TEFL vs TESOL vs CELTA - An Insight Into ESL Acronyms

Tefl Acronyms

Ever wondered what the difference is between all the various "TEFL" certificates? Are they just cosmetic, or is there a real difference in the quality, and therefore value, of each one?

Which one should you go for? Which one do schools want in each country? What do the letters even stand for?

This is what we'll be looking at today. We'll also explain the various other acronyms you may come across in the TEFL world as well.

Teaching English To Non-Natives

Generally, TEFL, TESOL, and TESL are all related to the same thing; teaching English to non-native speakers. There is a slight variation though.

TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Usually this is used in the UK and Ireland, and refers to teaching English to non-natives in their own country. TEFL is also a popular qualification, with a variety of different certificates and online courses available.

TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Generally this is used in The US, Canada and Australia. Although people can use a TESOL certificate for teaching English abroad, it is more often used to refer to teaching them in a country where English is the first language.

TESL = Teaching English as a Second Language. This is similar to the TESOL, but is more widely used for teaching non-natives in a country where English isn't the first language, much the same as TEFL.

People will also often use EFL or ESL to refer to the industry as well.

As mentioned earlier, all these terms are very similar in that they refer to teaching English to non-natives.

Other Qualifications

As well as the various terms used to refer to the act of teaching, there are a number of other qualifications you can receive:

  • CELTA = Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. The CELTA is one of the more respected qualifications. While a TEFL certificate may be enough to find a job in many countries, others (such as Japan) will require a CELTA, as it has a higher level of training and more physical teaching hours involved.
  • DELTA = Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults. This is generally the next level up from CELTA, and is often completed by teachers with a few years experience. It's not something a lot of teachers do though, as a CELTA is normally enough. The DELTA can be considered by those thinking about a long-term career in teaching English abroad.
  • Trinity Cert TESOL = A TESOL certificate run by Trinity. This is also highly regarded, and many places will consider it to be on a par with the CELTA.
  • Dip TESOL = Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Like the DELTA is the next step up from a CELTA, the Dip TESOLis the next step up after a Trinity Cert TESOL. Again, it's generally something that career teachers, or those moving into management will undertake.

You can learn more about TEFL qualifications on this page.

More Advanced Qualifications

In some cases, you may be looking at a job that requires an "International Teaching License" or a "Teaching License From Your Home Country". What this usually means is a PGCE or your country's equivalent. This is the certificate you would need to teach in a real school back in your home country.

Generally, PGCE's are required for jobs at International Schools or government-run high schools. It depends on the position and the country, but these jobs often pay the best and are similar to teaching real classes in your home country.  

Other TEFL Related Acronyms

Over the course of your time applying for jobs or working in them, you might come across various other acronyms as well. We'll highlight some of these below.

DOS = Director Of Studies. Depending on which school you're at and whether or not it is part of a larger company, you may have a DOS as part of the senior management. Typically, the DOS and ADOS (Assistant DOS) will be the most senior parts of the management team.

FT = Foreign Teacher. This is you. Some schools will have a foreign and a local teacher, so FT is used to differentiate.

YL = Young Learners. Some jobs will be for adults, others will be for YL or VYL (Very Young Learners). A lot of jobs will be for both. What's important here is that you know what you're getting into, as some people prefer to only teach one or other age-group.

TPR = Total Physical Response. Another word might be "Miming". TPR is a method of teaching that involves using actions or mimes to help students learn and remember the meaning of vocabulary.

TL = Target Language. Every lesson or course in a curriculum will have Target Language; the phrase or words being taught that lesson.

PPP = Present, Practice, Produce. This is one of the most standard methods for teaching target language. Most TEFL lessons will follow a standard structure whereby you first introduce the language to students and convey meaning, then practice it with them, before finally the students start using it themselves.

TTT = Test Teach Test. This is a more advanced method of teaching and can be a good alternative to PPP. In this model, you test the students first to see what they know, then teach them what they got wrong (or review it), before finally testing them again to check they learned it. This can be a popular method with teenagers and adults, as they are more likely to listen having first been tested and seen that they got it wrong.

There are more acronyms besides these, and many of them might be incidental to your own school and teaching environment. You'll pick them all up easily enough, but this article should act as a good base for you to build on.

As for which course/certification is the best for you, this article should give you a good insight into that.