Let’s deal with the ‘TEFL’ part first. TEFL is an acronym for ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’. You may have heard about or know someone who is a TEFL Teacher. Teaching English as a Foreign Language is what TEFL Teachers do for a job. ‘Certification’ in the context of the term ‘TEFL Certification’ is essentially an ‘official’ document. When the acronym TEFL is coupled with the word certification, we’re referring to an official document that confirms a person has met the knowledge and skill requirements for employment as a TEFL Teacher. TEFL certification serves the same purpose as certification in other professions. It’s about knowledge and skills being independently validated, upholding standards, and more.
Who should obtain TEFL Certification?
Anyone who aspires to work as a professional TEFL Teacher in their home country or abroad should obtain TEFL Certification. Obtaining the certification involves completing an in-class or online study programme that typically comes with a time commitment of no less than 120 hours over four weeks. There’s a lot of theory and skills-related work to get through in a short space of time. For example, how do people learn new things? Almost certainly, you’ve never had a reason to reflect on this question. Fair enough, but if you plan to teach people new things, it makes sense to turn your mind to how people learn things.
Pathways for TEFL Certification
People new to ‘teaching English abroad’ can be excused for thinking all TEFL programmes are the same. I often hear newcomers, like Barry from Perth last week, say things like:
“120 hours with course provider ‘X’ (who charges a token sum) can’t be much different than 120 hours with course provider ‘Y’ (who charges a sum that’s consistent with what you’d expect to pay for vocational ‘qualification’) – I’ll get the same certification at the end of either programme”.
While Barry’s take on TEFL Certification programmes is understandable, it couldn’t be further from the truth. TEFL programmes worldwide fit into one of two categories; there’s no middle ground: 1. government-regulated and 2. non-government regulated. So, let’s examine these two categories.
Government-regulated TEFL programmes: TEFL Certification, that’s a product of nationally-recognised training (government-regulated) in the country of origin, is a legitimate vocational qualification under the relevant country’s ‘Qualifications Framework’. For instance, the AQF is the national qualifications framework in Australia. In South Africa, the SAQA is the national qualifications framework. If your TEFL certificate is a product of a government-regulated programme, not only is it recognised in the country of origin, but you have every reason to believe it will be recognised in other countries. Sure, you might have to jump through a few hoops, but it’s manageable, and you’ll have legitimacy on your side. Qualified lawyers, doctors, architects, musicians, accountants, bankers, engineers and the like who choose to work abroad have been navigating the qualifications-related bureaucratic processes for eternity. It’s not a new thing.
If you’re considering doing a quality TEFL programme in Vietnam, Cambodia or online that’s government-regulated, check out what AVSE-TESOL offers. They’re the Industry leaders in Southeast Asia. Here’s the AVSE-TESOL website address: www.avse.edu.vn
Non-government regulated TEFL certification: Certification that’s not a product of nationally recognised training (government-regulated) in the country of origin, at best, carries personal development (PD) value. It follows that when a ‘qualification’ is not recognised in the country it comes from, it can’t (or shouldn’t) be recognised in other countries. TEFL Certification that originates from the United Kingdom (UK), for example, that isn’t a product of nationally recognised training in the UK, can’t somehow morph from being a PD certificate to a legitimate ESL teaching qualification enroute from London to Ho Chi Minh City. You might be surprised, perhaps even saddened, to learn that this ‘morphing thing’ happens daily. If I was a fee-paying student and became aware that my TEFL Teacher was unqualified to do the job, I’d be more than peeved – and if my old mum was around, she’d be insisting on washing my mouth out with soap! How the ‘morphing’ happens will be the subject of a future article.
Study modes for TEFL Certification
Like every other area of study, there are TEFL programmes available via in-class and online study modes. These days, employers (schools) aren’t particularly bothered if your TEFL Certification comes from an in-class or an online course. However, employers attuned to what is a legitimate TEFL Teaching qualification and what’s not, government-regulated versus non-government regulated, will be bothered if you present a dud certificate.
There are pros and cons to both the in-class and online study modes. In-class pros include – all over in a matter of weeks, often in an actual school environment and immediate access to support. The cons include – higher costs, a set schedule, and being stuck in a classroom for hours on end. Online pros include – studying at a time that’s good for you, at a location of choice, and at a lower cost. Online cons include – isolation, taking much longer to complete and being less ‘hands-on’. Personal preference will dictate which study mode is best for you.
Career options with TEFL Certification
Career wise, where can a legitimate TEFL Certificate take you? As the age-old expression goes, ‘how long is a piece of string’. The career options available to people with government-regulated TEFL Certification are limited only by their imagination.
Throughout my journey in the TEFL Industry, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing TEFL-certified people who have: volunteered abroad as TEFL Teachers, worked as professional TEFL Teachers abroad in English Language Centres, Government Schools, Private Schools and universities, taught English online, used their knowledge and skills to create and sell ESL resources, opened their own English language school abroad, worked as an industry consultant, advised governments on ESL policy, made a decent living developing policies for the ESL industry, specialised in exam preparation classes – TOEIC, IELTS, TOEFL, found a niche teaching English to company employees, set themselves up as a recruiter – and a lot more. To draw on another age-old expression, with quality TEFL Certification, ‘the world is your oyster’.
I covered a lot of ground in this relatively short document. I defined the term ‘TEFL Certification’ and then discussed who should obtain this certification, pathways to certification, study modes and career options. Almost certainly, the existence of two pathways to TEFL Certification, ‘legit’ versus ‘non-legit’, will be news to many people.
This article was largely directed at piquing interest in a subject that barely rates a mention – anywhere. If there was more discussion about TEFL Certification, presumably, there would be fewer opportunities for bogus TEFL certificates to morph into legitimate ESL Teaching qualifications, somewhere between ‘developed country X’ and a developing country.
It’s abundantly clear to me that there’s a lot more to TEFL Certification than a four-letter acronym and a single sheet of coloured paper with a nice emboss and flags from the four corners of the world. Do you agree or disagree?
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director and founder of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. AVSE-TESOL delivers an Australian Government regulated TEFL programme in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn
5 Compelling Reasons to Complete a TEFL Certification Course Now
Over the past five years, there has been an explosion in the number of people who have signed up to complete a TEFL Certification course, in-class or online. Why? Someone ‘let the cat out of the bag’. It wasn’t me. I wanted to keep it all ‘hush hush’. TEFL Certification is the key to a quintessential teach and travel abroad lifestyle. Do you want to live in the Maldives for a few months? No problem. You can meet the costs of a Maldives adventure by teaching English in-class at a local school – or online. Have you always wanted to check out the Pyramids in Egypt? Do it! You can take on some teaching work in Egypt to fund the trip.
This isn’t fantasy, it’s a reality for many people. It was my lifestyle for a long time until family responsibilities – and age necessitated some fundamental changes. Assuming you’re still not convinced that TEFL Certification can deliver the kind of lifestyle that most people only ever dream about, here are five compelling reasons, in plain English, to complete a TEFL Certification course now.
Earn money while travelling abroad
For many people, young and more mature alike, this fact alone is enough to convince them that doing a TEFL course is a wise move. Rather than spend their savings while travelling abroad, folks who hold quality, government-regulated TEFL Certification can make money teaching English in-class and online from wherever they are in the world. This week it’s Venice. Next week it’s Munich. A month from now, it will be Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, my personal favourite TEFL destination of all time. Speak to the good people at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City, and they’ll get you sorted with government-regulated TEFL Certification and a terrific ESL teaching job in record time.
If you turn your mind to other vocational training programmes available in-class and online – barista, coding, business management and the like – nothing even comes close to the ease and convenience of teaching English abroad to fund your travels.
Pathway to other exciting opportunities
As long as you get your TEFL Certification from a government-regulated programme (such as AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam or Cambodia), you’ll emerge from your time teaching and travelling abroad with knowledge, skills, hands-on teaching experience and perhaps even credit towards further studies. You will have laid a solid foundation to take your teaching to a higher level. On returning to your home country after teaching and travelling abroad, you may decide to specialise in kindergarten teaching, primary teaching, secondary teaching or special education. You might choose to become a TEFL Trainer – teaching newcomers how to teach and travel abroad as you did. When you return home, you might stick with teaching English as a foreign language. After all, those online ESL jobs that funded your teach and travel abroad adventure because you hold quality TEFL Certification, will presumably still be available. The reality is people who have successfully navigated a teach and travel abroad adventure have so many transferrable skills that they’re spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding ‘what’s next’.
Teachers in developed countries like my native Australia, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand often paint a gloomy picture of what happens in local schools. Abuse, unruly behaviour and violence are commonplace. The prevalence of gun violence in American schools is shocking and well-documented. Here is some good news. With TEFL Certification, you can teach English as a foreign language in Vietnam, Cambodia and a raft of other countries where teachers, especially ESL teachers, are revered for their knowledge and highly respected in local communities. In the Mekong Delta in the south of Vietnam, for example, from my firsthand experience, foreign teachers are almost ‘god-like’ to the extent that it’s embarrassing to those who are ‘worshipped’. I was embarrassed! It’s the polar opposite of what many foreign teachers have endured in their home country. It’s the polar opposite to what I had witnessed in my native Australia.
If you bump into a foreign ESL teacher in a country like Vietnam who has been teaching locally for an extended period, you might be inclined to ask them why they have stuck at it. I’m ‘betting’ the ‘high respect’ thing is close to the top of the list.
TEFL Certification delivers freedom
Everyone loves a bit of freedom. However, if you’re leading a typical suburban lifestyle, including a ‘9 to 5’ job, there’s a good chance that your version of freedom comes around one or two days a week. Outside of your ‘freedom’ time, perhaps even during your ‘freedom’ time (lawns, washing the car and the like), life is pretty regimented – correct? For many folks, a regimented life meets their needs, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you find it unappealing, possibly even soul-destroying.
TEFL Certification allows you to teach English as a foreign language and earn a decent income when, where, and how you like – you’ll have ‘freedom’ 24/7, or at least you’ll be in control of when you don’t. If you want to lay in a hammock all day on Phu Quoc Island, off the southern coast of Vietnam, taking online ESL classes, then do it. How about a short-term contract with the Cambodian Government teaching English to Tour Guides at the world-famous Angkor Wat historical site in Siem Reap, Cambodia? I saw this job advertised when I was last in the neighbourhood. With TEFL Certification, ESL gigs like those that I mentioned on Phu Quoc Island and in Siem Reap, will be available for you.
Before completing a TEFL Certification programme and subsequently trying my hand at teaching English in Vietnam, I’d worked for years in highfalutin jobs in Australia at the Local, State and Federal Government levels. Despite the tailored, pin-striped suits, black shoes that were so clean you could see your face in them and holding positions of influence, I never had the opportunity to ‘create’ something. It was more about image and process. In stark contrast, if you take ESL teaching seriously, creating opportunities for people – including the chance for a better life in many instances – will be the mainstay of your work.
Other than medicine and logistics related to the supply of food and water, I can’t think of a line of work where tangible, positive results for effort in a short period of time come anywhere near what teaching English as a foreign language in a developing country can deliver. In addition to making a real difference in the lives of local people, the tangible difference that such rewarding work will make in your own life shouldn’t be underestimated. Quality TEFL Certification is the key.
I have identified five compelling reasons why you should complete a TEFL Certification course now. You can make money while travelling overseas. ‘Doors will open’. Respect and freedom will come your way. You’ll have the opportunity to make a tangible, positive difference in the lives of others – and your own life. There are only five more words that remain to be written and here they are: what are you waiting for?
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director and founder of AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. He’s passionate about high-quality, government-regulated ESL teacher training. Peter has written extensively about his personal experience as an ESL teacher, a teacher trainer and a school owner in Southeast Asia.
Is it best to complete a TEFL Certification course in-class or online?
With TEFL Certification courses being offered in-class and online by vocational training providers worldwide, I’ve decided to look at the benefits and drawbacks of both options. This might help you to decide which option, in-class or online, is best for you – and address some of the misinformation that pops up, especially on social media.
What is TEFL Certification?
TEFL Certification is akin to a licence to teach English as a foreign language. Assuming your certification comes from a government-regulated TEFL training programme, you’ll be qualified to work as an English language teacher in your home country and abroad. If you plan to use your TEFL certification abroad, you’ll have to jump through a few hoops to meet Work Permit (or similar) requirements in the host country, but this is simply a matter of following in the footsteps of those who came before you. If you’re unsure where to locate the ‘footsteps’, you can find Work Permit and visa processes for every country worldwide with a basic Google search.
Do schools prefer in-class or online TEFL Certification?
From my observations in Vietnam and Cambodia, especially in this ‘post-covid’ period, schools don’t care if the TEFL Certificate presented for a Work Permit (or similar) is a product of an in-class or an online TEFL programme. While it might have been frowned upon previously, completing a qualification online is commonplace and an accepted practice. I did notice two or three posts quite recently in ESL teaching-related Facebook Groups – the prime impetus for this article – that the bigger Language Centres in Vietnam, ILA, VUS, Apollo and the like, will only accept ‘in-class’ TEFL certification. I checked with the schools, and it’s untrue.
While schools aren’t concerned how you obtained TEFL Certification, in-class or online, they will closely examine whether the certificate is a product of a nationally recognised training (government-regulated) or a random personal development course. If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t be surprised if your applications for teaching jobs at reputable, well-known schools are continuously declined. Why? Your core ESL teaching ‘qualification’ doesn’t stack up. It’s not an ESL teaching qualification at all. The likelihood of being rejected for your dream ESL teaching job abroad can be substantially reduced by doing a government-regulated TEFL programme, in-class or online; it doesn’t matter. I advise doing the Australian Government-accredited TESOL/TEFL programme at AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh or online. TESOL/TEFL Certification from AVSE-TESOL is government-regulated and the ‘Gold Standard’ in Southeast Asia. CELTA is also a decent option, but keep in mind that the ‘TA’ in the CELTA acronym stands for ‘Teaching Adults’, which might create issues given that 90%+ of the ESL teaching work in Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere involves young learners.
Pro one: Structured
Most in-class TEFL Certification courses run for 120+ hours over four weeks. They tend to be fast paced. This is ideal for quick learners who want to get the whole certification requirement over and done with at the earliest opportunity in a structured, immersion environment.
Pro two: People
In-class TEFL programmes typically involve a mix of people from around the world, classmates, your trainer, tutors, administrative folks and others. You’ll love the training environment if you’re a ‘people person’ by nature. Being surrounded by people with a common purpose allows for new friendships, real-time feedback and a helping hand when needed.
Pro three: Resources
‘In-class’ implies a designated, specialist learning environment where you’d expect to find all the resources an ESL teacher would use when taking ESL classes. Almost certainly, you’ll have immediate access to a whiteboard, overhead projector, a computer, textbooks, internet access, paper, markers and suchlike. As a result, you can focus on the training without worrying about distractions.
Government-regulated in-class TEFL programmes are not cheap. The high cost of in-class training is prohibitive for many aspiring ESL teachers. An intensive, four-week study programme isn’t an option for people with ongoing daytime (or evening) commitments, such as a regular 9 to 5 job or childcare responsibilities. In-class learning requires people to travel from their homes to where they will study. This is problematic for people who don’t own a car, don’t have ready access to public transport or have trouble getting around due to a disability.
Pro one: Freedom
Online learning programmes, TEFL Certification or otherwise, allow you to choose when, where and how you will study. There might be the occasional webinar or similar that you must attend at a specific time, but in the main, you’ll manage the ‘when, where and how’.
Pro two: Choice
Seemingly daily, new online TEFL Certification programmes pop up on the internet. Putting quality to one side, for every in-class, TEFL Certification programme that’s available, there are at least ten online programmes to choose from.
Pro three: Hone IT skills
These days, students expect that ESL teachers will incorporate Information Technology (IT) into the teaching and learning experience. By doing an online TEFL programme, aspiring ESL teachers can hone their IT skills, while building teaching knowledge and skills.
Doing an online study programme requires self-discipline. Some folks have oodles of self-discipline, while others, like me, have very little. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. Students who struggle with self-discipline will almost certainly struggle with an online course. By its very nature, teaching is a ‘people profession”. Inclusivity, and recognising individual differences, are pivotal. It could be argued that online learning is inconsistent with the ‘pillars’ of teaching. The number one drawback with online study programmes is susceptibility to disreputable practices. For example, can we be sure that Student A’s mum didn’t do the TEFL Certification course on his behalf? Moreover, why have we seen a proliferation of TEFL programmes that aren’t government-regulated? Answer – anyone with a keyboard and a monitor can upload an accredited course on the internet, mostly accredited by an entity they set up. Online learning still has a bit of the ‘wild west’ about it. It’s a haven for dodgy characters, and TEFL is not immune.
Should you complete a TEFL Certification programme in-class or online? Given that I largely control my schedule and have the flexibility that many others don’t, in-class would unquestionably be the best option for me. I’d go further and say that the in-class course at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City would be my choice because I know it’s government-regulated, and I know the trainer. What’s good for me, may not suit you or others. Personal circumstances will largely dictate which route you take.
Regardless of whether you choose in-class or online study to complete your TEFL Certification programme, most schools in Vietnam won’t discriminate. Government-regulated versus non-government-regulated is where there is no leeway. Do a government-regulated TEFL programme, and you’ll be fine.
About the author: Warren Duffield started working as an ESL teacher in Vietnam in 2016. CELTA-certified, Warren has completed teaching contracts in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. While he’s currently taking a break from teaching to learn how to Scuba Drive, he plans to head back to the classroom in the second quarter of 2023.
Tom Bogues is the Director of ESL Job Center and a good friend of AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam and Cambodia. In this brilliant post written specifically for the AVSE-TESOL Vietnam Blog page, Tom shares his personal experience as a ‘newbie’ ESL teacher in Ho Chi Minh City – under the heading ‘Lessons learned from teaching in Vietnam’.
In November 2016, I swapped the cold, wet and windy shores of Ireland for the tropical wonderlands of South-East Asia. Armed with my passport, teaching certificate and overflowing with anticipation to get started teaching in Vietnam, I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City excited, nervous and more than a little naïve!
I arrived with massive preconceptions about what living teaching in Vietnam was going to be like. I was certain I would hate teaching younger students. I was never going to teach in public school. I thought I wouldn’t need any help. I was more than a little skeptical about the quality of Vietnamese cuisine.
I have rarely been as wrong about anything in my life! Teaching in Vietnam was not what I expected – it was better. Although, better in ways I would never have expected! Here are four of the lessons I learned from my time teaching in Vietnam.
Lesson 1:Teaching Children is Fantastic!
Before arriving in Vietnam I had absolutely no desire to teach children. I was certain that I would not have the patience for it and that I would end up hating it. My plan was always to teach adults, but most of the attractive positions for teaching adults required at least a year of teaching experience.
I had a cunning plan. I would suffer for a year, teaching school children then jump ship to an adult training center the first chance I got.
Guess what? To this day, seven years later, I have not spent a single, solitary second teaching an adult. I love teaching children! I was stunned to discover this back in 2016, but soon I was rejecting other opportunities to teach adults because I was having such fun teaching the kids! Even more surprising was that I was enjoying the lessons with the youngest students the most!
Kindergarten became my kingdom. I was singing, dancing, and playing games from my childhood that I thought I had long forgotten. I was actually having fun at work, which was a truly novel experience!
Lesson 2: Public School is Great
When you work at training centers you might be offered the chance to go to local schools for extra lessons to earn some extra money. At my training center there were so many public school lessons they offered me 50% extra per hour, plus all transport costs would be reimbursed. I rejected the offer. This was stupid.
I had decided that there was no way, no how that I would be able to teach a rowdy classroom of 40-50 students. I thought they would hate my lessons, hate me and it would be nothing short of a disaster. Money talks though, and a short while later I decided to try it out.
Since then I have spent three years teaching public school full time, and I genuinely think it is one of the best teaching gigs you can get! Usually you can recycle the same lesson plan three or four times a week, and often your lesson is the highlight of the students day.
The lessons in public school are a fun release for the students, and there is little pressure on you as a teacher. The students can be rowdy, but that’s usually only because they are engaged with your lesson. The biggest benefit of teaching these classes isn’t the money or the fun, it’s how it helps to develop you as a teacher. If you can manage a classroom of 50, you really can handle anything else the teaching world may throw at you!
Lesson 3: Ask For Help
When you work in a training center in Vietnam, you are not alone in the classroom. Depending on the age of your students you are going to have one, two or three Vietnamese teaching assistants in the classroom with you.
’ll be honest, I felt a bit awkward with this. I was a new teacher, with no experience and suddenly I am supposed to direct three experienced teaching assistants? I am supposed to tell them what to do? Shouldn’t it be the other way round? I was so reluctant to give any instructions that I simply didn’t. I tried to do it all myself: classroom management, group work, activities, exams, grading – even communicating with parents. Big mistake.
Guess what? There is a reason you are assigned teaching assistants: it is impossible to do everything yourself. If you don’t ask for help your lessons are going to suffer, and you will lose confidence in your ability. Don’t be like me, shed the awkwardness and ask for whatever help you need – especially when you are just starting out.
Lesson 4: Street Food Is To Be Adored
I remember my first full day in Ho Chi Minh as if it was yesterday. I remember walking from my hotel to Ben Thanh market, then to Saigon River and through the bar laden Bùi Viện. There were street carts with food everywhere.
Now, don’t get me wrong, they smelled great and looked even better, but I was wary. I was sure my little Western belly wouldn’t take too kindly to street food. So, I stuck to Western food for the first few days. I was missing out!
Street food in Vietnam is amazing. I started with a little Bún Bò Huế. Before I knew it I was happily munching bánh mì every day for lunch. I started sampling everything I could get my hands on, and everything was so cheap! I was eating out everyday for a few dollars, and washing it down with a bottle of Bia Saigon for a few cents more!
Soon, I discovered that there was a woman selling the best Phởin the city opposite my apartment near Điện Biên Phủ. That was that! I was a complete convert to the delights of the Vietnamese street food scene!
Seven years later the things I learned while teaching in Vietnam still stand me in good stead today. This is one of the most underrated benefits of experiencing life as a teacher – the lessons you learn will stay with you for life! You will learn more about yourself in a year or two than you ever would in a decade in your home country.
My story is a little unique, but since I made the decision to start teaching English in 2016, I have lived in Vietnam, China and now Spain. I met my wife while we were both teaching in China, and our son is turning 1 next month. None of this would have been possible without the opportunities that TEFL provided me!
I genuinely believe that investing in yourself with a course from AVSE-TESOL is one of the smartest decisions anyone can make. Becoming a qualified ESL teacher has the potential to open up your world, and unlock your hidden talents!
There has never been a better time than right now for qualified or aspiring Filipino English teachers to secure well-paid teaching jobs in Vietnam. Qualified means, a university degree, government-regulated TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification, an English proficiency test result at C1 level (CEFR) or higher and a clear background check. Aspiring means everything that’s required to be considered ‘qualified’, other than government-regulated TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification. If you’re in the ‘aspiring’ camp, the friendly folks at AVSE-TESOL can put you through their in-class (or online) Australian Government accredited TESOL programme in Ho Chi Minh City and you’ll be in a great ESL teaching job in no time. I will come back to this point towards the end of the article.
Vietnam is crying out for English teachers. So, if you’re a Filipino teacher looking for great opportunities to expand your horizons, experience adventure, explore new situations, and make a difference in the lives of others, look no further. You’ve found the perfect job. The demand for Filipino teachers in Vietnam is huge.
It’s noteworthy that Filipino Teachers in Vietnam are paid at a rate that’s typically three, four and even five times higher than what’s possible in the Philippines, but the cost of living is similar. Filipino teachers can live a very comfortable lifestyle in Vietnam. Without cutting corners, it’s possible for Filipino teachers to save money for their own future – and support their family in the Philippines.
Popularity of Filipino Teachers in Vietnam
One of the things I’ve noticed over my years in Vietnam is how much the local people love Filipino English teachers. It has a lot to do with their professional mindset, great work ethic, and good educational background! These qualities often give Filipinos a distinct advantage when it comes to getting teaching jobs in Vietnam. However, it’s not just about what you can do for them, but also what a teaching job in Vietnam can do for you – and your extended family.
Career Advancement for Experienced Filipino Teachers
If you’re a qualified English Teacher in the context of what’s required in Vietnam, there’s every reason to believe that you’ll be in a terrific ESL teaching job shortly after you arrive in Vietnam, especially if you complete the Teaching Jobs Abroad Programme over nine days at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City. Again, I will provide specific details about programmes offered by AVSE-TESOL later on.
It’s common for Filipino Teachers who are already qualified and experienced in their home country or abroad, to take on ‘senior teacher’ and managerial positions in universities, colleges, government schools and private language schools the length and breadth of Vietnam. Why? Experienced Filipino teachers who find their way to Vietnam tend to be highly educated, professionally-minded – and adaptable.
Opportunities for Newcomers to ESL Teaching
Government-regulated TESOL certification at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City is just the beginning for Filipinos who aspire to teach English in Vietnam, but have limited or no experience working as an ESL Teacher. By way of a reminder, folks in this ‘camp’ will have an undergraduate degree (any discipline), an English Proficiency test result at C1 level or higher and a clear background check. What can a ‘newbie’ Filipino English Teacher in Vietnam expect? Newcomers can expect adventures, opportunities, appreciation and career pathways. Typically, a new person to teaching ESL in Vietnam will start with a job at an English Language Centre, then move to a senior ESL teaching position, next, a job as an IELTS educator (or similar) – and perhaps even a university posting. Let’s drill down on the usual career pathway for a Filipino who is new to teaching English in Vietnam.
Base-grade ESL Teacher
Most newcomers to teaching English, regardless of whether the job placement is abroad or in their home country, start their career as a base-grade ESL educator. Often, this will involve teaching ESL classes 20 to 25 hours a week (in-class), with preparation work mostly done as unpaid work outside of class. You’re probably thinking that the unpaid work component is grossly unfair. I agree, but such is the work life of a professionally-minded ESL teacher. The good news is that time spent preparing lessons becomes markedly less as you gain experience. Schools in Vietnam expect teachers to take classes from young learners through to adults. Now is not the time to be picky in my opinion. As a newcomer, it’s imperative to get a foothold in the profession.
Move Up the Ranks to a Senior ESL Teacher Position
With plenty of classroom hours under your belt, you may advance to a senior ESL teaching position. In this role, you’ll take on more responsibilities – mentoring ‘newbie’ ESL teachers, getting involved in curriculum development, taking on administrative activities and suchlike. Your salary will go up a notch commensurate with your growing experience, and expertise. As a senior ESL teacher in Vietnam, almost certainly your time in the classroom will be less and you’ll have more say about the classes you take.
Become an IELTS Instructor
As IELTS score is used internationally as a way of assessing English language proficiency for various purposes such as university entrance abroad, immigration to English-speaking countries and for professional and academic roles that require a high proficiency in English. Achieving a decent IELTS score can be a life-changing event for students in the sense that it can open doors for a better future.
Filipino Teachers in Vietnam who work as an IELTS Instructor are responsible for providing training and guidance to help people get their desired IELTS test score. IELTS Instructors have advanced skill sets in English language teaching, test taking strategies and the like. Typically, an IELTS Instructor in Vietnam is paid around 30% higher (+/-) than a mainstream ESL teacher. Can you see yourself working as an IELTS Instructor in Vietnam? Certainly, there are plenty of job opportunities.
How About Managing an English Language Centre?
Vietnam has many English Language Centres. They’re everywhere. English Language Centres in Vietnam are often looking for experienced educators for managerial roles. As the Manager of an English Language Centre in Vietnam you’d oversee the daily operations of the facility along with supervising teachers and staff members. You’d also get involved in the design, development, and delivery of language programmes along with ensuring their quality and relevance for the market. Language Centre Managers are usually very well paid. Often, there will be a base salary and financial incentives to build the student numbers.
University or College Lecturer and Beyond
If you’re ambitious, aim higher and move into the realms of tertiary education as a university or college Lecturer. Many tertiary institutions in Vietnam deliver programmes exclusively in English. ‘SaigonTech’ in Ho Chi Minh City, were I used to work before establishing AVSE-TESOL is a terrific example. As an experienced ESL teacher, you may find that working at a university or college is a perfect fit, if so, ‘the sky is the limit’ – College Lecturer, Senior College Lecturer, Deputy Director of Studies at a university of college, Director of Studies at a university or college – or even higher. How proud will you be? How proud will your family be?
Other Reasons to Consider Teaching in Vietnam
We’ve looked at the career possibilities for Filipino Teachers in Vietnam, but there is a raft of other excellent reasons why you should be on the next available flight from Nino Aquino Airport in Manila to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Here is a random selection of those reasons:
Competitive Salaries:I have already noted the attractive salaries on offer, directly and indirectly, a few times in the article, but given that better wages and conditions are key reasons why so many Filipino folks choose to work abroad, it’s worth mentioning again. Filipino Teachers in Vietnam are offered a very attractive salary compared to what they’re used to at home – often three, four and even five times higher. When you factor in the similar cost of living in Vietnam and the Philippines, you can see there is real potential to earn decent money to support your family and move forward with your life.
It’s Just a Short Plane Trip Home: Many Filipinos who work abroad find themselves on the other side of world and in unfamiliar surroundings. That won’t be the case if you were working as a Filipino Teacher in Vietnam. You’ll be a mere three-hour (+/-) plane trip from home and working in an environment that’s similar in many ways to your home country. You could fly back to the Philippines quite regularly to see your family and friends. Certainly, you’ll be earning enough to do that comfortably, perhaps two or three times a year.
Similar Time Zone: The time difference between the Philippines and Vietnam is only one hour. That makes catching up via FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and the like both convenient and practical.
Similar Climate, Environment and Culture: There won’t be much acclimatising to do when you move from the Philippines to Vietnam. Like home, Vietnam has a tropical climate with two main seasons in the south – wet and dry. You will also notice many similarities between Filipino culture, cuisine, flora, fauna and lifestyle in general. This is all going to help you feel right at home teaching in Vietnam.
Same Focus on Tourism: Both the Philippines and Vietnam rely heavily on tourism, particularly from English-speaking countries. The booming tourism industry in the Philippines and Vietnam is a key reason why there is such a focus on learning English in both countries – and why English teachers are in such high demand.
Warm, Friendly People: Like Filipinos, Vietnamese people are warm, friendly, and welcoming. There is a great deal of respect for teachers in Vietnam, something you’ll be familiar with because it’s the same in the Philippines. Indeed, teachers in both countries are highly valued and considered important members of society who play a vital role in the overall economy and prosperity of the country. This is in marked contrast to some western countries where teachers are often – and regrettably – treated with a distinct lack of respect. My native Australia is a prime example.
Join Other Filipino Teachers in Vietnam
At AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City, our number one priority is helping people like you embark on new and exciting journeys in the world of teaching English abroad. So, in response to the huge demand for Filipino Teachers in Vietnam, AVSE-TESOL has put together three secure pathways, which I’m positive you will find attractive, to brilliant ESL teaching jobs in Vietnam. Read on.
Pathway One – In-Class TESOL Programme in Ho Chi Minh City: Ho Chi Minh City is the epicentre of English language teaching and learning in Vietnam. It’s a vibrant, diverse, and friendly city that seemingly never sleeps. At any given time, there are markedly more job opportunities for Filipino English Teachers in Ho Chi Minh City, and elsewhere across Vietnam, than there are suitably qualified people to fill the jobs. Regardless of whether you plan to make Ho Chi Minh City your ‘forever’ teaching destination – or if you’re just passing through, you’ll love the place. There is something interesting to see and do around every corner.
AVSE-TESOL’s Australian Government accredited in-class TESOL programme in Ho Chi Minh City adheres to a ‘9-Point Playbook’ that guarantees the following:
Right work visa
Help and advice with insurance
Hands-on job support
Supportive friends and mentors
Teaching knowledge and skills
Australian Government accredited TESOL certification
Accommodation for 25 nights
Post programme support
…….and much more
You can learn about the Australian Government accredited in-class TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City via the following link: https://www.avse.edu.vn/english-teaching-jobs-ho-chi-minh-city/
Pathway Two – Online TESOL Programme: Our online Australian Government accredited TESOL programme provides you with exactly the same skill sets, knowledge and government-regulated TESOL certification as our in-class programme. The only difference is that you complete the theory units of the programme online at your own pace, from wherever you happen to be. Once you’ve completed the online component, you lock in a plan to fly to Ho Chi Minh City to do your TESOL practicum. From there, work visa and insurance guidance, hands-on job support, help with accommodation and the like all swing into action.
You can learn about the Australian Government accredited online TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL via the following link: https://www.avse.edu.vn/online-tesol-course/
Pathway Three – Teaching Jobs Abroad Programme:Although we think our TESOL programme in Vietnam (and Cambodia) is the best of the best, we recognise there are other institutions that offer government-regulated TESOL programmes. If you already hold government-regulated TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification, we’re more than happy to help you get started as an ESL teacher in Vietnam (or Cambodia) via our Teaching Jobs Abroad programme. Here are the key inclusions:
Pre-programme support – visa, insurance, key documentation
Supportive friends and mentors
Accommodation for 9 nights
Intensive 9-day practicum – real students and real classes
Hands-on job support
Post programme support
…….and much more
You can learn about the Teaching Jobs Abroad Programme at AVSE-TESOL via the following link: https://www.avse.edu.vn/teaching-jobs-abroad-vietnam-cambodia/
There are ESL jobs galore for Filipino Teachers in Vietnam. Regardless of whether you are a seasoned English teacher or a newcomer to the profession, there’s every reason to believe that with AVSE-TESOL in your corner, you’ll be in a brilliant teaching job in Vietnam in record time – like many Filipino people before you.
Jobs for Filipino Teachers in Vietnam offer career pathways and a high-level of respect in the local community. Importantly, teaching English in Vietnam comes with an attractive salary that will allow you to support your family – and move forward with your life. Make the move!
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and founder) of AVSE-TESOL in Australia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Over the past two decades Peter has been creating pathways for Filipinos and others to teach English in Vietnam and Cambodia. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn
If you’re a Vietnamese person with decent English language skills and a university degree (any discipline), now is the perfect time to start a rewarding career path as a Vietnamese English Teacher. There are well-paid teaching jobs available right now – all over the country – for local people with the necessary knowledge, skills, and qualifications to work as a Vietnamese English Teacher.
Let’s drill down on the core qualifications needed to work as a Vietnamese English Teacher. You will be pleased to know that the qualifications are pretty straightforward. There are essentially two pathways that a local person can choose from once they’ve decided to seek employment as a Vietnamese English Teacher.
Complete a four-year education degree with an emphasis on teaching English as a second language (ESL). There are terrific universities in large cities and regional hubs in Vietnam that offer degree programs for those who aspire to work as a Vietnamese English Teacher. True, studying at university for four years to work as a Vietnamese English teacher is a huge personal and financial commitment. However, speak with any practicing Vietnamese English teacher, and they’ll surely tell you the sacrifices they had to make for an ESL teaching career were worth it. What other vocation in Vietnam allows you to: 1. see tangible results for your effort after a relatively short period, 2. earn triple the average salary, and 3. hold an esteemed position in the local community? I can’t think of one!
The second pathway to securing a well-paid job as a Vietnamese English teacher involves adding government-regulated TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA certification to an existing university degree that does not have an ESL teaching and learning focus. For example, let’s say that Mr Minh from Dong Thap has a Bachelor of Business Degree from Hong Bang University. Mr Minh’s degree has nothing to do with teaching ESL. If Mr Minh adds a Certificate in TESOL (Australian Government-regulated) that’s offered by AVSE-TESOL (or similar) in Ho Chi Minh City, he will meet the core requirements to work as a Vietnamese English Teacher. This second pathway is often followed by people who are looking for a new direction. Perhaps the person has a science degree, but after five years they’re over beakers, test tubes, and chemical compounds – and teaching English offers something completely different.
Conditions of employment:
Regardless of whether you follow the first or second pathway that are noted above, here are the typical conditions of employment that are available for a Vietnamese English Teacher in English Language Centres the length and breadth of Vietnam:
– 20 to 25 hours a week in class – work mostly in the evening and over the weekend – earn double, triple, or even quadruple the average salary in Vietnam – paid monthly in Vietnamese Dong – teaching young learners through adults, including exam preparation classes – at least one full day off each week – 12-month contract – medical insurance – professional development opportunities
Succinctly, taking a job as a Vietnamese English Teacher means you’ll be: 1. working sensible hours, 2. earning a top salary for a Vietnamese person, 3. in stable, ongoing employment, and 4. making a positive difference in the lives of fellow Vietnamese citizens – and the development of your country.
Anecdotally, the current ESL teacher workforce in Vietnam is 50% Vietnamese and 50% foreigners. The foreigner component is around 80% native English speakers from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the like, with the remaining 20% being non-native English speakers from the four corners of the world. With a booming economy and a high percentage of the population under 35 years of age, there is every reason to believe that the insatiable demand for English language skills in Vietnam will drive job opportunities for Vietnamese English language teachers for the next 20 to 30 years at least.
Based on what has occurred in other Southeast Asian countries over the past two to three decades, as Vietnam continues to develop, there will be a noticeable shift in the current 50/50 balance between local and foreign English Teachers in Vietnam – in favour of local ESL teachers. What does this mean for local people with the knowledge, skills, and qualifications to work as a Vietnamese English Teacher? Simple! It means they’ll never have to worry about finding a rewarding job that pays well by local standards. If there was a ‘Premier League’ for job opportunities in Vietnam, working as a Vietnamese English Teacher would be at the top of the ‘table, or at least very close to the top.
AVSE-TESOL has been delivering an Australian government-accredited TESOL program in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for well over a decade. The TESOL program at AVSE-TESOL in Vietnam (or online) is a terrific example of ‘Pathway Two’ that I mentioned earlier in this article. With Australian Government-accredited TESOL certification – delivered in Vietnam – you will be in a top ESL teaching job in four short weeks. Importantly, you will have the knowledge, skills, and government-regulated teaching certification that drive success in a teaching and learning environment.
Let’s have a closer look at what the Australian Government-accredited TESOL program at AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City covers:
Units of Competency – Certificate IV in TESOL:
TAEDEL401: Group-based learning sessions – plan, organise and deliver
TESCUL401: Learn about cultural factors that impact ESL teaching and learning
TESPRN402: Assist ESL students with their pronunciation and speech
TESGRM403: Assist ESL students in grasping English grammar
TERES404: Find and create resources that promote learning
TESRED405: Assist ESL students in developing their reading and writing abilities
TESSPK406: Assist ESL students in developing their speaking and listening skills
TESASS407: Assess teaching and learning proficiency
TESMTH408: Understand and use a variety of TESOL methodologies.
TESTST409: Assist ESL students in preparing for various English language tests.
TESCAL410: Competently use Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) options in an ESL classroom
TESCHD412: Develop and implement creative strategies to engage young learners
Observation classes: You’ll observe a seasoned ESL teacher running actual ESL classes for a minimum of six hours in Vietnam, Cambodia, or elsewhere.
Teaching practice classes: Trainees do eight hours of teaching practice with actual ESL students in Vietnam, Cambodia, or elsewhere. The first six hours of teaching practice are critically assessed – and feedback is provided.
The Certificate IV in TESOL includes 14 modules. According to the Australian Qualifications Framework, two assessment options are available, competent’ or ‘not yet competent’. TESOL students must obtain a competent assessment in all of the fourteen modules that form the study program to be eligible for a Certificate IV in TESOL (10773NAT). Assessment tasks come in various forms – short and long answer questions, multiple choice questions, gathering teaching and learning resources, the fourteen-hour practicum (see above), and more. This study program does not include a final examination.
The total time commitment is conservatively estimated at 150 hours (due to clustered assessments). Most in-class TESOL students complete the TESOL program within four weeks. Typically, our online TESOL students complete the course in eight to twelve weeks. There is no minimum timeframe to complete the study program, although there is a maximum timeframe of six months.
‘Cutting to the chase’, do the Australian Government-accredited TESOL program at AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City – or online – and you’ll be in a brilliant job as a Vietnamese English Teacher in record time.
There’s no doubt that pursuing a career path as a Vietnamese English Teacher is a wise move. Regardless of whether you’re a Pathway One or Pathway Two person, working as a Vietnamese English Teacher pays exceptionally well by local standards and provides a rewarding career path. You’ll never be out of a job. You’ll have ‘superstar’ status in your local community. You’ll also be making a positive difference in the lives of local people.
If you’re a Pathway One person, you should feel free to reach out to AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City at any time for guidance. The friendly folks at AVSE-TESOL are always happy to share their ESL knowledge and expertise. The critical first step for Pathway Two folks is to start the Australian Government-accredited TESOL program at AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City at the earliest opportunity.
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director – and founder – of AVSE-TESOL in Australia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Originally from Australia, Peter has called Ho Chi Minh City ‘home’ for the past 17 years. Feel free to reach out to Peter directly if you have any questions about working as a Vietnamese English Teacher. Here is his email address: email@example.com
Ahh yes, the great TEFL versus TESOL debate! My mate Robert says banter on this topic can be tracked back to when Jesus was a boy, but I suspect he’s stretching the truth. Are TEFL and TESOL the same thing? In my opinion, based on what I have witnessed first-hand while teaching in Southeast Asia over rapidly approaching 20 years – there is no substantive difference between TEFL and TESOL. This in turn begs the question – if there is no substantive difference, why do we have them both? Good question! Allow me to share my views on this subject matter.
Should it be TEFL or TESOL?
It’s ironic we have so many confusing acronyms for teaching English in an industry that supposedly seeks to make English less confusing for non-native speakers! TEFL, TESOL, EF, ELT, ESL, TESL – and the list goes on. The TEFL and TESOL acronyms are the ones that usually dominate conversations about teacher certification and what takes place in a classroom environment. TEFL and TESOL are essentially ‘umbrella’ terms. I concede they’re both pedagogical methodologies – if you can be bothered ‘splitting hairs’ with a sizable carving knife.
What’s in an acronym?
TEFL is an acronym for ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’, while TESOL is ‘Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages’. Then there is the now largely superseded TESL, which is ‘Teaching English as a Second Language.
All three refer to ‘teaching English to people who are non-native speakers’ and, in my view, that’s what really counts in the end. So, why is there a distinction between ‘foreign language’ and ‘other languages’? Furthermore, does it really matter? The ‘why’ largely comes down to the context in which a non-native English speaker learns English. It’s usually one of the following:
A) To assimilate into an English-speaking community:This largely applies to people who have immigrated, or are intending to immigrate, to an English-speaking country. Typically, English-language skills must be acquired in the context of, and alongside, other sociocultural metrics.
B) To communicate effectively in specific English-use situations: This is particularly applicable in non-English speaking countries where there’s a need to communicate with English-speaking businesses, and participate in global conversations. Learning English to communicate in specific English-use situations may only require proficiency in the four key skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking – because culturally and socially, nothing changes for the student.
So, in one scenario English skills need to be taught as part of a sociocultural ‘context package’. In the other, the focus is more on teaching what’s needed for particular situations. Does that require two different pedagogical approaches? In the beginning that undoubtedly was the perception. However, these days we believe our English-language teachers are capable of adapting their teaching to suit the context. Indeed, we train them to be able to do so. That means the lines between TEFL and TESOL have blurred to the point where there is little, if any, practical difference between them. True, there are academic purists ‘swanning’ around the globe running seminars and the like who cling to outdated views and literally make a living out of splitting hairs over the difference between TEFL and TESOL.
History of TEFL, TESL and TESOL
TEFL and TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) started life as EFL and ESL, and have their roots in the 1960’s (note my reference to Robert in paragraph one – a long time after Jesus was a boy). That’s when University of Illinois Linguistics Professor Braj B Kachru came up with his concept of ‘World Englishes’. He believed there are differences between ‘English use in non-English speaking countries’ and ‘English use in English-speaking countries’.
Kachru’s ideas essentially remained ‘on the drawing board’ until 1978, the year of two watershed conferences held in Hawaii and Illinois respectively. The Illinois conference was organised by Kachru himself. At those conferences, people from both English and non-English speaking countries came together to talk about – yep, you guessed correctly – English. The conferences were particularly notable in that, for the first time, English-speaking communities globally were seen as ‘an entity’ irrespective of whether English was a primary, subsidiary, or foreign language. This allowed participants to gain a new understanding of English language usage across cultures and nationalities. In particular, it provided valuable insights into how: 1. the language itself varies culturally, 2. different ‘peoples’ acquire English skills, and 3. people who are bi or multilingual, use English.
It was also apparent that different countries have different reasons for wanting to acquire English language skills, and that it was important to distinguish between these reasons. For example, some countries without a culture of speaking English wanted to acquire a certain skill level in English to be understood internationally, and to participate in global conversations. Others, particularly those with an English-speaking colonial heritage, needed to consider how that language legacy should co-exist with their own native dialects. Then there were the English-speaking countries, the UK, US, Australia and suchlike, each with significant non-English speaking migrant populations, that had their own issues to deal with.
Rise of the acronyms
Long story short, these conferences led to what was, in essence, a ‘status’ classification system for English based on the way English language skills were perceived and acquired by a community. That in turn led to the coining of the phrases ‘English as a Foreign Language (EFL)’ and ‘English as a Second Language (ESL)’. The T for Teaching was added to the front for teaching scenarios. EFL referred to the status of English as a ‘foreign language’ in countries where it wasn’t widely spoken, Japan is one example. ESL indicated that English was spoken by a significant portion of the population, but wasn’t necessarily the primary language of the speaker. India comes to mind when I think about a country where English is widely spoken, but isn’t always the primary language of the speaker.
Kachru’s ‘Three Circles Model’
In 1985, Kachru developed his famous ‘Three Circles Model’ of English usage that further helped cement the system. The Inner Circle comprises primary English-speaking countries like Australia, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the like. What I’d call the middle circle (Kachru calls it the ‘Outer circle’) includes countries with a significant population of bi and multilingual people who speak their national language – and often a native dialect as well – plus English. Gosh, that’s a lot of languages for one person. Again, India is a good example. In the outer circle (Kachru calls it the ‘Expanding circle’) are countries where English is rarely spoken, for example, China and Russia.
Finally, there was TESOL
The original term ESL/TESL assumes that English is a ‘second’ language for the speaker. However, many people – in many countries – are in fact multilingual, and English may be their third, fourth or even fifth language. To address this, some really smart folks came up with the less restrictive ‘Speakers of Other Languages’ or TESOL for short.
There you have it! How TEFL, TESL, and TESOL came to be! But, to get back to the topic at hand, does all this mean there is difference between TEFL and TESOL from a pedagogical perspective? In a word, no, but that doesn’t stop the continued perception that there is. This ongoing debate about ‘nothing’, understandably leads people who are thinking about teaching English abroad being confused about whether their teaching credentials should include government-regulated TEFL or TESOL certification. Allow me to do my bit to end the confusion. Either is absolutely fine, provided it’s a product of nationally-recognised training (government regulated) in the country of origin.
‘Perceived’ difference between TEFL and TESOL
Reflecting, even for a fleeting moment, on the difference between TEFL and TESOL according to the pedagogical ‘purists’, illuminates how lame the discussion is. According to folks in the ‘TEFL and TESOL are different camp’, the polarity of TEFL and TESOL is evidenced by the ‘linguistic teaching environment’, the ‘target audience’ and the emphasis in each approach – TEFL focusses on English language skills whereas TESOL adopts a more integrative approach. Seriously, it could equally be argued that what a purist draws upon as evidence for polarity, could be used to show commonality. Regardless, let’s have a closer look at the ‘perceived’ differences.
1. Linguistic teaching environment
This view buys into the argument that TEFL (specifically) is teaching English in environments where it has ‘foreign’ language status, and TESOL specifically is teaching English in English-speaking environments where it has primary or subsidiary status, and consequently your students more than likely have exposure to the language.
According to this argument, as an English language teacher in a country like Vietnam where English is considered a foreign language, you should have a TEFL certification. However, if you are teaching English to Vietnamese immigrants in Australia for example, or any English-speaking community, the context changes. You are now teaching English in an English-speaking community to people whose primary language is not English. That means you should have TESOL Certification if you want to work as an English teacher in this context, according to the ‘purists’.
Here’s a critical point. Such a narrow view doesn’t factor in how much pedagogical processes have changed since these acronyms were first coined. ‘Back in the day’, difference between TEFL and TESOL based on the intended teaching environment may have existed. However, any difference has blurred over time. Course providers on both ‘sides’ recognise the need to produce teachers competent at teaching English language skills in any linguistic teaching environment.
What’s the ‘take home point’ here? There is no significant difference between TEFL and TESOL certifications from a teaching location perspective. Both acronyms recognise that language literacy is part and parcel of a package of cultural and social mores. Both use effective language teaching methodologies and student-centric teaching approaches that cover a range of scenarios. As a teacher, you are taught to adapt these as required to suit your particular teaching environment.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you’re teaching English, what its status is in that country, or the knowledge and skills of your students. What matters is that your teaching certification, TEFL, TESOL, CELTA or something else, is a product of nationally-recognised training (government regulated) in the country of origin. This is what will get your certification recognised across borders, not the acronym.
2. Target audience
If you are considering enrolling in an ESL teacher training programme, you’ll come across websites saying you should get TEFL Certification if you plan to teach English in countries A, B or C. Or, that you should get TESOL Certification if you want to teach English in countries X, Y or Z. Is this true? The short answer is, ‘no’. Any TEFL or TESOL course provider that tells you there is substantive difference between TEFL and TESOL certification, is pushing their own barrow. The reality is, in the classroom environment, well-trained ‘TEFLers’ and ‘TESOLers’ draw upon the same knowledge, skills, methodologies, and principles. If you hold a TEFL Certificate that’s a product of government-regulated training, you’ll be equipped to teach in what was considered the domain of a TESOL person ‘back in the day’. Equally, if you hold TESOL Certification, nowadays you’ll be equipped to teach classes that would have been considered more suitable for a TEFL person.
The core purpose of decent TEFL and TESOL certification programmes is to ensure that you have the knowledge, skills, aptitude and government-regulated certification to teach English to non-native English speakers. Period!
What’s the ‘take home point’ here? Valid, government-backed TEFL and TESOL training programmes have the same target audience – aspiring English teachers, like you, who want to utilise their training wherever it’s needed. There is no real difference between TEFL and TESOL teacher training programmes, ideologically, pedagogically, or in any other way that matters.
3. TESOL is more integrative
Another ‘perceived’ difference between TEFL and TESOL that you’ll occasionally hear from the academic ‘purists’ is – TEFL is specifically about ‘teaching English language skills’ whilst TESOL recognises that English needs to be taught in a more ‘integrative’ way. This idea derives from those original categorisations of English acquisition skills. As I’ve mentioned, these days those lines are very much blurred, particularly when it comes to teaching you, the teacher.
True, TESOL emphasises teaching ‘functional language and effective communication’ skills that will assist students in ‘real-life’ English use situations (work, recreation, education, social settings and the like). To achieve this, TESOL incorporates course materials and activities that are applicable to the everyday lives of students. This helps them learn and practice English in ‘realistic’ situations.
The reality is that both TEFL and TESOL seek to provide English language learners with the real-life functional proficiency and communication skills needed to either assimilate into an English-speaking community or to communicate effectively in situations where English is used. Where you are teaching will determine the resources you have at hand to achieve this.
TESOL acknowledges that language is part of a holistic environment that includes social norms, cultural mores, and communication systems. Therefore, English proficiency skills are taught within this framework to help learners achieve successful assimilation into an English-speaking community.
We’ve known for some time that English learners need more than just language proficiency to assimilate well into everyday life in an English-speaking community. Again, the reality is that both TEFL and TESOL acknowledge this truth, so both teach you how to teach English within applicable cultural and social contexts. Obviously, these contexts will vary depending on whether you’re teaching English in an English-speaking community, or teaching people who just need to communicate effectively in standalone English-speaking situations. However, the core content and methodologies are the same regardless.
TESOL integrates English language instruction with other academic subjects to create a more effective holistic learning experience where the student simultaneously learns English whilst also furthering their knowledge in other subjects. Again, both TEFL and TESOL recognise the value of holistic learning experiences and can integrate English learning with other academic subjects. Granted, this may be easier to do somewhere like Australia than in Vietnam, but you are taught how to recognise and utilise opportunities as they arise.
For sound reasons, TESOL encourages and promotes opportunities for students to get more exposure to English-speaking communities outside the classroom. This helps them build confidence in their English skills, develop cultural awareness, build relationships with native English speakers, and integrate into English-speaking communities. Surprise, surprise, both TEFL and TESOL recognise the importance of interactive community initiatives for helping to improve students’ language development and build cultural awareness. As with the point above, this is going to be easier in an English-speaking community, but both TEFL and TESOL certification (assuming it’s government-regulated) equip English teachers with the skills to identify, create and implement opportunities for community engagement.
It’s correct to say that TESOL teaches students to recognise and adapt English use depending on social or cultural circumstances so they can effectively navigate different social settings. Once again, the reality is that both TEFL and TESOL training programmes recognise the importance of this, and incorporate sociolinguistic proficiency into their teaching curriculum.
Take home point: TEFL and TESOL provide the same core training, cover the same teaching and language acquisition theories and principles, and recognise the same cultural and sociolinguistic aspects of English language teaching. It is the validity, legitimacy, and quality of the certification you hold that’s important, not the acronym. There is no substantive difference between TEFL and TESOL.
What you need to know about TEFL and TESOL Certification
First:Focus on finding a legitimate, government-backed TEFL or TESOL qualification rather than worrying about which acronym is the ‘right’ one for you. The legitimacy, not the acronym, is what counts on the ground in ‘English-teaching land’.
Second: I would go so far as to suggest you avoid any course (TEFL or TESOL) offered by a provider who tells you that one is better than the other. Why? Almost certainly the person doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or if they do, it’s about selling their product.
Third: At the end of the day, ESL teacher training is not about any perceived difference between TEFL and TESOL, but rather mundane things like: the quality of the course content, the legitimacy of the course – a course that’s government-regulated training will open far more doors than one that isn’t – the qualifications held by the Instructors (are they certificated vocational trainers or ‘garden-variety’ teachers) and the reputation of the course provider with employers (schools).
So, what’s the difference between TEFL and TESOL?
In today’s English-language teaching environment the TEFL versus TESOL debate from a qualification perspective is largely irrelevant. You could even say the original acronyms have outlived their use by date! Although differences in the context of English language teaching still exist, the reality is that any practical difference between TEFL and TESOL has blurred over time. This is largely because both recognise that English-language teaching, and teachers, need to be able to adapt to different teaching contexts. Someone teaching EFL needs to also be able to teach ESL and vice versa. Then there is also the very real truth that – English-language students and organisations that employ English-language teachers – mostly don’t care about the acronym on your teaching certification. They’re more concerned about your certificate being a valid, government-regulated qualification.
About the author: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and founder) of AVSE-TESOL in Australia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Among other things, Peter is passionate about quality teaching and learning environments, outcomes for teachers and students – and valid teaching credentials. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn
Gosh, there’s a lot to unpack from the title of this blog post. “Quit your job”, okay, but how and why? “Tropical paradise”, which tropical paradise? “New career”, I’m interested, but what new career? Will I earn enough from this ‘new career’ to live a comfortable life? “Within 42 days”, even if the ‘quit’, ‘move’ and ‘start’ suggestions are not fanciful, is the timeline achievable?
Each question in the paragraph above deserves a straight answer, no ‘weasel words’. You’ll get straight answers in this post. In addition, I’ll provide you with a ‘Three-step Roadmap’ that will take you from where you are now to that yet unnamed tropical paradise and a new career – within 42 days. Whether you’re a Member of Parliament, a ‘Sparky’ or a Product Synergy Specialist (you work on the drive-through at Maccas), if you crave a quintessential expat lifestyle that most people only dream about, read on.
Roadmap – Step one: How to quit your job
This will be the easiest or the most challenging phase in the three-step roadmap. It will be easy to quit your job if you don’t like it – and the people you work with. It will tough if the people around you are besties. Good mates are hard to find, and if you’re in a ‘nightmare’ job with besties, all of you will have endured the same horrible experience. Serious bonding with your mates will have occurred in the face of adversity. Hard to walk away from? Yes! Impossible? No! With this kind of scenario, if you quit your job, you’re walking away from a horrible experience, not your besties. They’ll always be there for you.
Let’s run with the ‘I dislike my job – and the people I work with’ idea. How can you quit your job with minimal fuss? I’ve gone through this a few times in my working life, and the best approach is a simple letter typed on your desktop or laptop. It should be: 1. dated, 2. addressed to your employer, 3. include the words ‘I want to let you know that I will finish up at (name of company) on (day and date)’, and 4. signed by you. It’s that easy. You’re ‘out of there’! Bye-bye. No regrets.
If you like the people at your workplace, the quitting process should be similar, but take steps to keep in touch with your mates and organise a ‘pub night’ to say goodbye. You may choose to cover the bar tab, or at least a round of drinks as a parting gesture. So, there’s no need to get stressed about quitting. People do it all the time. Who knows? Your besties might join you in the yet unnamed tropical paradise when they see how successful you’ve been.
Let’s do a time check. Most folks would say that seven days’ notice is ample when you quit your job, regardless of whether the position is highfalutin or run-of-the-mill. Keep in mind that this roadmap provides for a total timeframe of ‘A to Z’ within 42 days. We are now at day seven.
Roadmap – Step two: Move to a tropical paradise
I know you’ve been waiting patiently for the name of the tropical paradise to be revealed! The time has come. You’ve quit your job. You’re heading to the promised land on day 8, 9 or 10 of our ‘roadmap’, depending on your commitments. My version of the ‘promised land’ isn’t Jerusalem, although it’s a lovely place to visit any time of the year. My promised land is Vietnam, specifically Ho Chi Minh City. While all roads led to Jerusalem in biblical times, in this post-Covid era, the hot tip (literally, it’s 30+ degrees Celsius pretty much 24/7) from smart people who know about these things is, get to Ho Chi Minh City – and set yourself up as an English teacher. Why Ho Chi Minh City? Why set yourself up as an English teacher? Fair questions, like those in paragraph one of this blog post that warrant straight answers, but first, let me share a quick, personal story.
In 1852, my great-great grandfather, Henry Goudge, threw caution to the wind (literally, he travelled by sailboat) and moved from St. Teath in Cornwall, England, with his first love ( Jane Spear) to Loddon in Victoria, Australia. Why? He was a skilled miner, there was a gold rush in Victoria at that time, and his future in Cornwall looked bleak. In addition, Henry wanted a better life for himself and his missus. Seemingly, it was a classic ‘push, pull’ scenario. Henry went on to have 14 children (and two wives) and, by all accounts, lived a productive life.
Now, back to the two questions: 1. Why Ho Chi Minh City? 2. Why set yourself up as an English teacher? I will deal with the two questions simultaneously.
Henry was a skilled miner. He knew his skills were in demand in Loddon. You have ‘half-decent’ English language skills, reading, writing, listening, and speaking, either because you were born in a country where English is the main language or through nothing short of hard work. Either way, your skills are in demand in Ho Chi Minh City. Henry wanted a better life for himself and those around him. Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City will provide you with an expat lifestyle, a 20-to-25-hour work week and a savings capacity that’s not available in your home country. If there’s a Holy Grail for teaching English abroad, ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ will be prominently etched on it.
True, Vietnam (and Ho Chi Minh City in particular) won’t be viewed as a paradise by all comers. It’s certainly ‘paradise status’ to me and I can point to plenty of other people who hold the same opinion. I’d wager that you’ll also love the place.
Step check and time check time! You’ve quit your job. You’ve moved to a tropical paradise. Let’s say you’ve been in Ho Chi Minh City for three days. This means you’re now at day 14 (ish), including travel time. “Bring on the next Step”, I hear you say. Just like old Henry Goudge in 1852, you have the wind in your sails!
Roadmap – Step three: ‘Get paid to make the world a better place’
This is where the serious fun starts, and you reap the rewards from making a conscious decision to quit your job and repurpose your life.
Through good luck or hard work, you have the English skills that are needed to nail down a brilliant job as an English language teacher in Vietnam and contribute towards plugging a noticeable service gap. But, there’s a problem. What is it? Is the problem insurmountable? Should this roadmap be repurposed into confetti? You have the English skills to teach the language, but you don’t have the teaching knowledge, skills and government-regulated certification that are central to pursuing your new career path in Vietnam. The solution … Do the in-class, 27 days (+/-), Australian Government-accredited TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City. Problem solved!
AVSE-TESOL is a one-stop-shop for teaching knowledge, skills, top-shelf certification and, most importantly, as a newcomer to teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City – job placement at a quality school. Complete the Aussie Government-accredited TESOL programme at AVSE-TESOL, and they’ll have you in an ESL teaching job in Ho Chi Minh City or elsewhere in Vietnam within days of completing the course. You’ll be in a tropical paradise (as promised) and you’ll be pursuing a new career path (as promised). Moreover, you’ll be: 1. teaching 20-to-25-hours a week, which is a typical workload for a foreign English teacher in Vietnam, 2. making the world a better place by shaping the next generation, 3. earning a decent income that will allow you to save a lot more than you could in your home country, and 4. living a quintessential expat lifestyle. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better.
Let’s do one last step check and time check. You quit your job – seven to ten days. You moved to a tropical paradise (day 14ish). You acquired teaching knowledge, skills, and quality TESOL certification – and a paid teaching job with help from AVSE-TESOL in Ho Chi Minh City – add 27 days. Here’s the math: 14 days + 27 days = 41 days. You did it with one day to spare.
In 1852, Henry Goudge risked his life by travelling in an overcrowded boat to a place he’d never been before because he thought he could have a better life. Four generations later, there’s ample evidence that Henry contributed to making the world better. Henry’s family tree in Australia includes elected officials x 2, doctors x 2, nurses x 2, first responders x 3, a university lecturer and a bunch of other folks who have made a positive contribution to life in Australia. I see Ho Chi Minh City in this ‘post’ Covid period mirroring the goldfields that captured Henry’s attention 171 years ago. It’s the land of opportunity.
So, when will you quit your job, move to Vietnam and start a new career as an English language teacher?
About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and founder) of AVSE-TESOL in Cairns, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Phnom Penh. For more than 17 years, AVSE-TESOL has been creating pathways for people from around the world to teach English in Vietnam and Cambodia. Check out the AVSE-TESOL website: www.avse.edu.vn