Our guide to English language teaching
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to English language teaching

First published date March 18 2014 Amended date March 18 2014

Around 750 million people speak English as a foreign language – and more and more want to learn. In fact, two billion people are expected to study English in the next decade. So you could say English language teachers are in high demand. And the really great thing is that English language teachers are in high demand the world over. It has to be one of the best ways to combine travel and work.


What do you actually do on an English Language Teaching course?

Teaching English as a Foreign Language courses – known as TEFL courses – vary enormously. Some courses only last a weekend, others last a year. Some take place only online, others in the classroom. The best course for you will depend on your budget and how much time you have.

Courses tend to teach the theory and practice of English language teaching. But not all courses involve hands-on experience. This is important because there is nothing quite like teaching a whole class, so a course that offers an assessed teaching module would prove particularly valuable to you. And employers might look on you more favourably too. If not, it’s a bit like trying to drive without ever meeting traffic.

All English Language Teaching courses should equip you with the basic skills and knowledge needed to take up your first post as a TEFL teacher. Two of the most highly regarded courses for people with little or no teaching experience are the CELTA and Cert TESOL courses.



The CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course lasts four weeks full time or 12 weeks part time. It includes six hours of assessed teaching, so you can expect the thrill of suddenly finding yourself facing a dozen keenly blinking eyes. Prices for the CELTA course vary, but it usually costs around £1,500.



The Cert TESOL (Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) also lasts four weeks full time or 12 weeks part time. And like the CELTA course, it entails six hours of assessed teaching. Again prices vary, but it costs around £900.


Diploma and postgraduate study

If you are an experienced English language teacher and want a more senior teaching or management position, why not could consider doing a diploma or a postgraduate course? The CELTA and Cert TESOL have corresponding diplomas: the DELTA and the Dip TESOL respectively. These courses can be taken at any stage in a teacher’s career. It is ideal for those wanting to update their teaching knowledge and improve their practice.


What kind of person do you need to be?

To make the most of an English language teaching course you must be:


·         a great communicator with a friendly demeanour


·         well organised – preparing 25 hours of classes requires a lot of preparation


·         willing to grapple with English grammar, although you can learn this on the job


·         confident in front of a group of people, again this comes with practice


·         fun – so the classes are too!


What’s it like to work as an English language teacher?

English language teaching isn’t all conversation over piña coladas in tropical sunshine.

Typically you will teach 25 hours a week. Now, that may not sound like much, but don’t forget you need to prepare classes and correct homework. Class preparation can take longer than the classes themselves.

Most people take an English Language Teaching course so they can teach in a language institute. But you might choose to teach in a primary or secondary school, or you might even prefer to give private one-to-one classes. Most people do a TEFL course so they can work abroad. Often – not always – the salary is very good compared with the local salary. 

But with about 700,000 people who come to learn English in the UK each year, there is plenty of work without the need to go away. In summer a wealth of summer schools crop up throughout the UK offering plenty of opportunities for English Language teachers. But, to forewarn you: working in a summer school can be stressful, so choose your workplace carefully.


Let’s hear what Stephanie Hodgetts, a TEFL teacher in Sidmouth, Dorset, has to say...


What TEFL course did you take?

I did the Cert TESOL course, which is run by Trinity College London, as opposed to the CELTA run by Cambridge.


Why did you choose that course?

I chose the Cert TESOL because it was the most convenient in terms of location. I did it at Sidmouth International School in Devon.


Why did you choose to become an English language teacher?

I wasn't even sure at the time if I wanted to be an English language teacher. I just knew that it would open doors for me abroad, and I wanted to get out of the UK to get some work and life experience.


What did you enjoy most about the course?

I loved everything about the course, despite how stressful it was at times. I particularly enjoyed the sessions where we, as trainees, experienced learning a foreign language. It helped us to understand our students by putting ourselves into their shoes.


What is the best thing about being a TEFL teacher?

There are so many great aspects to ELT [English Language Teaching]. I enjoy meeting lots of people from all around the world. They teach me so much and inspire me in many different ways. The work is flexible too, so I can do other things that interest me, including travel.


What’s the hardest thing about your job?

The hardest thing for me is teaching teenagers, but I’ve been told it gets easier with experience!


What’s the strangest thing you have had to do as an English language teacher?

I've had to do lots of strange things as a teacher, things I would very reluctantly do outside of the classroom, such as sing, dress up, act, dance – the list goes on.


What are you working on now?

I've actually got some time off at the moment, so I'm focusing on my Diploma (the next qualification after the certificate).


Nick Kennedy

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