‘I am an EFL teacher and trainer’.
A typical retort to this comment is: ‘What’s that?’
For the uninitiated EFL means English as a Foreign Language. EFL therefore describes the situation where learners are learning English in a context where the official language is not English. In other words, Spaniards learning English in Spain or Japanese learning English in Japan.
My profession, ELT (English Language Teaching) adores abbreviations. These acronyms are a shorthand that are easy to bandy around if you are ‘in the know’ but what if you do not know what the letters stand for. TEFL, for example, is an acronym that describes the subject – Teaching English as a Foreign Language. However, unlike other subjects such as Maths or History there are other acronyms that describe variations such as TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) amongst others. TESOL is primarily used in the US where obviously English is the main language and not a ‘foreign’ language.
In order to enter the TEFL profession you need qualifications (initially a TEFL Certificate). This is where the confusion often arises. The question I am mostly frequently asked is: ‘What is the difference between a TEFL Certificate and CELTA?’ This is not a straightforward question to answer because CELTA is a TEFL Certificate. CELTA (accredited by Cambridge) is the most widely known and internationally recognised initial TEFL qualification. I would recommend doing a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) if you are serious about teaching EFL. There are centres worldwide offering full-time, part-time and online / blended options such as my centre in Istanbul (www.iti-istanbul.com).
When choosing a TEFL course it is important to check that it includes at least 6 hours teaching practice (TP). A TEFL course without teaching practice is going to be of limited value as training to teach has to include time spend planning and practising in a real classroom situation and getting feedback on your performance. Beware of courses that only include ‘micro-teaching’ as this means teaching your colleagues which is not the same as teaching real learners at all.
So to sum up, if you are interested in a career in ELT and want to teach EFL then the first step is to get a TEFL qualification. I would recommend a CELTA course as it includes TP. When you complete the CELTA I guarantee you will be armed with many more acronyms!