CELTA, TEFL, TESOL - anyone done these before?

So I’m planning to teach English in Asia next year and the word is that one or more of the following certifications are the way to go - TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA. Anyone done one of these before? Is it meaningful to have more than one of these? (TESOL or TEFL, for me, could only be done online; I still have to work a day job.)

Back in the 1980’s, my brother went off to Japan to teach English for a year.

I was just starting in college, thought that sounded fun, and added to my courses a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language (CTESL). That included taking several different courses over a few years, plus 25 hours as a tutor or assistant instructor of English.

I finished my certificate courses, then my minor, then my General Ed requirements and the 25-hours of tutoring, then my major and degree. Then I worked a real job and hunted for companies in Japan that were in need of teachers. Six months later I was in Los Angeles, showing off my interpersonal skills and teaching ability; three months later I was in Nagoya, training for a week to teach out of the company’s curriculum. One week after that, I was stationed in a tiny town on the upper West Coast of Japan.

I worked with two other ‘Foreign English Teachers’ at my little school, and there were three other schools (one was a childrens’ branch of my company) in town. I learned at a social gathering-of-teachers that, among the dozen FETs in town, I was one of three who had any extensive training at all – I had the CETSL, two had TEFLs from their schools. We generally agreed they were basically the same training requirements with different acronyms attached. We talked a bit about psycholinguistics and Chomsky’s transformations (I was the only one who liked them) and our companies’ accommodations and job duties (naturally, they differ from company to company) and we went our merry ways. We didn’t keep in touch much, except to share some information about getting international telephone service added to our apartment land lines.

It’s worth noting that, when my brother got his gig, he had only his bachelors’ degree; special training in teaching English was not required at all. I found that I had an easier time in the initial week of training sessions than my fellow teachers and I’m pretty sure that my CETSL background helped. I also found that my knack for developing new training aids based on the course materials was encouraged. In contrast, my colleagues at the school didn’t seem to bother (though that may have been a matter of my initiative rather than their level of formal linguistic training).


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I got a TEFL certificate ten years ago and then taught in Vietnam for about a year. It was somewhat useful that I had it, and of course I learned some skills in the program. The program was by Oxford, which is not associated with Oxford University, but sounds like it could be, so there’s that. The program was over two weekends, so it won’t impact your normal job. At the time, and probably still, there was no accrediting body for TEFL/TESOL certification, so the various organizations just made up their own standards. In other words, I could claim that this post gives you the skills you need and issue you a TEFL certificate for reading it! Oxford was relatively rigorous though, and the instructor had ten years" experience teaching English in Japan.

What kind of job are you looking for and where are you planning on going?

I didn’t get any of the certifications, but then I’m working in a smaller city and they aren’t as picky. Once you have some experience then it becomes less important.

However, getting the training would be beneficial.

I think a lot of employers look at the training more to see if the applicants are serious about teaching or not. There are many people who come over and expect to be able to teach with no training or experience. Many of them are pretty flaky.

Planning to teach in Taiwan, maybe for 3-5 years. Prefer to teach adults (and CELTA is for adult learners; I think TESL/TESOL/TEFL is for adults and/or kids.) Preferably part-time tutoring but the job market may dictate a full-time in-classroom job instead.

There are some part time positions around.

Most of the jobs teaching adults are at conversation schools. Not really classrooms, but small groups.