Thursday, September 28, 2006

Advice for Becoming Certified to Teach English Before You Leave for A Foreign Country

When a reader wrote in to ask, “I wonder what you have to offer in the way of advice for becoming certified to teach before I leave for some other country from the USA?” I couldn’t help but take the time to respond a bit to a person poised on the brink of such a potentially life-altering event as this. The reader further added, “Do you think that an online TEFL course would suffice, or would it be better to do a CELTA course?” What a loaded question that is. Can’t you just picture the trouble I could get into answering that one? Here’s some of what my response contained plus a few additions.

While a good TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course from a reputable school or institute can be a tremendous boost in preparing you for the rigors and challenges of ELT (English language teaching) abroad, my preference is towards the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). The quality of TEFL certificate courses can vary considerably and great care should be taken in selecting a TEFL certificate course. Personally, I recommend an official CELTA course first while in the USA, Canada or the UK for a more than a couple of good reasons.

First - CELTA training will provide you with well-founded teaching tools and skills that will stand you in good stead once you begin teaching. The CELTA course is rigorously monitored so quality is highly constant across a variety of different schools, institutions and organizations that offer it.

Second - The CELTA is recognized world wide as a solid EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teaching credential, meaning that your English level is high and that you have proven knowledge of English language teaching techniques. It also indicates that you have in fact practice taught at satisfactory levels and that you understand learner needs and how to approach them, among other essential ELT basic skills.

Third - Almost all officially recognized CELTA programs have job placement services for their graduates, which means you can land your first job before you leave the USA. You'll have local contacts provided for you and the reputation of the school behind you as well. You may even be able to get leads on a second or even third position from your CELTA course provider as time ticks on if you need a change. This offers an excellent introduction to teaching while helping to minimize elements of the "culture shock" often experienced during your first overseas job.

Fourth - A CELTA course is designed to prepare you for the realities of teaching EFL abroad to learners who may know little or no English. With the confidence and ability to teach English to foreign learners without a knowledge of their L1 is an important skill that will often place you head and shoulders above many other "local" English teachers who frequently rely heavily on use of the learners' L1 (first language).

Fifth - Taking the CELTA in the USA, an English-speaking country, will enable you to start preparing your own "care package" of materials before you leave for your new job. It happens that many locations where we find ourselves teaching English simply do not have an extensive array of materials available. At home in the USA however, virtually any materials you'd like to use is not only available in abundance, but is usually dirt cheap as well.

If you need more information you can check out my article series on English language teaching at I sincerely hope this offers you some guidance. Best wishes for a great career in a location that’s interesting for you

… and good luck, you’ll need it.