What's the difference between TEFL, TESL, and TESOL?

What's the difference between TEFL, TESL, and TESOL?

Updated February 11, 2022

TEFL, TESL, and TESOL are all certifications for teaching English to English language learners. All of these certifications offer the same level of qualification to teach English.

The one that’s best for you depends on who – and where – you plan to teach. If you are looking to teach abroad it is important to choose the right certification so that you are prepared to be the best teacher you can be. 

So, which course is right for you: TEFL vs. TESL vs. TESOL? Read on to find out!

Update on ESL certification courses in 2022

TEFL, TESL, and TESOL certifications are still accepted by schools around the world seeking to hire international teachers in 2022.

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

A TEFL certification provides the skills needed to teach English abroad in countries where students do not speak English as their first language, such as China, Japan or Brazil. TEFL certification is the most widely recognized and highly regarded qualification of its kind around the world.

While a 100-hour TEFL certificate is the minimum requirement set by many hiring bodies abroad, it’s important to note that at least 120 hours of TEFL training is the commonly expected standard for the highest salary teaching jobs around the world.

TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

TESL is a qualification for teaching students whose first language is not English, but are currently living in an English-speaking country.

For example, teaching temporary students, workers, or recent immigrants to countries such as the USA, UK, Australia and Canada. A TESL would be suitable for jobs in these countries such as a language support teacher for school students whose first language isn’t English.

TESL courses are most relevant for those looking to teach English within their home country. TESL is also a highly respected ESL qualification in Canada.

TESOL – Teaching English to Students Learning English as a Second Language

This qualification is newer and gives some flexibility as to whether you teach English overseas or in an English speaking country.

However, while TESOL courses may cover a broader range of topics, they tend to study them in less depth. TESOL courses are not as widely recognized and are sometimes incompatible with some curriculum plans.

The University of Toronto offers an online TEFL certification due to its global compatibility, wide recognition and continued success with students. 

To learn more and compare our courses, click here.


Hi, my name Meryem, i am interested in teaching English, i am so confused which certificate shall i get, I found different prices and different names of certificates.

Please help me to find the right one.

Meryem Jamai
Hello Gilda, thank you for your comment!

All students have one year to complete the TEFL Online program, at their own pace. The average completion time is 2-3 months. The cost for our three different courses can be found on our enroll page here: https://teflonline.teachaway.com/enroll/ You will be sent details to login to the course immediately after enrolling to begin right away.

Christie Van Tol
What is the length and cost of the TEFL program?
Hi, I am a Singaporean who’s semi-retired and may wish to stay in Vietnam for a period of time and perhaps considering teaching English to adult learners.

Which would be the most appropriate course that I should purse TEFL or TESOL to meet my objective? Appreciate your valued professional advise.

Hello Serena!

Great question. A TEFL certification is designed to qualify teachers to teach English as a foreign language in countries where English is not the first or native language. A TEFL certificate is the standard qualification international schools look for when identifying qualified teacher candidates globally. If you wish to teach ESL in Canada we recommended consulting with the Canadian institution directly to determine what qualifications they require.

Christie Van Tol

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