disadvantages of each

  • The rates of pay for TEFL and TESOL teachers may differ, depending on where you live.

  • TESOL teachers tend to work in the public sector and TEFL teachers are more commonly in the private sector.

  • This may affect other benefits such as pensions, healthcare and holidays.

  • One disadvantage of working in the public sector is that a teacher will usually have more paperwork to complete than teachers in the private sector.

  • If you work in the ESOL sector, you will probably teach your students for a longer period of time. You will see them progress (hopefully!) and will see things you teach them make a difference in their lives.

  • If you work in the EFL sector you will be able to meet a very wide range of students, and you will be able to teach different ages, different levels and different subjects. You will probably be able to create lessons on a wider variety of themes.

A rewarding career

Whether you are teaching English TEFL or TESOL you will meet some wonderful students, help them improve their knowledge and their lives, and if you enjoy it, it won't feel like work at all.

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