Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) refers to teaching the English language to students with different first languages. TEFL can occur either within the state school system or more privately, at a language school or with a tutor. TEFL can also take place in an English-speaking country for people who have immigrated there (either temporarily for school or work, or permanently). TEFL teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English. Other acronyms for TEFL are TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language), and ESL (English as a second language, a term typically used in English-speaking countries, and more often referring to the learning than the teaching)
Qualification requirements vary considerably from country to country and among employers within the same country. In many institutions it is possible to teach without a degree or teaching certificate. Some institutions will consider it necessary to be a native speaker with an MA TESOL. A university degree in English language and literature can also be of value, as indeed can any specialist degree. Other institutions consider a proof of English proficiency, a University degree and a basic teaching qualification to be more than sufficient. However, the level of academic qualification need not be the most important qualification, as many schools will be more interested in your interpersonal skills. For trainers wishing to enter the academic field, publications can be as important as qualifications, especially if they relate to English use in your field. Where there is a high demand for teachers and no statutory requirements, employers may accept otherwise unqualified candidates. Each country is different, and acceptance depends on demand for English teachers and the teacher’s previous teaching and life experiences.
As a general rule, schools will tend to prefer qualifications that involve a significant amount of assessed teaching: it is often said that “Learning to teach without classroom practice is like learning to drive without ever encountering traffic”. Shorter courses and online courses often lack assessed teaching practice. Course makers have recognized this and have begun introducing combined TEFL courses which have an element of assessed teaching.