TEFL, TESOL, ESL, ELT: What is the difference?

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TEFL, TESOL, ESL, ELT: What is the difference?

On March 19, 2021, Posted by , In TEFL Blog, With No Comments

Are you planning to start your career as an English Teacher and getting a bit lost by all the different abbreviated terminologies that you may encounter while searching for English teaching jobs or teaching training courses?

You are in the right place to finally understand the meaning of these terms and find out which of them apply to you.

What do they all mean?

  • ESL – English as a Second Language
  • EFL – English as a Foreign Language
  • ELT – English Language Teaching
  • TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • ESOL – English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Now that you know the meaning of these abbreviations, you understand that there is no big difference between them. The important thing to have in mind is that they all refer to the professional field of teaching English to non-native speakers of this language. As a consequence, they all apply to you if your aim is to become an English teacher, whether you are a native speaker or not. More than 50% of our applicants for the Trinity CertTESOL are not native speakers of English. In our experience, non-native speakers can become excellent TEFL teachers as long as they hold a high level of English. In fact, there is an argument for suggesting that non-native speakers are often better TEFL teachers than native speakers because they are able to use their experience of learning English as a second language to empathize with their students.

In practice, what should you be looking for?

The Trinity CertTESOL and CELTA courses are the only accredited TEFL courses which are recognized by both the British Council and employers worldwide. The qualifications and recognition are exactly the same, the only difference is that the CELTA is accredited by Cambridge University and the Trinity CertTESOL by Trinity College London. Other TEFL courses will not have the same credibility, therefore may not be effective in helping you to start your career as an EFL teacher.


If you’re serious about starting a career as an English teacher we advise you either take the CELTA or the Trinity CertTESOL as they’re the only level 5 teaching qualifications, the minimum requirement for teaching English as a foreign language. 

Course options:

We at TEFL in Italy offer full-time, part-time and Online Blended 130-hour Trinity CertTESOL courses in Rome, Italy including a minimum of 6 hours of observed teaching practice. Here you can see the course options available and the course overview.

What about self-paced online and/or weekend courses?

First of all, most employers don’t accept self-paced online or weekend TEFL courses. There is one simple reason that makes studying in a school the right option: PRACTICE!
We provide Observed Teaching Practice hours with real students, allowing you to put everything you have learned into practice. In the feedback session after every lesson, your tutor will give you tips to work on improving your skills and specific target areas.
Ultimately, taking a self-pace online/weekend TEFL course is disservice to you and your future students. Future employers look favorably on a high amount of practical experience as giving all these practice lessons helps enormously when you’re standing in front of your first real class!

We hope that everything is clearer now and that you are feeling more comfortable with entering the world of TEFL. All that remains for you now is to gain your qualification and start your career as an English Teacher anywhere in the world! TEFL in Italy will be here to support you at every step on your TEFL journey and if you have any more questions, feel free to contact us, we would be happy to have a friendly chat with you!

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