TESOL – An Overview

By Peter Maximilian HM

English has become the Lingua Franca of the World. Its global presence is ubiquitous. The English language appears in World cultures via Music and all forms of Art, and by way of Technology, Science, Academia, Travel, and Politics. 

Do the non-English speaking World Citizens who collectively outnumber English speaking folks feel good about this reality? After all, people are being compelled to acquire, learn, and study in English —be it math or negotiation tactics— in order to facilitate and transition their skills, talents, and abilities. 

Becoming proficient and potentially fluent in a language that is foreign to someone takes time, effort, sacrifice, focus, concentration, and money. Consequently, first and foremost, all of us who do not need to acquire and learn English in order to be marketable and gainfully employed, well, we all need to acknowledge this reality with a great deal of appreciation and respect for the billions of people who are doing their utmost to acquire English as a Foreign Language. 

The purpose of the TESOL industry is to provide viable options in regards to how to facilitate the irrefutable processes required to become at least proficiently effective in an English dialect. 

What is TESOL?

Pronounced /tée-sūl/, the lexicalized acronym —T.E.S.O.L.— stands for, TEACHING ENGLISH to SPEAKERS of OTHER LANGUAGES. The implicit presence of “in” is located before ENGLISH, and thereby emphasizing the importance of teaching “in” English, rather than teaching English; however, currently, most of the contributors to TESOL do not fully understand the importance of this.

The TESOL market includes anything and everything that deals with the following market items:

  • TEFL > Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESL > Teaching English  as a Second Language
  • EFL > English as a Foreign Language
  • ESL > English as a Second Language
  • ESOL > English for Speakers of Other Languages 
  • TOEFL > Test Of English as a Foreign Language 
  • CELTA (British version of TEFL and TESL) 
  • FCE, CAE, IELTS (British versions of TOEFL)
  • Publishing Houses (producing specialized materials for ESOL students and teachers)
  • Language programs, systems, schools, training centers, and like businesses 
  • University gateways into academia

The aforementioned items spider off into multiple directions that spur economic growth substantially and is therefore of great interest to government agencies, nationally as well as internationally, in terms of regulation, and as serious revenue enhancers. 

This blog will serve as your guide to choosing the most appropriate and effective TEFL Certification. 

How to Choose a Valid TEFL Certification 

The framework for choosing a valid TEFL Certification may seem intimidating at first but can be broken down into ten simple questions. 

  1. Which TEFL Certification programs are validated by an accrediting agency endorsed by the U.S. Government?

The first question touches on credibility. The reality is that searching for a program endorsed by the U.S. Government isn’t as simple as searching for a Vitamin Supplement endorsed by the FDA. The fact is that no TEFL program is accredited. However there are some TEFL programs that were part of an accreditation process, vetted and approved by the agencies –the LAT-TESOL Course, for instance– and, in essence, were accredited by proxy. 

  1. Which programs have been approved by recruiting agencies and headhunters?

No matter which back-story, journey, passions have led you to enter into the world of education, specifically educating through language acquisition to non-English speakers, it’s important to understand how to leverage your TEFL Certification/education in order to land that coveted teaching job. Conceptually, this makes understanding which programs have been approved by recruiting agencies and headhunters of utmost importance. Recruiters are looking for the following in a TEFL Certification program:

  • 120 lessons or
  • Viable Practicum
  • Theoretical Component – subscribing to the philosophical percepts of Communicative Approach Teaching (“CAT”)
  1. Which programs have been vetted by embassies requiring a valid TEFL/TESOL certificate?

At times, a foreign embassy validates a program to process a work-visa application. This means that if the applicant does not hold a viable TEFL Certification, the embassy will not process the visa. 

  1. Which programs pay lip service to the CAT? 

Many programs, schools and/or institutes market the fact that they incorporate CAT into their TEFL Certification programs. The simple way to check whether only “lip service” is being paid (talking the talk is not walking the walk, so to speak) is to investigate whether the program promotes using written materials at the beginning levels as a means to teach ESOL. 

  1. Which programs actually use the CAT as a base to certify its students?

There are quite a few options when it comes to providers of the TEFL Certification program and, as aforementioned, a lot of these programs may claim to use CAT’s framework in order to certify its students, but that is not always the case. An easy way to tell whether or not a program is true to CAT is to look at whether or not the program uses a book-series to teach a foreign language. The very fundamental blueprint of CAT stresses the importance of not using a book and not promoting the idea that language can be acquired and learned via its written form. Programs that follow this approach are clear champions of CAT.

  1. How do I know what CAT is and isn’t?

The CAT provides a system that is based on the irrefutable fact that acquisition & learning of a language (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th language) is not an academic process and one should never use a book (or written form) as the principal step to acquire and learn a language. Thus, if the certification program’s practicum outlines any other type of curriculum then that is a sign that this program does not follow CAT, instead it more than likely follows the Grammar-Translation Method (“GTM”). The Grammar-Translation Method uses a system that teaches the rules of the language, known and understood only to grammarians, and translates from the student’s native language to the target language. 

  1. Are online TEFL Certification programs valid?

Online programs are valid only if the practicum is viable and the theory advocates CAT. 

  1. Do online programs offer an actual practicum?

Yes, online programs can offer an actual practicum. 

  1. Is the TEFL Certification practicum based on the theory the program advocates or is the theory based on practicum?

Every theoretical aspect has to be founded on acquisition, learning, studying, and teaching experiences that have been deemed and continue to be deemed successful. Experts in the acquisition of foreign languages have created a theory based on their own successful experiences as learners, students and teachers “in” a language that is foreign to them, and they have mastered these languages on a variety of levels. 

  1. Is a TEFL Certification a diploma?

Some university programs offer TESOL Diplomas, at the Master’s level. All sorts of businesses offer TEFL, TESL or TESOL Certifications, varying greatly in price, quality, and validity. A certificate in TEFL/TESL/TESOL is NOT a diploma. 

Closing Thoughts

There you have it folks. The go-to-guide overview of TESOL. If you liked what you read, please make sure to subscribe to this blog for new content surrounding language acquisition. If you’re interested in signing up for a TEFL Certification program that adheres to CAT’s guidelines, please click here.

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