What is TESOl, TESL, TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, ELL & ESL: How does it differ from English as a Second Language (ESL)? And ELL What’s the difference? What do they mean?

Teachers who want to teach ELL students online or in a public classroom will need a minimum of a state teacher certification and an ELL Endorsement to be qualified to teach ELL students. This article will discuss the differences between the acronyms listed in the title. Also,  keep in mind that is important to get a certification that will meet the teachers’ goals and to do that, ask the following questions:   What do I want to do with the certification?  Where do I want to teach?

Let’s begin with   acronyms, ELL and ESL and how they are connected to teaching students who are second language learners.  The acronyms ELL and ESL are not certifications, it is shorthand to determine if a student requires specialized instruction and whether the organization and their teachers are properly accredited to teach them.  These abbreviations are used to identify students who are non-native English speakers.  An English Language Learner (ELL) is a student who is a non-native English speaker and therefore requires specialized instruction in an ESL or an English as a Second Language (ESL) Classroom. These will be the acronyms used in this article as we seek to determine which certification is best for an online ESL teacher.

Now it is time to answer the questions:What do I want to do with the certification?  Where do I want to teach?” Once those questions are answered then you will know which type of certification make the most sense and will fulfill your teaching goals. Some of the endorsements will get you in the door and others will keep you in the organization, plus advancement.    

 TESOL: (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language) A TESOL course draws on broader elements of each of teachers’ certification to provide the base for teachers to teach in both nonnative English countries and within English speaking countries.    

TESL: (Teaching English as a Second Language) TESL prepares teachers to teach English to non-English speakers. The significant difference in this certification is the intended teaching location. A teacher with this certification would teach nonnative English speakers in an English-speaking country.

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, now known as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) TEFL courses aim to equip teachers with the knowledge as to how to teach English to students living in a country where English is not the native language

Still Confused?   There is a difference between each of the certifications, however minor.    The accreditations vary between the type of course and the length of time invested in getting your certification.  Some accreditations involve coursework and practicums that will take up to 18 months and others will take as long as a week.  Let’s begin by breaking down each certification by answering the first question: “What do I want to do with this certification?”

 If the answer to this question is vague, i.e. “I just want to teach ELLs and I need to be certified.” “I need for my online job.” or along those lines.  The TESOL: (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language) certification is your answer. This training will allow you to teach students who are English Language Learners and help you determine your direction. The course will take about a week to complete and the fee is usually $50 – $100. This doesn’t mean that once the payment for the course is completed, you will receive the certification. It means that the course to will teach the broad elements of how to teach nonnative English learners in either a country where English is the first language or in a country where English is a not a first language.

The other certifications require a definite answer to the second question: “Where do I want to teach?” In other words, “Yes, I plan teaching ELL students online.” Or “Eventually I plan on traveling abroad and want to teach English.”   The TESL (Teaching English as Second Language) certification would meet your goals if you just want to teach online or in an English-speaking country.  A teacher would be able to work with ELL student in an online classroom or in a public school in a country where English is the first language. 

However, if you want to teach in another country, where English is not the first language, then TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, now known as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) would be your best bet. This certification takes into consideration that the teacher speaks English, has a teaching certification and doesn’t know the language of their students. The TEFL programs vary greatly: they can be as short as one intensive weekend, or about 20 hours of class time. The training can also include several months training, which includes up to 300 hours of class time. The training doesn’t usually require the participant to work with students who are second language learners.

TEFL will not take as long to attain as a CELTA, but of the two the CELTA endorsement is the most recognized and respected.    In order to receive a CELTA certification, the requirements usually include a combination of theory and deep understanding of the English language. CELTA requires students to complete 120 hours of class time and six hours of student teaching (practicum) with real ELL learners. In addition, it will take about four weeks in order to conclude the training.  This certification is usually required by organization who hire the ESL teacher for their employees or students, inside or outside of the country.  This endorsement is considered the most through training for teachers who want to make teaching ELL students their careers.  The CELTA course provides a comprehensive understanding of the different stages of the English language, but the training emphasizes working with adults, The TESL training is not as intense and at the most will require about 9 hours of training and 2 hours of using those skills in a classroom.

At the end of the day, an instructor who requires training in order to learn how to teach students in either an online ESL classroom or in a public school. They will need a certificate to document that they have received this training.  Do your homework and seek out a reputable TESL, TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA program. A portion of that research should include speaking with an individual who is doing the job that you would like when you complete your studies.  If you do all of this, in the end regardless of which certification you decide to pursue, you will get a great education.

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