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Should I choose to study TEFL or TESOL?

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Text reads 'TEFL or TESOL?' in front of a photo of a man looking like he is thinking with her fingers on his chin.

Teaching English to non-native speakers is an exciting career path, with opportunities to go abroad or to introduce language and culture to foreign language speakers at home. Having a globally-recognised qualification can get you far in this field but you may be confused about which route to take.

Read on to find out the difference between two of them, TEFL and TESOL.

Both courses, whilst having slightly different aims, prepare English language teachers sufficiently in teaching it as a foreign language. Schools worldwide accept both as a qualification proving your ability when looking to hire an English language teacher. So what is the difference between the two?


TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. A TEFL Certificate is for you if you want to teach English in a country where English is not a primary language. For example, you could use your skills and knowledge from your TEFL Certificate to teach English to students in Japan, where English is a foreign language.

In the TEFL course, you will learn the rules of the English language and how to convey these to a non-English-speaking classroom. You will know how to curate the appropriate teaching materials and lesson plans to ensure your students manage to pick up English as a foreign language.

TEFL-qualified teachers are widely sought-after around the world so you can take the certificate with you wherever you wish to go.


TESOL is for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It may sound similar, but the distinction between the two qualifications is that as well as being able to use TESOL to teach English in a non-English-speaking country, you can teach English to students as a second language within a country where English is primarily spoken.

A TESOL diploma is suitable for you if you are already teaching or if you wish to switch to a career involving profound knowledge and skills in teaching English to speakers of other languages. You will learn contextual issues concerning teaching English to speakers of other languages as well as practical teaching skills.

A benefit of the TESOL route is that it allows for a more open career path if you know you want to teach English as a foreign language but you are unsure how or where. It is a newer programme than TEFL so its global reputation is still building.

Feel like a TEFL or TESOL path is right for you? Head to our teacher training course directory to learn more about Notting Hill College’s Ofqual-accredited qualifications.



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