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What is TEFL?

So…… you’ve decided to take the big leap and try Teaching English as a foreign language. You read through the vast library of articles on travel websites, and you see the “TEFL” acronym at almost every turn.

So, the first question that immediately comes to mind is ‘What is TEFL?’ If I told you to re-read these first few sentences, would you believe the answer already presented itself? That’s right. TEFL stands for ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language.’ The terminology is simple, but what is TEFL in itself? What does it involve? Yes, it certainly involves speaking, but always remember the first letter in the TEFL acronym.

What you do as an English Teacher involves your students learning the language. There are many ways one can go about teaching English, and each of them carry with them certain advantages and drawbacks.

Conversation classes, from the point of view of the teacher hoping to make a quick buck, will appear to be the easiest way to go about communicating with students. This is typically when the teacher talks to a student, and makes corrections when and where necessary, demonstrating the definition and form in a way to make learners understand. It certainly sounds easy, doesn’t it? In short, it is easy…… until you run out of things to talk about. So, how does a teacher keep a conversation student engaged? That is the question that is always asked. There are several things one can do here to prevent boring sessions between the teacher and the student. The key thing is to pay attention to the interests of the student. For example, if you’re working with someone who works at a grocery store, you might not want to bring politics into the mix. They may not be interested. If you’re planning on moving to Spain, learning a bit about Spanish Pop Culture, or perhaps a thing or two about the student’s heritage might get them to open up a little. Rapport is essential in establishing, building and maintaining interaction between you and your student.

TEFL isn’t only the interaction between student and teacher. It’s also imparting a method of teaching the English language in a way that the student understands and builds on. Grammar is another, more common way of Teaching English. In countries like Spain, Japan, and Thailand, academies have sprung up, demanding the talents of people who speak English at a native level. With grammar, the important thing is showing the language in context, and then building towards its definition, form and pronunciation. After this time, students have the opportunity to practice and (hopefully) integrate it into their linguistic skillset. Not only is understanding how language works important for learners, but it’s also important for teachers, as well. If you, as the teacher, don’t understand how the language works, how will you expect your students to learn?

Exam Preparation is what it’s all about for many students in foreign countries, like Spain. Most students learn English so they can either study in another country or accept a job in another country. Before they do, however, they have to demonstrate the skills they acquired, and that requires them to take those skills and focus them under, in many cases, intense pressure. That’s what the Exam Preparation class is all about. TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, Cambridge, and CELPIP among many others are examples of English language tests that educational institutions and countries require before accepting candidates from other countries. In these classes, candidates learn to use their skills in focused situations. Some review of grammar and vocabulary might be necessary, but the point here is to make sure that they can handle the test that they’re preparing for.


Whether you’re teaching conversation, grammar, or exam preparation, some understanding of the mechanics involved with the English language is necessary. As native speakers of English, we grew up using it, but not enough time understanding it. So, if you want to be a trusted member of the teaching community, it’s important to take the class that will help you break down the necessary parts of the English language, and how to present it to students.

This is where the TEFL Certification class comes in.

A TEFL Certification is, simply explained, the English teacher training course. If you’re interested in making the move to expat life, and experiencing what comes with it, this is a logical step to take. So, what is involved with TEFL Certification? Firstly, it shows prospective English teachers how the English language works. Think about it. If you are a teacher, and someone asks you a question involving the form of a particular grammar point, you should certainly be able to look back and respond with what the grammar point is comprised of. Students are counting on you to be the expert, and that’s what TEFL Certification classes do.

Another important thing about these courses is that they not only show you the mechanics of your own language, they also give you the how-to when it comes to teaching them to learners. Everything from nouns, verbs, adjectives, to the definition and function of grammar points like the third conditional. Remember: You want to be seen as an expert to the people who need this language. Knowing what it is from the beginning will be instrumental to your success as a teacher.

The final thing with TEFL Certification Classes is that they not only show you a bit more about your language, they will give you the opportunity to practice with actual learners. In a reputed teacher-training class, you will be given designated slots to practice your growing skills as a teacher. You will be assigned a group of students with a particular level in knowledge, and you will be asked to do a practice lesson with them. The teacher in charge of the course will assess your ability to elicit responses from students, keeping them under control and making sure they aren’t misbehaving, and checking their overall understanding of target language. In other words, are they participating, and do they understand what they’re being taught? From start to finish, this is your first real experience as a teacher. In a reputed 120-hour course, you will be asked to give at least three teacher practice sessions with students of all levels.


So, why not just pack a bag, move to a foreign country, and start opening your mouth? Why is it necessary to do even more classes? You left that all behind when you graduated university. The reason to take a TEFL Certification course is the same reason you should take more classes if you wanted to be a scientist or a doctor. Before people can trust in your talent, you have to develop your talent. How can you do that without theoretical knowledge and practical application? You speak English, but you don’t know how the language works. Look at it another way, if you will. You can recite the various components of a cell phone, but what do those parts do when you use them? It’s the exact same thing with language. Many students know what the words are, but they can’t effectively communicate until they know what they do when they’re used. It’s not only true of the English language. It’s also true of any other language spoken on this planet.

Of course, you can’t always rely on the TEFL Certification course. They do end, after all. That’s when you, the English teacher, get to put those newfound skills to good use. Beyond the scope of any course, you can evolve and make each class unique to your personality and experience. Let what you learn in the class simply be the beginning. With knowledge and experience under your belt, you have the opportunity to evolve as a professional. People will look to you not only for what you learned in class, but they will also look to you for the time you spend with students developing their talent and skills. You’ll discover which area of English teaching you want to do. Maybe you’ll find a clever way to impart grammar onto students. Maybe you’re skilled in preparing students for the TOEFL or the IELTS, exams that have become the international standard for employment and citizenship. Maybe people really are comfortable simply talking to you, and you have engaging methods with the conversation class. Age groups? Perhaps you’re comfortable with children, and you like to be dynamic and fun. Maybe you’re a bit more at home with adults and prefer your classes to be structured and calm. Do you like to do your classes at an academy? In someone’s home? Maybe you want to take it with your laptop and work online. Whatever your preference is, the realm of possibilities is in front of you if and when you choose to take that leap. It’s all there when you’re ready.

Exam Madrid Team
Exam Madrid Team
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