Teaching English abroad is a rewarding and enjoyable job that will give you unlimited opportunities to travel and learn about the culture and people from all over the world. If you want to do this kind of job, your next step is to get certified; and the best certification is the CELTA. In this post, Carla Scaltritti from Argentina tells us about her experience taking the CELTA course over 4 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa at the International House language school and her plans for the future as currently, she is going to Vietnam to start an exciting journey teaching English!
If you are not very familiar with this kind of certification let me give you a brief summary of the most common terms:
- TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
- TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
Here are some important points to consider regarding CELTA:
- CELTA is the original TESOL/TEFL certificate course and has been running for four decades.
- CELTA is the most widely-recognized, preferred, and required TESOL/TEFL certificate in the world.
- CELTA is awarded by Cambridge Assessment English through the University of Cambridge (one of the most prestigious universities in the world.), which ensures quality and high standards.
- The CELTA course combines theory with practical training (you will give real classes to foreign students) that will give you the skills and tools to be prepared when you get into the classroom.
- After passing the CELTA course, trainees receive a certificate from Cambridge as well as a report from the center detailing the trainees’ areas of strength and weakness.
Now, Carla will tell us: what was her application process like? What was her experience like? How was life in Cape Town? What did she like and didn’t like? What are her recommendations?
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- Type of program: study and teach abroad.
- Study: I studied in Cape Town, South Africa in International House (IH) language school. This school offers CELTA courses in other countries but I choose Cape Town because I wanted to live in this nice city and I choose IH because it is well known as a school with high standards.
- Work: I’m going to work in Vietnam but there are opportunities almost everywhere in the world.
- Organization: International House was founded in 1953 and has 160 language schools in over 50 countries. There you can also learn French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Arabic and a wide variety of other languages.
- Website: ihcapetown.com
- Eligibility Requirements:
- Nationality: nationals from any country can participate.
- Age: you must be at least 18 years old.
- Language: you must have at least a C1 level of English (although you don’t need a certificate to prove this, you will show your skills during the application process).
- Education: you should have finished high school.
- Duration: a CELTA course lasts 1 month (there is also a part-time option that lasts 3 months and an online option but I don’t recommend them).
- Finance: if you want to study in a foreign country you have to make a budget with all the costs. The basic costs that you should consider are the course, accommodation, plane tickets, food, transportation, and the activities that you want to do (there are many touristic activities in Cape Town).
- Visa: you can enter South Africa with a tourist visa (no visa needed for Argentinians).
2. Application Process
The exam is called the “CELTA exam pre-interview task”. I was sent a word document in which I had to write an essay and answer several questions about teaching methodology and grammar.
During the interview I was asked several general questions about my life, my experience speaking English and the questions I answered on the “CELTA exam pre-interview task”.
I was sent a pre-course with the course content and activities so I could see a general description and get ready (ideally you should see it before the course starts to prepare for it).
Collect the required documents
Scan and send passport, credit card and invoice documents to the International House team.
Process your visa
You can enter South Africa with a tourist Visa. No visa is needed for Argentinian citizens.
Plan your trip
Do some research to find your flight tickets, life in Cape Town and solve any question you could have.
3. My Experience
I have always liked to travel and live abroad! I have been able to visit 30 countries around the world. In America I have been in almost every country starting from Peru and going to the south, in Europe I have also visited almost all countries, in Africa I have been in Morocco and South Africa, and now I will begin a new adventure in Asia starting with Vietnam.
I also love languages (I’m able to speak Spanish, English, German, Italian, French and Portuguese). I was studying English Translation in Argentina but I got tired of it because it was getting very difficult; so I worked in a cruise ship for two years and then decided that I wanted to become an English teacher abroad, so I decided to get the CELTA.
b. CELTA Course
The course lasted 4 weeks (Monday through Friday) and it was highly intensive and rewarding. I had to attend school daily from 8:00 am until approximately 5:30 pm. And the day was divided into 2 parts:
- Teaching Practice (TP): on the first half of the day (from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm) we had Teaching Practice (we gave lessons to students).
- Input Sessions: in the afternoon (from 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm) we had Input Sessions (out tutors gave us classes).
Beware that you will have to spend extra time during evenings and weekends. This course requires a full-time commitment, and it is not advisable to hold a part-time job while on the course.
Overall, I had the following activities during the course:
- 9 Teaching Practice (TP) sessions: in which a tutor evaluated my class.
- 6 Unobserved Classes: classes where there was no tutor to evaluate my class and that served me to gain confidence.
- Focus on the Learner: I had to choose a student and see which problems she/he had and look for activities to help her/him improve.
- Language Related Tasks: I was given 4 sentences in English and had to see their grammatical structure and think how to introduce them and explain them to my students (e.g. with pictures, acting, etc.).
- Language Skills Related: I had to choose a text that was appropriate for the English level of my students and then do an oral activity so the students talked about it.
- Lessons from the Classroom: I had to observe the class of another (full-time) teacher and say what would I like to replicate on my class considering how would I improve my weaknesses.
The other trainees
In International House IH there is a maximum of 12 trainees per course. In my case, there were 9 trainees, another seven girls and me and one boy. The other trainees were all friendly and we worked in teams very well. I think that the fact that we created such a great team, made the course more pleasant.
The first two weeks my students had an intermediate level of English and the following two weeks an elementary level. We also exchange tutors between those weeks.
We had two tutors so we were divided into two groups of four and five persons; each one with one tutor, one from the United States and the other one from South Africa.
Most common questions I’m asked
- Can you fail CELTA? Yes, you can fail it but before that happens the teachers are going to tell you that you are not performing well so you can work hard on your weaknesses and pass.
- Can you take the CELTA course again? Yes, but of course you will need to pay the full price again. And you will also need to take it on a different center.
- Did you get a grade? Yes, you can get FAIL – PASS – PASS B – PASS A. Most trainees get a “Pass”.
You can find more F.A.Q. here.
4. The location
Why South Africa?
I chose to study in Cape Town, South Africa because:
- If you wish to take a CELTA course in the United States, you must obtain an F-1 visa, whereas in other countries as South Africa you can enter just with a tourist visa.
- I choose to do it outside of Argentina because I believe the experience obtained of studying and teaching abroad is better and it also qualified me as a better candidate to apply for jobs abroad than teachers who got their certificate in non-English speaking countries.
The weather in Cape Town in May was very nice, most of the days were sunny, the people are really nice and polite, the food is very tasty and cheap (compared to Argentina), and there are many activities to do at daylight and also great nightlife. But forget about them while studying for the CELTA because you barely have time to go out (better plan to stay longer so you can enjoy some holidays).
Check this guide with the top 10 places you should visit in Cape Town!
5. General Opinion
- The main advantage is that I was able to get a certificate in English Teaching in a short amount of time (just by studying one month), and it has given me many job opportunities all around the world.
- For me, doing the course was easier than for native speakers because when you study English as a second language you learn some subjects as phonetics (symbols) and grammar in a different way and these were more difficult for the native speakers.
- I liked a lot the assignment of “Lessons from the classroom”, after this activity I improved a lot because I observed a teacher that was performing several activities that were hard for me in a very easy and natural way, which gave me more security and confidence because I saw that it was not so difficult to do them.
- I stayed a total of 2.5 months in Cape Town so I was able to enjoy 1 month of holidays when I arrived, then work hard for 1 month during the CELTA course and then relax another 2 weeks.
- One of the disadvantages is that it is an expensive course but you also have to consider that you are obtaining in just 1 month a certificate that is similar to a university degree because it will allow you to obtain a formal and well-paid job around the world.
- Some tasks were more difficult for non-native English speakers like me. For example, I was taking more time to write the lesson plans and 1000 word essays (for the assignments).
- The four weeks that the course lasted were very stressful but in the end, it was completely rewarding.
6. The future after the course
After you get the CELTA, you can give classes at any English level (from children in primary and secondary school to adults) and you can also teach online.
You can work in different parts of the world
Now, I can teach English in any part of the world because CELTA is recognized everywhere so I just need to apply for a job at an English school.
There are a lot of opportunities in China, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea United Arab Emirates and more countries. In my case, I will soon leave to Vietnam. I decided to go there because the salary is high and the cost of living is not very expensive.
You can have a good salary abroad
Salaries are usually between $1300 – $2000 USD per month and if you choose a country in which the cost of living is not very high you’ll be able to live a comfortable life and save some money at the same time.
You can advance further in your career
Additionally, after 2-3 years of experience, you can take the DELTA course (2-month course) and teach to teachers, which will let you have a higher salary.
I encourage you to get the CELTA because you can become an English teacher and find a job all over the world. There are other TEFL courses that are cheaper but it is better to get the CELTA because although it is more expensive it is more recognized.
Before the course
- Beware the CELTA course is intense: before I started my CELTA course, I did some research and I read everywhere that the course was going to be super stressful and they were right! It was the most stressful experience I had in my whole life! But if I had to do it again, I would do it without thinking a second about it. You can see another experience in this video.
- Prepare yourself before the course: before you start your CELTA course try to get your grammar knowledge on point. Consider reading “Grammar for English Language Teachers” by Martin Parrott, ‘Learning Teaching’ by Jim Scrivener or any of these 10 recommended CELTA books. Also, watch many videos of CELTA on YouTube.
- Take the on-site CELTA: if you don’t have a lot of time, some CELTA schools also offer part-time CELTA (three months) and online CELTA (but you will also have to go to all the Teaching Practice lessons). My advice is to better focus for 1 month and to it all on-site.
After the course
- Be YOU in your class: do everything you are told to do during the CELTA course but when you finish feel free to be more flexible with your class.
- Consider your characteristics when you apply for jobs: if you are deciding to quit your undergraduate studies and acquire the CELTA also consider that when you are looking for work, there will be more preference for English native speakers and people with a university degree. For example, if you do not have a university degree, you cannot apply for a work visa in China.
- Travel and explore: I took advantage that I was in South Africa to travel through Cape Town. You should visit Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Clifton beaches, Camps Bay and many other places.
In the Work Abroad section, you can find more experiences earning internships and full-time job positions abroad! If you had a similar experience and want to inspire others to apply please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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