TEFL Explained

 > TEFL Explained

What is TEFL

TEFL – (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is teaching English to students whose first language is another language, most ot the teaching takes place in the country of the student. On some occasions, students travel to English speaking countries for shorter, intensive courses.

Teachers are predominantly native speakers but not solely. One of the main characteristics of TEFL teaching is that no first language is spoken in the classroom, only English. This, in many ways, mimics how children first learn to speak, by being surrounded by the language.

It’s a good question. You probably know by now it stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, but what does that mean?

The world needs to learn English. When a French company does business with a Japanese company, chances are they will communicate in English.

But it’s not a just high-level business, medicine and science are done in English too. When a non-native researcher wants to publish their study, if they want any recognition, they’re likely to write it in English.

Then there’s tourism, Education… pretty much every facet of life. So, if English is not your native language you are immediately at a disadvantage. Don’t learn English and the chances of succeeding in life are far more unlikely.

The results are 2 billion people learning English.

It’s very difficult for countries to produce English teachers at the rate they’re needed, so there’s a shortage.

Most importantly, the best way to learn a language is to be with native speakers. Naturally, we think the best way to learn something is to explain how and why, it’s how we learn everything else in life, but the language is different. For a start, it uses a different part of the brain.

The best way to explain learning a language is to think about when you were a baby. You learned to speak English by being around it and making deductions or trying to say things.

You certainly did have your parents or teachers speaking to you in Goo-goo, baby speak to explain why we say ” I am” and not “I is”.

So, the best way for students to learn is to be surrounded by natives.

At the same time, the world is really accessible for most native English speakers. Not only can we fly anywhere and everywhere, because of the strength of our currency, it’s also affordable.

We want to travel and explore, and the rest of the world need to speak English.

This is TEFL, and why it exists.

Recommended reading:
How to get a tefl certification
Best tefl courses
The best places to teach english abroad
How to teach english abroad

To become a teacher, you don’t actually need anything. I’m not kidding. Some schools in the world would take you just because you are an English native. Especially if they want you to use their own methodology, for example, Callan or the direct method.

Sure, it’s probably less than 10% but it’s still possible.

However, the problem lies with visas. Most countries in the world require some form of TEFL certification to have your work visa accepted.

Less than 5 years ago, a lot of teachers were getting around the visa problem by going over the border the neighbouring country, getting their passport stamped, and heading back. Especially Thailand and China, two very popular destinations.

It’s not enough to have a TEFL certificate, countries have different requirements about the type of TEFL certificate you must have.

Most importantly, TEFL is so rewarding. Most people don’t travel to sightsee, they want to explore and get to know different cultures.

As an English teacher, chances are you’ll be welcomed into the community. Your students will be as keen to know about you as you are about them.

Plus, you get paid. That’s the important part. A lot of people can’t afford to save up thousands to be able to afford to travel, they need to work their way around the world. TEFL normally pays well by local standards, so you get to live reasonably comfortably.

So, the short answer to “what is TEFL?” is that it is teaching English in other countries. The longer answer is, it’s an opportunity to explore the world, meet people and experience cultures, whilst giving something back to the community, and getting paid for it.

History of TEFL

Historically TEFL was something you did if you were a backpacker looking to earn some quick cash before you set off on the next leg of some exotic adventure. The schools were poorly organised, the money was terrible, there were no real expectations other than turn up and speak English to the locals.


These days TEFL has a completely different face. With the introduction of daily flights to pretty much anywhere on the planet, suddenly the world feels a lot smaller, and with the huge increase of global tourism and international business, for many people in the world, the need to speak English has become essential. This has seen an explosion of schools opening in almost every country and equally the demand for English natives willing to come and teach English has also boomed.

With numerous courses out there such as our own accredited online course and weekend course locations across the United Kingdom – getting started is easier than ever.


With the increase in opportunities comes an increase in expectations. The conditions, pay, and support is infinitely better but schools are no longer satisfied with just any native speaker stopping over to earn some cash. School owners expect their natives to be professional, conscientious and have at least a good grasp of the basics. That’s where we come in.

With 80,000 – 100,000 TEFL jobs available annually from Beijing to Bratislava. Star Tefl is your first step to your new life.