CELTA or TEFL in France?


I did them both!

Well, it sounds odd, but I did them both!  First, about three years ago I obtained a CELTA qualification and then this year I did the TEFL Toulouse course to get some skills refreshment. I think some of you would be interested to hear of the differences between CELTA and TEFL from someone who has done both of them, am I right? OK, here we go:

In my home city, Kyiv (Ukraine), my major was in International Economics. The limited amount of English teaching I did at that time left me lacking in confidence, even though I got good feedback from my students. CELTA gave me a direction in which I could develop my career and move into teaching English.  Teaching was always my passion and I needed some professional development.

My CELTA experience

CELTA introduced a teaching English method based on students’ speaking.  It was totally different compared to our old school of learning foreign languages in which we had to write, read, translate, swot, listen….. there wasn’t much speaking during the lessons. At Celta I found out about limitation of teacher talking time, about a focus on guiding the students, rather than explaining the material word by word.  I learned about different types of learners and teaching approaches.  The lesson plan was wisely divided into sections to make a learning process easy and interesting for students.  The trainers were very experienced and professional.

So I was happy overall, and continued to attend seminars, workshops…

Differences and similarities between my CELTA and TEFL courses

But I can say the TEFL Toulouse course in Spring 2019 was the most amazing experience in my teaching career! And it made me realise the shortcomings, in my opinion, of my previous training.

TEFL Toulouse gave me more confidence than CELTA did, provided much more language (grammar, phonology) theory than my previous courses, topped it up with endless insights and activities which I can apply to my lessons.

The teaching methods recommended by TEFL Toulouse were similar to CELTA. But I found TEFL Toulouse so much more flexible in terms of teaching.

We were all recognized as unique teachers with our own individual styles of teaching.  CELTA was more regulated and templated. Also, and most important of all for me was that at TEFL Toulouse  we were taught grammar and pronunciation, and in great depth!  On my CELTA course it was presumed that we all knew that as the focus seemed to be on getting old school teachers and supplying them a new teaching approach.

I think it’s partly because we were bilingual and we knew the basic aspects of grammar, but in retrospect I think it was still presuming a lot of us.

I’d say that for native speakers, who don’t have a philological degree, introduction of grammar, pronunciation is important – to know the names of tenses, rules, structures, dictionary symbols of sounds, etc.  At TEFL Toulouse, we covered all of that.

Unknown foreign language element of the TEFL course

We trainees also had a chance to experience being students and whether the teaching method works, – we were taught beginner Chinese using the lesson planning method called PPP.  It was exciting and productive at the same time and I really felt how it must feel to be a beginner student of a language. It was so hard just to say “hello” without it meaning “go away” or something!  A fascinating insight. Now when I go to China, I will be able to introduce myself and say a few words about myself just after having two lessons.

Teaching English through drama and roleplay

What we also didn’t have at CELTA was a session how to to teach English through drama.  I think the ability to teach through drama is important, as it helps students to feel more confident, more creative, relaxed, open their talents and produce in a very realistic scenario what they’ve been learning during the previous lessons. Not to mention how drama underlines the importance of intonation, word stress, connected speech, weak forms (don’t worry, you’ll learn all about this at TEFL).

Drama can break the ice and create a friendly atmosphere in a class.  We had so much fun, I’ll never forget that session!  And again we obtained unique activities which can be applied at our own lessons.

Novel demo lessons!

In both CELTA and TEFL we had demo lessons to observe  But at TEFL Toulouse, one was extraordinary! Our experienced trainer introduced a lesson with a kinaesthetic style of learning: students needed to build construction with improvised things: spaghetti sticks, ropes, some candy, etc. in 2 teams collaborating using pre-taught vocabulary.  It was a competition: the winner was a team which had built the highest construction.  However, I believe they were all the winners – they learned and used the active lexis describing what and how to build during the production part of the lesson.  These examples of lessons at TEFL (a drama one and kinaesthetic one) showed that a role of a teacher in a class is to guide, be creative, emphasize, instill confidence into the students, stimulate their thinking and self-learning processes. And encourage students to USE language in a meaningful way, where there is a genuine need to communicate.

A special mention should go to the location of the TEFL course.  I did part-time CELTA in my home city, so I didn’t go away from my family. I was able combine work and studies.  It’s a big advantage. However, if you would like to experience a new culture, you should definitely go and take the course in a different country.  Toulouse is a beautiful city with marvellous architecture, amicable and hospitable people, delicious cuisine. Hmmm!

Conclusion: both courses were great!

Please don’t get me wrong. My CELTA course was very good and gave me more than a solid grounding. I would definitely recommend it and this blog is not meant to criticise it in any way!

It is just that the TEFL course seemed to do the whole thing in glorious technicolour, in 3D, if that makes any sense.

The Toulouse trainers are very charismatic and professional, they are always willing to answer all the questions and help in your teaching career (you get job guidance for life).

So what do YOU look for in a TEFL course?

CELTA or TEFL – I did both!

Tanya Subotina

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