TEFL vs TESL vs TESOL vs CELTA [2017] - What’s The Difference-

If you have come here, it is clear that teaching English abroad is among your career options.

When you search for teaching English abroad, the internet confuses you with terms like TEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA.

It is not hard to understand that all of these terms are concerned with teaching English abroad. What is difficult to understand is where is the difference between TEFL and TESOL? Which one should you prefer? Where should you get the certification?

The Internet is inundated with articles explaining the difference between these terms. But most of them end up confusing you even more.

However, after researching throughout the web, I found the clearest answer to the above questions in the following video. So, here is how the video clearly explains the difference between TEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA.

Let’s tackle the terms one by one.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

This term simply means teaching English as a foreign language. In simple words, it means teaching English to non-native speakers in a non-English speaking country.

For instance: Teaching English in China, Russia, or Japan.

TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language)

This term means teaching English as a second language. In simple words, it means teaching English to non-native speakers in an English-speaking country.

For instance: Teaching English to immigrants in U.S. or U.K.

So the only difference between TEFL and TESL is concerned with the country where English is taught.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

TESOL refers to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. And as mentioned earlier, both TEFL and TESL involve teaching English to non-native speakers or speakers of other languages. So, TESOL covers both TEFL and TESL, i.e. if you want to avoid the confusion, you don’t have to remember all these terms, just refer to the industry of teaching English abroad as TESOL.

To sum it up….

TEFL, TESL, and TESOL all mean teaching English to non-native English speakers. The only difference is in which country English is taught. This difference slightly modifies the context of the way of teaching. That is all.

Besides, TESOL is an industry of English teaching. It is not a college, university, or certification.

Now, What About CELTA?

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults) is a certificate course meant for those who wish to teach English to Adults. As it is meant for Teaching English to speakers of other languages, CELTA certification can be said to be a TESOL for teaching adults.

The reason that CELTA is as common as the terms TEFL, TESL, and TESOL is that CELTA certification is offered by one of the most widely recognized universities, i.e. Cambridge University. Because of this, the course enjoys a wide recognition.

You can read all about CELTA here.

Read Also: CELTA Certification Course: Eligibility, Fees & Career Prospects

TEFL/TESOL Structure

The standard course structure of TEFL/TESOL comprises 100 hours of theoretical learning and 6-20 hours of live practical teaching to ESL students.

Any course that falls short of 100 hours academic learning or does not involve practical teaching to ESL students isn’t recognized by employers.

TEFL/TESOL Course Duration

Full-time TEFL/TESOL courses usually take around 4 weeks, while part-time courses may take up to 3-4 months.

What to Consider Before Enrolling for A TESOL Course?

The main TEFL/TESOL accrediting bodies are:

Apart from these accrediting bodies, there are some other accredited universities that offer TEFL/TESOL courses. They are:

Hope you clearly understand that TESL, TEFL, and TESOL are merely the terms that refer to the industry of teaching abroad. And CELTA certification is only a TESOL course meant for adults. There are a number of institutions offering TEFL, TESL, and TESOL courses.

Before choosing any of the courses, you must check the requirements by the employers in the country where you wish to work.

So Good Luck! Have an exotic English teaching career 🙂

Posted by Samiksha Kaintura

Loves to see the world from a modern perspective and a feminist by birth.


  1. Harishragavendra2421@gmail.com'

    Taking maths or computer science subject in commerse dtudies in 11 will be benefited

  2. Leonardodavinciv2.0@gmail.com'

    IMa a science graduate pls tell me how can i become science teacher abroad?Thank you

  3. anujgairola13@gmail.com'

    Very informative

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