Teach English in Spain: Teaching TEFL/TESOL, TEFL Courses

01 March 2021

TEFL in Spain

Our first part of five articles providing information about teaching English in Spain. Discussion of TEFL, TESOL, certificates, TEFL school accreditation, and what to expect from your TEFL course.

... we advise you to start your adventure in teaching and your new life in Spain by taking a TEFL course.

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language 
TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Second or Other Languages
TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
TEAL: Teaching English as an Additional Language
EFL: English as a foreign language
ESL: English as a second language

TESOL and TEFL are synonymous terms that refer to English language instruction in non-English speaking countries. TESL and TEAL are interchangeable terms that normally refer to English teaching for immigrants and refugees in English-speaking countries. The terms TEFL and TESL are more commonly used in Europe; TESOL and TEAL are more common in North America. EFL and ESL normally refer to English language programs in general – rather than just the teaching component of these programs. EFL is used in non-English speaking countries, whereas ESL is used in English-speaking countries where students are learning English as a second language. In Europe, TEFL is the most commonly used expression for the concept. I’ve heard TESOL used most frequently in Asia. Here we’ll call it TEFL to help ingrain the use of the most common abbreviation here in Spain.

If you’ve not taught English before, or even if you have but are without a TEFL Certificate, we advise you to start your adventure in teaching and your new life in Spain by taking a TEFL course. That’s not to say it’s impossible to get a job teaching English without the certificate, but without a year or two of experience and decent Spanish skills, it’s just not likely going to happen - or you’ll waste a lot of time and money waiting for your opportunity to get a foot in the door.

A few words must be said regarding the accreditation of TEFL schools, and therefore the validity of your TEFL certificate. In our case (myself and my fellow TEFL students on the course), a month after the course we felt duped into having spent our time and money on a course that was not “officially accredited” by an TEFL organization. In retrospect it wasn’t such a disaster for any of us. We generally found that employers didn’t consider the accreditation status of the school to be important, if relevant at all. If you have a TEFL certificate from any school, most employers will ask you about how many practical teaching hours were included, what ability levels you taught, and often quiz you on your knowledge of grammar before they start digging into the validity of your teaching credentials. If you were a good liar and knew your grammar, you could probably get away without taking the TEFL course altogether… but that’s just speculation and I still highly suggest taking one. Never-the-less, neither I nor most of my teacher friends have had to produce a TEFL certificate for prospective employers. 

So, the following is for those who want to know more about schools’ accreditation (and perhaps avoid being duped by a dodgy school). TEFL courses should be validated and accredited by an external official body. The British Council is the organization that sets the standards that TEFL courses must meet to be acceptable qualifications to teach English in their accredited schools around the world. The British Council recognizes UCLES (University of Cambridge CELTA certification) and Trinity College (certTEFL) as valid accrediting bodies. As I’ve said, the accreditation of your TEFL certificate most likely won’t be an issue, however if you plan to make teaching English a career, then stick to schools offering TEFL certificates with these accreditations. Apparently, Cambridge accredited courses are more strictly controlled, and often of a higher challenge level than the Trinity accredited courses. Whatever TEFL course you choose, it’ll be a great time, you’ll meet lots of interesting people, and it’ll be a great first step into the world of teaching English in Spain.

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