What’s the difference between TESOL and CELTA?

Do you want to get qualified as an English language teacher, but feel confused by all the acronyms around? We can help!

OK – What’s TESOL?

TESOL is an acronym commonly used to describe the field of English Language Teaching. It stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Other acronyms you might see used to describe the field are: TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), EFL (English as a Foreign Language), ESL (English as a Second Language) – and, of course, ELT (English Language Teaching).

So what’s CELTA?

CELTA is the name of a specific course and qualification administrated and awarded by Cambridge English Language Assessment, which is part of the University of Cambridge. Previously known as the ‘Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults’, its actual title is the ‘Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages’. This well-known qualification is internationally recognised and often a minimum requirement for language teaching positions. To get the certificate you need to successfully complete the CELTA course, which is offered by over 300 approved centres worldwide.  At British Council Singapore, you can do this in 4 weeks (full-time), 10 weeks (part-time) or 12 weeks (online – blended). See here for details.

But I’ve seen other courses for ‘TESOL certificates’ – are these the same as CELTA?

Well, any course that addresses some aspects of ‘teaching English to speakers of other languages’ is, technically speaking, a kind of TESOL (or TEFL) course and so can offer some kind of TESOL (or TEFL) certificate. But coursescan differ enormously in aims, length, syllabus, and assessment. For example, some are introductory courses that last only a day or two; some are all online with no teaching practice, and so on. This is not to say that such courses are not worthwhile, but just that the aims are different. So be careful – not all TESOL certificates are the same.

So how do I choose?

Most people ask us this question because they want to work as English language teachers. You’ll find that most reputable employers will usually ask for ‘CELTA or equivalent’. They ask this because they want to know you have attended an accredited course that is at least 120 hours long, including at least six hours of assessed teaching practice. With well-recognised courses like CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL, they are also familiar with the syllabus and assessment criteria, so they know exactly what skills they can expect you to have in your ‘teaching toolbox’.

Whatever you decide, do your research so you can find the course that’s best for you. And good luck in your journey to become an English language teacher!

Sophia Khan has been teaching and training for over 20 years in the UK, France, Australia and Singapore. She currently works on in-service and pre-service training and development at British Council Singapore. sophia.khan@britishcouncil.org.sg