The market for English as a Second Language instructors has blossomed over the last few decades and so too has the number of TESOL Certifications options. Would-be international educators that are wondering how to teach English abroad are now confronted with a veritable alphabet soup of competing acronyms like TESOL [Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages], ELT [English Language Teaching], and TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language].
Fortunately, however, the astounding number letter combinations that have popped up in recent years are largely interchangeable. The acronyms, born out of competition among certifying institutions, are not globally standardized and are frequently seen as equivalent. Thus an employer will typically consider a TESOL certification to be the same as a TEFL certification and vice versa.
That is not to say, however, that all programs are created equal: while a given ELT certification may be seen as equivalent to a TEFL certification, the pedigree of the certification is becoming increasingly important. Thus the letters matter less than where they came from. Every employer is different but, generally speaking, an online TEFL program is less-well respected than an intensive on-site one – but a generic on-site one is itself less prestigious than one which also features classroom experience. Of course, the CELTA [Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults] in general and the DELTA [Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults] in particular remain the gold standard of ESL education. The DELTA, for example, the professional qualification in English language teaching backed by the University of Cambridge, is widely respected throughout the world.
At the same time, however, it is important to remember that ESL positions are like snowflakes – each one is unique. As a result there is still considerable appeal to even the simplest of online certifications. Applicants and employers alike know that it may well be just the first step in a long time of TESOL certification and ESL success.