A TEFL Certificate vs. TESOL or TESL

Without the proper background knowledge, the terms used in the field of foreign language acquisition can seem like a foreign language themselves.

TESOL, TESL, TEFL - Which One?

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL applies in areas where English is not considered the primary language: for example, teaching English to local students in China. TEFL educators do not always need to be native English speakers. Of the three certifications addressed on this page, a TEFL certificate provides the highest degree of compatibility worldwide.

TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language

A TESL certification applies to areas in which English is considered the primary language: for example, teaching English to second-language learners in the United States. To qualify for international teaching jobs in ESL, educators must speak English as their native language. In exceptional cases, however, they may be able to teach in this field by demonstrating a level of proficiency that presents no discernible difference for the student.

TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

In Canadian and American terminology, a TESOL certificate may apply as either a TESL or TEFL certificate; however, the designation is subject to restrictions based on country. No uniform designation exists across different areas. Outside of North America, TESOL often replaces the term TEFL.

 

For educators hoping to teach and travel, a TEFL certificate provides the highest degree of compatibility.

The terms TESOL, TESL, and TEFL correspond to the native language of the country of instruction. Due to the high global demand for EFL instruction, the University of Toronto offers a TEFL certification.

Other Useful Acronyms:

ESL – English as a Second Language

EFL – English as a Foreign Language

ESP – English for specific purposes

TOEFL – Test of English as a foreign language

TOEIC – Test of English for international communication

 

For more information on the University of Toronto’s TEFL Online program, please visit the TEFL Online Course page.