What is a TESOL certification? – Teacher skills.

Many people ask themselves what the difference is between TESOL and TEFL certifications. There are no differences regarding the meaning. TESOL means Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and TEFL means Teaching English as a Foreign Language.


Both are used interchangeably. The name TESOL is used more commonly in North-America, the term TEFL in Europe and Australia, but perhaps you think differently, it doesn’t matter. Both are used and it means the same.

These terms are used for training courses for people who want to teach English online or in ESL classrooms. A TEFL/TESOL course is a minimum requirement for jobs online, in English language schools, and other institutions.

TEFL/TESOL courses are held around the world and online as well. What is a TESOL certification? – Teacher skills hopes to answer some of your questions about TEFL/TESOL 120-hour certifications and what you actually need to learn.



120-hour TESOL course.

TEFL/TESOL courses are often called 120-hour certificates, but don’t need to have 120 hours lessons per se. Lots of people finish all the modules in less than 120-hours of studying. Now, what I want to share here with you are three important things which to my mind are most important before you decide which course you want to follow.

The first thing is accreditation. The website of the TESOL/TEFL course should have a page where it shows its accreditation. Without accreditation you should look at another. The second important thing are the reviews. Do they have feedback from the learners who have taken the course already. The third important aspect of the course is whether they provide all different aspects to teaching and learning.


The content of the learning modules should have a broad spectrum of all the different aspects of teaching English. A TESOL course should teach new teachers how to teach different proficiency levels as a second language (TESL) but also as a foreign language (TEFL).

There are differences how you would approach teaching English to students in native English-speaking countries or in non-native English-speaking countries. In an international recognized 120-hour TESOL course the modules should teach new teachers different methods of the English Language Teaching Methodology.

Course content.

I have years experience as an English teacher in Thailand which is a country high on the list of foreigners who would like to teach and travel there. To be able to teach in Thailand you need a bachelor degree and a 120-hour TEFL course (check out my article about how to earn a teaching degree here).

Any course will do if it is at least accredited and accepted by the authorities. Teaching English in Thailand is lots of fun if you know your students. The Thais are cool and friendly people but have their ways of doing things, which is something we teachers should understand.

Their culture is very important to them and they expect foreign teachers to know what they should and shouldn’t do in Thai schools. This is important. There are too many examples of foreigners who cause unnecessary problems due to their ignorance of cultural norms and values.

One of the modules of the course content should be about teaching in different cultures, and another should be about classroom management.

At least there should be enough time spend on these critical aspects of teaching English in countries like Thailand, where culture plays an important role in society and the learning environment. The behavior and performance of the students are a direct result of cultural standards or norms.


Cultural norms and values.

If you really want to live and teach in Thailand then you should know that most of the kids aren’t proficient enough to learn intermediate grammar. That’s my experience over 10 years teaching to kids and adults in Thailand.

Teaching grammar isn’t what we are here for. We shouldn’t explain grammar rules to learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) unless they ask for it.

Grammar should be highlighted and used in conversations in context. It can be taught in a way so that students don’t have to repeat and memorize the grammatical structure.


If the TESOL course content focuses on teaching complicated grammar to some extent, then you spend a lot of time on something you most likely won’t be able to use in most of the Thai schools. We teach English for communication, but it can be refreshing for some people new to teaching.

Teaching grammar

Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning how to teach grammar if you are interested to teach advanced students who need to pass grammar course exams.


Most of the teaching jobs however are in kindergarten, primary schools, and high schools. The TEFL course content should have modules about the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.


I have studied the latest methods of teaching English (BA TESOL). You should know that the old school of teaching English is teacher centered, whereas the new teaching methods teach student centered techniques. The TESOL course content should have been developed with the latest ELT methodology.

You could ask about this before you sign up for a course.

It is an important question for both teachers teaching to students in English-speaking countries (ESL) and for teachers teaching EFL students in countries like Thailand, since the new methods developed in the post-method era, like task-based language learning (TBL), also known as task-based instruction, and the Natural Approach, are tested and proven to be effective approaches to teaching and learning English.

What is a TESOL certification? The individual succeeded in gaining this document has shown that he or she is skillful in teaching English in effective approaches customized to the learners’ levels and interests.

Student centered approach.

Student centered approaches, for example task-based learning, are the new teaching methods of educators. This is a huge topic and I will post more content about this, but for the purpose of this blog I need to say that you will be more prepared for your classes as an English teacher if you learn what this means and how to teach a student centered approach.

Kindergarten TPR

A teacher centered lesson or class is just like the ones we have had when we went through high school in most cases. The old school of learning French, German or Spanish is basically teacher presentation, practice and assessment/test.

The teacher plans what he or she has to do in the classroom, which chapter, pages, and exercises. There is almost no student empowerment of self-directed learning, the teacher dictates what to learn and how to learn it. A lot of repetition and grammar exercises are common lesson drills.

We all know that this is how we learned foreign languages the last decades all over the world.

ELT methodology has evolved though, and we should pay attention to the latest science, because if we want to develop ourselves as a TESOL instructor we need to know how to focus our lessons on the students rather than on ourselves.

What we teachers do in the classroom is of course important and need to be planned, but in TESOL degree programs we learn to focus on what the students are doing during and after activities, so that we focus on how they perform and what they achieve. Lesson planning begins with what we want students to be able to do: the learning outcomes.

Teaching writing
Kindergarten writing skills

We plan how to achieve this through active learning activities. In some classes we don’t have to ‘do’ much because learners are skillful and have a broad vocabulary knowledge, whereas in other schools learners can’t come up with words themselves and need to be guided and supported, but in both situations the teacher should be a facilitator.

The students learn to become active in their own learning process, rather than listening to the teacher trying to explain grammar rules and read sentences.

It’s important to know what your students are capable of doing, what their proficiency levels are, what they know and don’t know. Then we choose carefully the vocabulary and sentence structure.

A student centered technique of learning grammar structures is to read a text and let students underline certain combinations of words that they have learned in previous lessons that will say when something happens.

21st Century skills.

Student centered skills

These skills need to be developed in 21st century education. 21st Century teachers need to take on the role of a facilitator. The most important skills learners need to develop are the 4 C’s:

  1. Collaboration.
  2. Communication.
  3. Critical thinking.
  4. Creativity

You might start working after your TEFL as an English teacher in an English Program where the curriculum is written with the idea to develop students’ 21st century skills. To my mind, a TEFL course should have a few lessons about the skill set teachers need to develop in order to guide language learners through their development and prepare them for the future.

English lessons should have student centered activities and the target language, dialog and texts should focus on their language needs and interests.

What is a TESOL certification?

What is a TESOL certification? The short answer is an official document that shows that an individual has earned credentials and is competence to perform a job. The long answer is a document stating that a person has achieved a level of competence in teaching English to different kind of students with different levels.

The individual is competent in teaching the four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. These language skills need to be studied in any good 120-hour TEFL/TESOL course.

Furthermore, the teacher can plan and adapt to circumstances and learning styles. One of the TEFL course providers I support has great reviews and experienced instructors.

If you make a purchase through this link I get a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

You can check  it out here.

Another great online provider of quality TEFL/TESOL courses is MyTefl. If you book a course using my link you will get 35% off! My unique promo code is LIVETESOL

These are the TEFL courses that I support. They support my website as well, therefore you can enjoy special discount prices.

Every individual has a different learning style, a different way how he or she prefers to learn. Therefore, the teacher should know how to plan lessons with different materials.

TESOL shouldn’t be taken lightly. The popular saying goes: ‘Between a rock and a hard place.’ TESOL teachers are life-long learners, so if your passion is teaching, live it, live TESOL.

If you have any questions please leave a comment and I’d be more than happy to help.

7 thoughts on “What is a TESOL certification? – Teacher skills.”

  1. I actually have a friend who is interested in this. We were having a conversation about it yesterday so this article came at the right time. Thank you for such an informative article, it has given me a lot of perspective which I will share with her. It is also something I see myself doing in the far future 

    1. Thanks Daniel for your comment. If you or your friend have any further questions about ELT I’m happy to help you out. I’m just starting to blog about teaching so I’m hoping to write more on methods and lesson plans soon. Another blog I wrote about acquiring language is maybe interesting to read. Check it out here

  2. My nephew teaches English in Vietnam.  He started in Ho Chi Minh City but has moved around a few times to get a better feel for the country.  While you speak here of teaching in a school setting, he gives private lessons through a company that only teaches languages.  These were originally in person (which is why he moved there) but now have moved to online lessons.  But still he stays because he loves it there! 

    The course you go over here sounds very thorough and I like that it also covers what would be expected in regards to acceptable behavior in Thailand. And the price is certainly reasonable enough.  Less than $300 to start a new adventure!

  3. This was a great resource and good way to learn the difference between TEFL and TESOL, but most important is the tips you offering in the culture where teaching will be taking place. I found this quite fascinating because my daughter just got her TEFL certificate online and she is still looking for an opportunity to teach online. When I read your reference on how to obtain your degree in Thailand, then I began to be more excited for her because we have been thinking on her relocating to Thailand. 

    Thanks for the information and the simplistic way you have arranged it because I know I will be able to assist her with her search.

    1. I’m glad that you found my post helpful in your search. Relocating to Thailand might be a great way to enter the world of TESOL. Here are lots of schools still looking for young, energetic and motivated teachers. The International TESOL program in Bangkok will give her a jump start on the TESOL market, if you have any questions about the program or living in Bangkok, I’d be happy to help you out. Thank you!

  4. TESOL, I’ve never heard this term. I understand what the TESOL certification is but, I do have a question. Is a certification the only thing needed besides a bachelor’s degree? I noticed online that there were opportunities for a TESOL certification and or TESOL degree? Also, does it matter what bachelor’s degree one obtains. For example, I have a Bachelor’s in computer science, are you telling me the only thing I would have to do now is go and take the 120-hour TESOL certification and then I would be qualified to teach? Either way, thank you!

    1. Yes, Lakisha. You have a bachelor degree, so you only need to get a TEFL/TESOL certification which should be accredited around the world. Then you are qualified to teach English as a second or foreign language in certain schools. You need to check with the Ministry of Education in the country you want to teach, but in Asia, in general, foreign teachers should have a bachelor degree in any field and a 120-hour Tefl course. A TESOL degree, which I personally have, is a bachelor degree in TESOL which is great to have since that’s what I do. It qualifies you to teach without a Tefl course, because the certification is included, and schools prefer this degree over a degree unrelated to teaching English off course.  Again, it depends on the school and in which country you’d like to work. Some schools ask for education degrees and a teacher’s license from your home country, or you have to obtain a license in the host country. These schools are International schools. In countries like Thailand, they will give you ‘a waiver’ which means you can teach without a teacher’s license for 6 years, but the top schools also ask for teaching degrees. Hope this answers your question. 

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