As a non-native English speaker, you may be wondering if your English is good enough to do a CELTA course. Maybe you’ve been told that ESL teachers need to have a perfect level of English or a native-sounding accent, but is any of that really true? Let’s find out.
So, what level of English do you need to do a CELTA course? According to the entry requirements, you need “C1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference” (CEFR). This is the same as IELTS 7.0-7.5 in all elements. Therefore, you need a minimum of IELTS 7.0 to do the CELTA course if you are a non-native English speaker.
Check the CEFR for a full guide to English levels and equivalent test scores
What is the Common European Framework of Reference?
The Common European Framework of Reference, or the CEFR for short, is a framework of standards set out by the Council of Europe for the purpose of labeling learners’ language levels.
You’ve probably heard of the six CEFR levels, which range from A1 to C2 (A1 being the lowest, and C2 being the highest.) The idea of this system is that it’s a lot more practical than saying ‘I’m fluent,’ or ‘I’m conversational.’ The CEFR references specific criteria which helps put learners into fitting categories.
If you’re interested in finding out what your English level is in regards to the CEFR, try reading up on the criteria on a trusted site. You can also take many online tests that will be able to roughly calculate your level, but please do be aware that such tests are purely for your own use, and can’t be used as proof of your language level.
What English Language Tests Are Accepted for CELTA Entry?
If you’re interested in applying for a CELTA course but you haven’t taken an English language test yet, you should find out about taking one straight away. But which is the best one to take, and which ones are even accepted by Cambridge?
The most popular and widely recognized English language test in the world is the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test. While there are a few other relevant exams out there (TOEFL, TOEIC etc.) IELTS is the one which most non-native speakers take if they’re hoping to do a CELTA qualification.
Upon completing an IELTS examination, you’ll be given a score from 1 to 9, 1 being for complete beginners and 9 being for near-perfect speakers. If you score a 7 or above, you meet the official requirements for taking part in a CELTA course.
Does My Grammar Have to Be Perfect to Take the CELTA?
No, but you do need to have good grammar. Even C2 level English speakers slip up with their grammar sometimes, as is only natural. When selecting candidates for their courses, CELTA organizers aren’t looking for perfect grammar or vocab, but rather for people who are aware of their own mistakes and able to follow the materials that they’re provided with.
In CELTA teaching practice sessions, you’ll be given lesson plans and coursebook materials to use in your lessons. This means that you’ll have plenty of time to revise and learn whatever it is that you have to teach. If you’re teaching a grammar lesson, as long as you’ve done the correct research, you shouldn’t need to worry about your grammar being perfect.
What Level of Academic Writing Do I Need for CELTA?
Understanding and perfecting the formality, tone and structure of academic writing in a foreign language can be tough. Thankfully, your level of academic writing doesn’t need to be all that advanced in order to take the CELTA.
In the CELTA assignments and lesson plans, your tutors will be focused on your understanding and knowledge of the specific topics which you are required to write about. Therefore, as long as you can write clear, coherent sentences with few errors, you should be just fine.
There are also some reflective elements in CELTA assignments, so you’ll be required to write about your own experiences taking the course, your improvements, and areas that you need to work on. This is quite a bit less formal than your average university academic writing, so you needn’t be too worried about getting the formality right.
The CELTA lesson plans that you’ll need to make for your teaching practice require some technical language, but that will all be taught to you over the course of your CELTA training, so it doesn’t really require any preexisting knowledge.
What to Revise Before the CELTA Course
If you’ve decided that you want to do a CELTA course, there are some ways in which you can improve your chances of succeeding before you start. You may already be quite confident in your English skills, but there are always some areas that you can work on.
I’m a native English speaker, so although I didn’t struggle too much with the grammar while I was taking the CELTA, there were a handful of non-native speakers on my course who had the occasional slip-up.
Try taking some tests and using online resources such as Grammarly to brush up on your Grammar skills before you start the CELTA.
Misspelling a word on the white board in front of a whole class of students, trainees and tutors can be daunting, so make sure you practice your spelling and get it to a good level before you take the CELTA course.
For other elements of the course, such as lesson plans and written assignments, tutors won’t expect you to have perfect spelling, as you can easily self-correct using the spelling tool on most word processors.
If you’re not familiar with the names of the tenses, or other technical terms like form, function and register, it would be very beneficial to you if you try learning them before your CELTA course.
This is not completely essential, as your tutors won’t expect you to know all of this before the course, and it will be taught to you anyway. That being said, I wasn’t familiar with any of the grammar terminology before I took the CELTA, and if I could go back in time, I would definitely have brushed up on it beforehand.
Phonemes are used a lot in the CELTA course, and although it’s not completely necessary to know them, it’s a great plus if you do.
In case you don’t know what phonemes are, they’re effectively an entire alphabet that highlights the pronunciation of words, letters and sounds. A word like through, which is not spelled how it sounds (like most words in English) can be written as θruː , bicycle as ˈbaɪsɪkl , and onomatopoeia as ˌɒnəʊmətəʊˈpi(ː)ə .
What do they look for at the CELTA interview? During the CELTA application process, tutors will look for candidates with an advanced level of spoken and written English. While they won’t be looking for perfect grammar or spelling, you will be required to demonstrate the ability to self-correct and analyse language.
How to improve my English before CELTA? If you’re looking to improve your English, try finding a private tutor (online or face-to-face) that can help you to work on your specific weaknesses. If this isn’t quite affordable for you, try practicing as much as possible, and following the ‘1 hour per day’ language learning rule.
Will the CELTA help me to improve my English? Of course! Since English is the language that you’ll be communicating in every day, you’ll improve tremendously. You’re also likely to learn new things just through the process of teaching them, which is awesome, and will probably continue throughout your entire career as a teacher.