If you’ve ever considered a teaching career in the ESL industry, I’m sure you are familiar with the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language ) certificate. We often see it being advertised on the Internet or being asked on job boards for teaching English. Even though it is common that a Bachelor’s degree is sufficient enough to be qualified for the job, some countries do require a TEFL certificate to show that you have done some sort of teacher training and are serious about teaching.
Since there are a number of TEFL certificates out there, I wanted to specifically talk about the CELTA, the course which I have chosen to do. It is the more expensive choice, but I swear it is worth every single penny.
What is CELTA?
The Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) is accredited by Cambridge English Language Assessment and is recognised as one of the most recognisable TEFL certificate in the world. It is a 120-hours introductory course in teaching English to adult learners. You can either choose between full-time (1 month intensive) or part-time (3 months night courses + weekends). The course is very practical and includes a lot of theoretical teachings, written assessments as well as teaching practice to real students. .
Who can take it?
There are two requirements in order for you to take the course. The first requirement is that you are a proficient English language user (between CEFR Level C1 and C2 or above). The second requirement is that you have gained university entrance qualifications and be at least 20 years old.
In my experience, majority of the students who take this course are native English speakers but I have also seen fluent English speakers to have also taken the course. In my cohort of 16 students of when I took the course, half of the students had no or little experience teaching, while the other half had some to a lot of experience in the field. One of my classmates had no experience of ever teaching and I was sure by the end of it, would never want to teach again. Since the CELTA is a heavy investment in terms of time, energy and money, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to take this course unless 1) you are absolutely sure they have the right personality for teaching and 2) have some previous experience teaching.
Why should you take it?
The CELTA is an introductory course in teaching English to Adults and provides a lot of in-person training. Unlike many TEFL certificates that are sold on the Internet, you know what you are getting with a CELTA. You know that 1) you are getting a recognisable qualification and you will not have to second-guess its accreditation, 2) in-class face-to-face training from experienced instructors and 3) you will have teaching practice with real students. These things do come with a big price tag and it is an average of $2500 USD. However, this price fluctuates depending on the location and organization that you decide to take it with.
Even though CELTA is recognized worldwide and can be the qualification you need for a better job abroad, please keep in mind that CELTA is also a good qualification to teach in private institutions in English-speaking countries. If you are considering to come home one day and would like to continue in the ESL industry, CELTA is definitely the qualification that you need to get your foot in the door. This is especially applicable to Canada, where many institutions will expect you to have a CELTA or equivalent to teach in their schools.
Tip: Don’t forget to ask your trainers if you can teach out at your training centre if they are also a running ESL centre. They would most likely want to hire you!
Where can you take it?
There are many options and places where you can take it. You can look at the Cambridge English website to find a location that works best for you. In some countries, CELTA is not offered but you might be able to find an equivalent like the Trinity CertTESOL course. Both these courses are recognised as Level 5 on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and is comparable to the difficulty of a second year of an undergraduate degree.
There has been some debate on the Internet whether it is better to take it in an English-speaking country or in another country where the main language is English. This is because some people want to pay a smaller price for the same qualification. On some forums, it is recommended to take it in an English-speaking country so that you can ensure that they have native speaker instructors who can offer better training, but in the end, it is up to you. Look at the trainers on their website to find out their qualifications or ask about it if it is not posted.
What was the Course Like?
In August 2016, I have chosen to take the CELTA one-month intensive at LSC in Toronto. At this centre, they had a pre-test to show my understanding of the English language and its grammatical structure as well as an interview to ensure that I was committed to the course. It was emphasised time and time again that I would need to stay focused for all four weeks to complete it successfully.
In a nutshell, this is what the course had covered:
- 120-hours teaching courses
- 4 written assignments
- Class observations of other teachers
- 6 hours of teaching practice with 3 different levels while being observed by my trainers
The schedule was very intensive. Everyday it began at 8:30 AM and ended around 6:00 PM. It was literally equivalent to working on a full-time basis. The lessons were split up into two portions. In the morning portion before noon, it was packed with 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.
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 / immigrants) who would like to learn from you. The lessons will gradually increase: first 20 mins, then 30 mins and then soon up to 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. Your trainer will be there observing you and give you immediate feedback at the end of the class. You will also have to watch your classmates and write some comments during the feedback sessions. Generally, I left school around 6PM after all the teaching and feedback.
I would get home around 8:00 PM after the commute and dinner and would have to restart again at 9:00 PM to start the homework. Everyday, we have to prepare a full lesson plan (includes the activity and the time duration for each activity) either we are teaching or not that day. If you are teaching, then you have to execute to the class, but if not, then it is to show the trainer some initial ideas you have and to get feedback on how to improve.
In addition, 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 analysing a student’s accents and common mistakes. We had to explain what led them to these problems and activities to aide them to improve. Therefore, with multiple deadlines and barely any time to absorb the information, the course was indeed very demanding and exhausting.
What was my Overall Experience?
If you have read up to here, you are probably freaking out and considering not to take this course. It is physically demanding and it is indeed a lot of hard work.
I have to admit. I was tired and it was so hard on my body. I never had time to do anything during these four weeks but it was so worth it. Through the course, you gain so much inspiration, ideas, and methods to become a better teacher. When I first decided to take the course, I thought CELTA would help me to improve my grammar but it taught me so much more. It showed me several teaching methodologies, and taught me to think out of the box.
Now, as I teach ESL in a multilingual classroom, I can see that many things that I have learnt from CELTA is applicable. I use these methods to push my students to think more, leaving me only as a facilitator, not a lecturer, to aide them in the learning. It really has boosted my confidence as a teacher.
I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a challenge and am serious about being an ESL instructor.
I would love to answer any questions you have!
Have you taken the CELTA? What was your experience? Love to know!