Is CELTA Enough to Teach English?


If you are a recent graduate or are looking for a new challenge in life, teaching English as a foreign language could be a great option. It allows you to travel overseas, meet new people and learn about new cultures. Employers, however, will want to know that teachers applying for roles at their school are correctly trained. 

Teaching a language is a responsibility, and not something that every English speaker can do. New teachers will need core skills before they can teach an EFL (English as a foreign language) or ESL (English as a secondary language) class.

As you start to apply for teaching posts, you’ll see that many employers will specify the need for a CELTA in their job adverts. But is a short course really enough to teach English?

Yes, the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is a highly regarded type of TEFL qualification (teaching English as a foreign language). It will also equip you with all the experience and skills required to teach anywhere around the world.   

So, out of all the different teacher training course, why is CELTA the one employers want on your CV?

The Main Focus of CELTA

The CELTA course aims to prepare you for the classroom. Standing up in front of a class for the first time can be daunting, no matter the age of the students, their nationality or even your experience with the English language.

The course is 120 hours in total and can be studied full time or part-time. Along the course, you will receive feedback from teachers on how to plan a lesson, analyse the English language and the methodology behind teaching English as a foreign or secondary language.

You will teach real English language students throughout your course and by the end will have had six hours of observed and assessed practice in the classroom. This experience will be vital when it comes to teaching and getting your first job in the industry.

You will be assessed in the classroom and will complete four written assignments based on the input you have received. As you are assessed through the course, you can learn and improve from the feedback. Every course is moderated by an external assessor, appointed by Cambridge English, so you will receive your qualification from the highly respected Cambridge English, part of the University of Cambridge.

You may also be pleased to know that there is no final exam on the CELTA course, which is a definite bonus if the thought of taking an exam fills you with dread!

Key Benefits of CELTA

A CELTA on your CV is sure to make employers take notice. It is recognised and respected by language schools and employers all over the world, from Asia to South America. Think of a CELTA as an international passport to working and living anywhere in the world.

You don’t just learn how to stand in front of a classroom and talk to students. You learn how to structure a lesson, how to promote communication over passive knowledge and how to correctly engage receptive skills.

The CELTA gives employers proof of your ability to teach English professionally. A university degree may show that you understand the methodology, a CELTA offers clear evidence of your professional capability. Having a CELTA will often put you in a better position to negotiate your salary as it shows you have all the skills to teach English.

Training for a CELTA can be arranged around your life. You can train full time over four to five weeks or part-time around your prior work commitments, with the part-time option usually lasting around 12 weeks, although some centres do offer this over a longer period. 

CELTA can also be taken as an online learning course, combining digital self-study with hands-on teaching practice.

Limitations of a CELTA

Teaching Young Learners

CELTA has limitations if you want to work with children. There are some key areas that aren’t covered on the course, which are vital when teaching young learners. For example, you won’t learn classroom management, how to find appropriate material for young learners and how to engage them through storytelling.

However, the teaching basics of presenting language, checking instructions and being aware of language that’s covered on the course can be used with learners of all ages.

Cambridge used to provide an extension course that helped new teachers learn all the skills required to work with young learners. Unfortunately, this was discontinued in December 2016.

Trinity are amongst the external providers who offer an add-on course, if your future career intention is to teach young learners (Editor’s note: Trinity is a trusted and respected course provider, they even offer and accredit their own Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL), something of an equivalent to CELTA).

CELTA is very good at giving you the theory and the experience of being in a classroom. But once you are working in a school, you will be faced with a whole new host of pressures, problems and unexpected challenges.

While you do spend significant time planning lessons while on a CELTA course, it’s nowhere near the amount of time you will have on the job. While training, you only plan and execute two lessons a week and have the time to get everything right.

When you are teaching for over twenty hours a week, you will struggle to find the time to produce a three-page lesson plan for every class.

CELTA lessons are so strict on time that it can affect how spontaneous you are as a teacher. Being able to quickly adapt is an important skill to have when teaching, CELTA may leave you unprepared for this.

A lot of this spontaneity comes with experience, you will start to understand when and what engages your students, and timing will begin to come naturally. There are some things that a few hours of classroom practice simply can’t teach you.

CELTA is not a grammar course and while it shows you how to teach grammar, it won’t teach you, for example, the difference between past simple and present perfect. You will likely have to fill the gaps in your grammar in your own time. 

Always make sure you look over the material you will be teaching the students and try to guess the type of questions you are likely to be asked. There is nothing worse than looking clueless in front of a room of students, and it’s also a quick way to lose all authority as a teacher!

Lack of Experience with Students

CELTA may give you experience in a classroom, but it doesn’t teach you how to connect with students. You can have all the methodology in the world, but if students don’t like you they won’t listen or care about the contents of your lesson.

Some people can naturally build a rapport with students, for others, it’s something that is learned with experience. You will learn over time how to tailor your lessons to the demographic sitting in front of you, not to please the assessor. When you are planning your lesson, remember the nationality, age and level of English of the class you will be teaching.

Related Questions

Is CELTA a diploma? No, the CELTA is not a diploma; it is a certificate which is a level five qualification in the UK. This puts it even with a higher national certificate or diploma, or a foundation degree. A level five qualification showcases specialised knowledge that surpasses secondary school education.

Why is CELTA so well recognised? CELTA is one of the few TEFL courses with assessed classroom training. This means you will learn the theory behind teaching English, teach real learners, and get feedback from highly trained assessors. Official CELTA centres also have to go through a rigorous check by external assessors before they are accredited by Cambridge, keeping standards high.

Why are CELTA courses better than TEFL? CELTA is a TEFL course in many ways, but it differs in that it’s high quality to a specific, rigid standard. Teachers trained on the CELTA course are guaranteed a level of competence that other TEFL courses can’t offer. Whilst CELTA is one of the more expensive options, you certainly get what you pay for. 

Amelia Harvey

Former EFL employee, freelance writer and film reviewer. A wearer of pencil skirts and beehives.

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