The CELTA Course – My Personal Experience in Toronto

Last Updated on January 14, 2021 by Charmaine | The Canadian Wanderer

CELTA is one of the most recognizable qualifications in the English teaching industry around the world.  If you are considering to teach English and am looking for a TEFL certificate that is accredited worldwide, I would recommend taking the CELTA. 

In this post, I am going to talk about the CELTA, why I think it is a great course and a breakdown of my own personal experience in Toronto, Canada. 

What is CELTA?

The Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) is a 120-hours introductory course in teaching English, accredited by Cambridge English Language Assessment. It is recognized as Level 5 on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and is comparable to the difficulty of a second-year undergraduate degree. You can take the course on a full time (4-5 weeks), part-time, or a blended learning format (online and in-person). This course is very intensive and it is one of the most expensive TEFL courses available on the teaching market. 

Who can take it?

There are three requirements to be admitted for the CELTA:

  1. You are a proficient English language user. If you are not native, you are expected to have an English level between CEFR Level C1 and C2 or above.
  2. You have gained education that will allow you to pursue higher education.
  3. You are at least 18 years old.

In addition to these requirements, you will have to complete a pre-test to show your understanding of the English language and its grammar, followed by an in-person interview. 

hands up

Why should you take it?

The CELTA is an introductory course in teaching English to Adults and provides valuable in-person training. Unlike many TEFL certificates that are sold on the Internet, you can be sure that the CELTA is a credential that is widely accepted in many countries. 

Here are some of the advantages: 

  1. You are getting a qualification that is recognized among employers from all over the world and stay above the competition for jobs abroad 
  2. In-class face-to-face training from experienced instructors who provide you immediate feedback and how to improve on your next lesson
  3. You will have an opportunity to teach real students from various levels

These things do come with a big price tag  and it is an average of $2500 USD for the course. However, this price fluctuates depending on the location and organization that you decide to take it with. 

My Personal Recommendation

Since the CELTA is a heavy investment in terms of time, energy and money, I would recommend people to try out teaching (even if it is for a volunteer position) before jumping into this course. It is a lot of work.

If you are interested in teaching for the long run (3-5 years) and want a chance to apply for better job opportunities, the CELTA is for you. 

Teaching in English-Speaking Countries

One of the perks of obtaining a CELTA qualification is the chance to work in English-speaking countries. If you are considering to return home one day and would like to continue teaching, CELTA is definitely the qualification that will help you to get your foot in the door. 

Since I knew that I wanted to return to Toronto, I wanted to ensure I had a qualification that is well-accredited and accepted in the industry. It also helped that my teaching centre is the same location as their language centre, so I was able to network with my instructors to be hired the year after. 

classroom with empty chairs and desks

Where can you take it?

There are many locations around the world to take the CELTA. You can look at the Cambridge English website to find a location that works best for you. In some countries, CELTA is not offered, in which case I would recommend taking a level 5 TESL certificate accreditation such as the one offered at International TEFL Academy.  

The Location Debate

There has been some debate on the Internet whether it is better to take the CELTA in an English-speaking country or in another country where the main language is not English. Since the course is standardized, in the end, the qualification you receive is the same. 

However, the price and experience will differ. For example, will you be teaching students who all speak the same language or will you be working with a diverse group? When I did my course in Toronto, the practice lessons were conducted with visitors or new immigrants, who wanted to improve their English for free. I was exposed to a number of students from different backgrounds. 

There is no right answer for this so I recommend that you do your research and see if you can find reviews about a location that you are interested in. You can also go onto the main website and see the qualifications of the trainers. 

My Experience Revealed

In August 2016, I took the CELTA one-month intensive course at EC English Toronto. My interviewer emphasized that it was important that I stayed focused for all four weeks to complete it successfully. After just two days, I knew he was right. It was physically and mentally demanding. 

In a nutshell, this is an overview of the course: 

  • 120-hours 
  • 4 written assignments 
  • 6 hours of teaching practice with real students
  • Immediate feedback after the teaching sessions 
  • An opportunity to observe a real classroom with experienced teachers

 

My Classmates

When I did the CELTA course in Toronto, majority of us were native speakers but we also had non-native speakers in the class. For the non-native speakers, I found they grasped grammar concepts very well and understood nuances that were not as obvious to me. Since they had to learn English as a second language, they understood the student’s journey better.

In my cohort of 16 students, half of the students had little to no experience teaching while the other half had some experience in the field. CELTA can be used as a stepping stone into teaching but it is also suited for those in the profession and would like to upgrade their qualifications.

CELTA timetable - The Canadian Wanderer

The Schedule

The schedule was very intensive. Every day it began at 8:30 AM and ended around 6:00 PM and was equivalent to working full-time. For the full month, I did not do anything but focus on completing the CELTA course. 

Morning:

The lessons were split up into two portions. In the morning portion before noon, our teachers would teach us teaching techniques and theories and examples of how to teach. You would have to get up on your feet to demonstrate examples or brainstorm in pairs/ groups about your teaching ideas.

Afternoon: 

In the afternoon, it was more focused on the teaching practice and applying your knowledge from the lessons that you had learnt in the last 2 days. You would get a small class of volunteer students (mostly here for vacation or immigrants) who would like to improve their English skills.

The lessons’ length will gradually increase each time: first 20 mins, then 30 mins and finally 1 hour. I was lucky that my centre had enough students that we were able to teach 3 levels (pre-intermediate, intermediate and upper-intermediate) so I got to spend one week with each level. During each lesson, your trainer and classmates will evaluate your lesson and provide you feedback at the end of the class. Generally, I left school around 6 PM after all the teaching and feedback.

Evening: 

I would get home around 7:00 PM after the commute. I would take a break, sometimes even a nap, so I have the energy to restart again at 9:00 PM to do the homework. Every day, I prepared a full lesson plan, which outlined my activity and the time it takes. My trainers was willing to provide feedback on my lessons on the days I don’t present so I can make improvements for the day after. It was super helpful! 

Homework

In addition to planning lessons, we were also given 4 written assessments over the course of the four weeks. One of them was doing a language analysis of the sentences given and another was analyzing a student’s accents and common mistakes. We had to explain what led them to these errors and provide activities to aide them to improve. The course was filled with multiple deadlines and barely any time to absorb the new information learnt.  

CELTA Schedule

My Final Verdict 

It is very hard to describe what the CELTA experience is like. When your instructors tell you that it is very intensive, you won’t know what that means until you are really in the program. Now as I reflect back on the course, I can tell you that it was definitely challenging but rewarding

Through the CELTA course, I learnt that teaching is not always about speaking and instructing. It is also about facilitating, and helping your students come up with the answers on their own and preparing the prompts to help them to get there. Even years after I competed the CELTA, I still find the techniques I learnt to be useful today. 

If you are serious about becoming an ESL teacher and want to learn new teaching techniques, I highly recommend taking the CELTA. It is a decision you will not regret. 

Let me know below what you think about the CELTA or if you have any questions that you want me to answer. Good luck!