What is TESOL and what does it stand for teaching • Define with Grade University

What is TESOL and Does It Matter in Your Teaching Career

What is TESOL and Does It Matter in Your Teaching Career


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  • Teaching qualifications
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  • Methodology

We have already talked about some certifications for English teachers. Now it is high time to learn more about TESOL: what it is and how it is different from other certification programs, how you should choose the perfect certification program, and which requirements you are supposed to meet.

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What is TESOL?

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is also known as TESOL.

Although it is most frequently used to refer to language education that takes place in English-speaking countries, it can apply to teaching English to non-native English speakers everywhere, including overseas and in English-speaking nations.

What does TESOL stand for? Well, you may see the definition of TESOL in two contexts: TESOL as a professional organization or as a training program to teach English to speakers of other languages (in the US or abroad). 

The professional organization was established in 1966 which was a result of a 4-year process of research and discussions focused on three main issues:

  • the demand for a permanent professional organization committed to the issues in teaching English to language learners at all levels;
  • the necessity of the tools that help educators to keep track of their work;
  • the need for a list of competent specialists who can be involved in the work of foundations, government agencies, and universities.

Therefore, TESOL was established through the collaboration of five companies, all sharing an equal commitment to addressing challenges in second language acquisition. These companies include:

  • The Center of Applied Linguistics, which focuses on applied linguistics and incorporates an ESL curriculum.
  • The Modern Language Association of America, dedicated to teaching English and foreign languages to native speakers and scholars in literary studies.
  • The National Association of Foreign Student Affairs, primarily concerned with addressing language-related matters affecting foreign students.
  • The National Council of Teachers of English, addressing various aspects of English pedagogy, including ESL.
  • The Speech Association of America, with a general focus on classroom dynamics and functioning.

The representatives of these five interested organizations made up the committee for the TESOL conferences held in Tucson in 1964, San Diego in 1965, and New York in 1966.

You may also ask yourself: what is TESOL certification? As for TESOL as a training program, it is a global education association that has more than 13 000 members and 90 affiliates in over 120 countries. 

TESOL is a training program for educators that gives methodological support on how to teach English to speakers of other languages. 

Since TESOL was created in the 60s, it has gone through many changes over the years, so methodologies depict the developments in linguistic theory over time. Throughout time the following TESOL teaching approaches were dominant:

  • Grammar Translation Method which had a strong emphasis on learning and teaching grammar;
  • The Direct Method which implied that second language learning doesn’t differ much from learning the first one; Therefore, the teacher had to embrace spontaneous learning, implementing pictures and symbols, making students deduce grammar rules from the content rather than explaining them, etc.
  • The Audiolingual Method which primarily focuses on pronunciation and requires teachers to teach it explicitly from the beginning;
  • The Communicative Approach which has been popular since the 1980s. According to this approach, the main purpose of studying a language is communication which is why teaching how to speak is the central goal. 
  • Task-Based Language Teaching where the central task is supposed to be both focused on the meaning and the form and engage productive and receptive, oral and written skills as well as different cognitive processes. Moreover, the tasks might be language-centered, learner-centered, or learning-centered.

However, the perception of the method itself continues to change (more and more scholars talk about the so-called post-method era and using an alternative to the method rather than searching for alternative methods on and on) as well as the needs of students, so undoubtedly we will witness new developments in preparing ESL teachers.

What is the Difference Between TEFL and TESOL?

AbbreviationFull nameUse
TEFLTeaching English as a Foreign Language
  • allows teaching English in places where English is not a native language

Example: The teacher decides to teach English in Poland or Spain → needs TEFL

TESLTeaching English as a Second Language
  • proves an ability to teach English to non-English speakers in a country where English is the first language

Example: The teacher decides to teach English to Ukrainian students in the USA → needs TESL

TESOLTeaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • is an umbrella term that combines qualifications of both TEFL and TESL

How should I choose the right TESOL course?

If you have ever wondered which certification program to choose, you know that there is more than one to consider: TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, DELTA. 

However, when it comes to choosing which course to stick to, it needs to be emphasized that all of the mentioned certification programs are internationally recognized and will definitely bring you many decent job opportunities

Moreover, they are all focused on teaching you how to teach English. So, what matters here is what you really want to do after getting a degree, where you want to go, and who your students are. 

However, here are some important factors to base your choice on.

Where to find international job opportunities?


The minimum TEFL/TESL/TESOL certification norm is 120 hours, with a practicum that can be between 6 and 20 hours long, despite the fact that there is no one international accrediting authority. 

Reputable institutions like TESL CanadaTrinity College London, and the University of Cambridge adhere to this requirement. An excellent foundation in grammar, phonology, and pedagogy is provided during a 120-hour course accredited by one of these three organizations. 

It also includes a module for in-class teaching experience with actual ESL students. Through a reputable course provider, you may also enroll in a 250-hour500-hour, or even a Master's degree program.


The requirements and conditions for quality courses are the same worldwide.

Therefore, there is no difference in where you want to take it or where it comes from because all the courses are supposed to meet certain standards and include specific tasks and information. 

However, it is better to look for the courses that have received endorsement from TESL Canada, Trinity CertTESOL (UK), or CELTA (UK). They are independent organizations that only acknowledge programs that have a practicum component and at least 120 hours of advanced training.

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Online – Offline

A common question is also whether it is better to take an online or offline course

In reality, there is no difference between taking the course online or in-person as modern technologies allow us to conduct or participate in high-quality training without leaving the comfort of our own homes. 

Moreover, the best-known Canadian colleges have been offering online TESOL courses for nearly 20 years, according to TESL Canada. The only question here is to find an experienced and reliable provider as few companies have a high-quality delivery of advanced programs like TESOL online. That is why, be sure not to become a victim of an online scam.

Price is also an important factor to consider. Online courses are usually cheaper. And in case you are interested in online TEFL/TESOL courses, Grade University is always here to help you out.

TESOL Teaching Abroad

If you dream to proceed with your career abroad, you will certainly need the following requirements for TESOL certification:

AsiaMinimum 120-hour TESOL certification.
EuropeMinimum 120 hours. Advanced training with Practicum, such as courses approved by TESL Canada or CELTA, is preferred.
Latin AmericaMinimum: 120 hour TESOL certification.
Middle EastTESOL certification is recommended.
North America, UK, Australia, New Zealand, And South AfricaMinimum 120 hours and a 20-hour Practicum. (TESL Canada or CELTA equivalent).

Teaching without a degree

Study TESOL with Grade University

It is always stressful to find the best provider and pick up the course that would suit your lifestyle and plans the best. This is where Grade University professionals may give you a helping hand and consult you at the beginning of your TESOL journey. 

Studying TESOL at Grade University will help you boost your teaching skills, collect valuable recommendations, and try using them in practice. Moreover, you are always free to choose the length of the courses and the most suitable format.

What are General Requirements for TESOL Certification for Teaching English Abroad?

It is pretty common for any certification program to demand a very high English proficiency level and some prior experience. A university degree is not necessary but might be a plus, especially if you want to find a job abroad after.

You can be considered a TESOL-certified teacher after you:

  • get at least 120 hours of training and coursework
  • get at least 6 hours of teaching experience itself
  • meet all the deadlines and successfully complete all the tasks.

Finally, before moving to the actual pluses of having TESOL certification, let’s name some of the most oblivious ones.

What are the advantages of getting TESOL:

Wondering how much the certification may cost?

Pluses of getting TESOL

Indeed, money is an important factor. However, the key to success is pretty simple: the more you learn the more demanded as a professional you become. And what TESOL really does is that this certification program gives a lot of up-to-date practical skills. 

Also, getting a TESOL certification means getting free from doubts and uncertainty as you become more and more confident while getting both theory and practice.

Finally, the good news is that there is no expiration date, so your degree stays with you forever without the need to repass the course every now and then.

It is also extremely comfortable that you can choose the format that is the most suitable for you: there are both online and offline courses as many centers create extremely comfortable conditions. So, don’t miss this opportunity! 

Does a TESOL Qualification Expire?

Once you have your TESOL certificate, it is valid for a lifetime and does not expire. 

Some educators choose to add more training to their first certification to become even more qualified. They may do so by including additional training hours or obtaining a specific TEFL/TESOL certificate in a subject that is in great demand, such as teaching young students or English online.


Finally, if you are truly interested in starting your TESOL journey, here are some useful resources for you:

The TESOL course is more focused on theory.

TEFL and TESOL are the same thing.

You need a university degree to be accepted to TEFL.

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko


    Teacher of General English & IELTS



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