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The Celt Tiger: Teaching English Abroad

Why I Chose CELTWhy I Chose CELT CELT vs TEFLCELT vs TEFL Need More Info?Need More Info?

This blog was long overdue. Why we didn’t launch the blog with this is beyond me but being, just like a student, we too are constantly learning! If you didn’t read my first post on why we quit our jobs to travel and teach English around the world, you can do so here.

Unless you don’t give a shite and want to get to the nitty gritty of ESL teaching and how we managed to obtain our qualifications, keep reading.


Why I Chose CELT:

It all began when a dear friend of ours, Carmen, passed comment on a friend of a friend who was enjoying a life of teaching and travelling. We were just back from a month of travelling Southeast Asia and severely depressed. Since that conversation, it’s all I could think about and we kept hearing of more and more people taking on the challenge, never ever hearing a bad word about it.

Of course, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is the first thing that comes to mind. We’ve all heard of it, right? Well, as an experienced English educator, who contacted us when he heard our interview on Today FM, wrote “would you like to pay to learn French or Spanish from someone who has never taught before and did a 20 hour online course?”.

Maybe you would, maybe I would. If the person was a born teacher and a good one, does it matter how or why they secured their qualification?

Upon research into a TEFL certification, I soon discovered it wasn’t for me. I love to learn and upskill. I am autonomous and I am determined to complete a goal I’ve set for myself. Some would say that’s because of my stubbornness.

So when I soon realised that TEFL is prominently an online qualification that allows you to enter a classroom to teach eager learners, who want to not only better their education and prospects but learn the universal language that is English, without any prior teaching experience. I wasn’t sold.

Now, I am in no way saying that an online TEFL cert isn’t good enough. It is. It’s a worldwide recognised certificate and some of the best teachers hold it. I think if you’re made to teach, you will. I mean, I’ve no qualifications in PR and Marketing, yet I bagged a job, created a career and now hold over 6 years experience working in the industry. It’s all down to the individual, in my opinion.

What I will say is that if you feel you could teach English and enjoy it, think that you have the drive to share knowledge, have the patience to adapt to different learner styles and most importantly the passion, you’ll be fine.

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A glimpse into our classroom

Instead I found and obtained a CELT qualification (Certificate in English Language Training). This allowed me to learn how to teach ESL by experienced ESL teachers while being fully exposed to the reality of classroom teaching. This is the big winner for me.

Thanks to my CELT course, I’ve clocked over 360 minutes of teaching practice before officially receiving my cert. The best part being that during those classes, we were observed, marked and given feedback on each lesson. This you cannot receive via an online TEFL course. Now, thanks to travel, I had the chance to extend that experience as a volunteer teacher across a number of countries. I taught students at levels ranging from beginners (A0-A2 level), to pre-intermediate (B1-B2) and intermediates (C1-C2).

How will you know if you can manage the classroom, be a good teacher or, most importantly, enjoy it unless you jump head first into a classroom environment. Another thing that stood out for me is my teaching style. How I approached my learners, did I speak too fast or did I use appropriate language suited to the students’ level and could I improve and if so, how? The observer’s feedback is essential here. An online course cannot offer you this same feedback.

Another huge factor is the importance in lesson planning. My course director had told us that as ESL teachers, we will spend most of our time planning a lesson than teaching one. So, you could spend up to 4-5 hours planning a two hour class. And no, you cannot “wing it” – you can try but if you are approaching this with that attitude then please don’t teach. Think back to that useless teacher you had (we all had one!) remember how their slack or careless attitude turned you off the subject? Remember how you struggled and still to this day shudder at the thought of that subject. Please, don’t be that guy.

With CELT, we invested a lot of time into learning and creating our lesson plans. And again, our tutors were at hand to assist and correct.

I had this preconception that ESL was like school, and how I learned English. It’s far from it. The idea behind ESL is to encourage learner autonomy and to use the method of CLT (communicative language teaching). CLT is when educators introduce learners to the language they need to deal in “real-life” situations, concentrating on student interaction, humanistic values, individualisation; all while using authentic materials. Authentic materials can range from pictures, a mobile phone, Youtube videos, movies/songs, board games, activity sheets – you name it. These in turn motivate learners to communicate because they assist with making communication ‘real’.

In a nutshell, with ESL, at times fluency and fluidity is more important than accuracy. Besides, the more learners communicate, the more they will learn. Confidence is key. Although in saying that, reading, writing and listening classes/exercises are equally as important.

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My fellow CELT-ers

Essentially, the teacher is a tool (we immaturely laughed when we heard this!), an aid, someone to help not someone who rules the class. The less time the teacher talks and the more students talk, the better. My tutor once told me “if you can give your students a speaking exercise, leave the classroom to pee or make a cup of tea, to return to the students still speaking English without them noticing that you left, you’re doing good. It really is about creating an atmosphere that engages students in a clear concise manner all while encouraging them to speak. Simple? No, it isn’t.

First of all, how can you teach someone something you don’t, yourself, know ? In our CELT course, we studied everything you can think of. From the background of CLT, to lesson planning and creating classroom activities, to following a school syllabus, phonetics, actually teaching a class, and my favourite, grammar.

As someone who holds a degree in journalism, I was embarrassed when my tutor asked “what’s the present perfect continuous” and I didn’t know.

You see, while yes we’re taught English in school, we’re not taught the basics or the structure of it. It’s assumed we know it since it’s our mother tongue. We’re taught the alphabet, how to spell, the generics and definitions of the language such as verbs, pronouns, nouns, adjectives. As you read this, do you know which is what? Did you know that there is no future tense in the English language? Do you know what an auxiliary verb is? Honestly?! Because I’m no longer ashamed to admit I didn’t.

“To be or not to be…” we’ve all heard that famous Shakespeare quote, but did you know that the verb ‘to be’ is the most important verb in English. I am, you are, he is, she was, they were, be, being, been… it’s all one verb – “to be”.
We see native English speakers misuse the language every day. And yes, while there are many ‘grammar Nazis’ out there ready to correct us, is it really our fault? Think back to when you learned English in school. The first thing that pops to my mind is essay writing, Seamus Heany and Wuthering Heights.

I mean, some native English speakers can barely wrap their heads around the difference between their, there and they’re. Our grammar is atrocious! We take it for granted; we either don’t care or are not confident in it.

As I consciously write this, I bet there is someone reading this right now noticing mistakes in my grammer… (did you even notice the mistake in that sentence?). In fact if you notice any grammatical errors, please let me know. As I said, I am no longer ashamed. I want to improve. I need to learn. We all have bad habits. It’s OK, sometimes.

Either way, it’s our mother tongue. It’s important; it’s functional, essential and my God is it beautiful.

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Finally, while I never feel like I have to justify myself, people who know me know that I am not doing this just “for the money”. I am a hard worker, and put my heart and soul into any job or project I am presented with.  Yes, the income plays a factor, doesn’t every job? We work to earn. We work to live. Some of us are more lucky than others and can have that dream job they love that pays enough for the life they want. Me, I want to travel.

Thanks to CELT, I discovered a love for teaching. It’s an added bonus that I can travel while earning money. There is a risk that you won’t like teaching and if you don’t, then don’t do it. Educating is a fulfliling purpose. It is not easy and it won’t always be the dream but keep in mind the fact that you are giving something to the world. You could potentially change even one person’s life.

Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it just to cheat the system. If I didn’t enjoy the CELT course and feel I couldn’t do this, I wouldn’t.

So now this is the part I stop typing my thoughts and give you the information you so eagerly want to know. Before continuing, take note that some countries will require you to hold a third level qualification, as well as and ESL qualification.

However, despite schools advertising this requirement, with reputable teaching experience and excellent references, some schools will accept you regardless if you hold a third level degree or not. This, I have been told by reliable sources and the advantage they found was that they were already in the country and had secured years of teaching experience.

Also, schools are not the only organisations seeking English speakers. Many companies, organisations such as hospitals etc. are looking for certified ESL teachers to come in and teach their staff. There is also the possiblity to offer one-on-one private tuitions. Don’t lose hope just yet.



It’s probably worth mentioning that I can give you in depth information on the CELT qualification as I have first hand experience with it. I must stress that I am in no way endorsed nor obliged to “big up” the CELT certificate. I loved everything about obtaining this certificate and I can tell you all you need to know and reasons why I choose this over TEFL.

CELT Basics:

– Full time and part time courses available
– Accredited by Irish Department of Education/ACELS
QQI Award (Quality and Qualifications Ireland)
– Qualification is recognised worldwide
– Certified to teach in Ireland in accredited English Language Institutes (may need third level degree)
– Classroom based learning
– Weekly (observed) teaching practices graded by experienced ESL teachers
– Direct contact with learners
– No previous teaching experience or training is required
– Face-to-face networking with teachers, students and fellow CELT trainees
– (Some) courses may allow you to pay fees in installments
– More expensive than TEFL
– Fees range from €950-€1500
– Limited availabilites on courses
– (Some) courses may require minumin age of 21
– 90% attendance requirement
– Courses may require a fee deposit
– Extremely intense course, esecially when attending full-time
– 6 hours of teaching time, up to 6 modules and completed portfolio all required
– Native-level English skills (must be proficient in English)

CELT Course:

–  Location: Swan Training Institute, Grafton Street, Dublin 2.
– Ten week part time course available (for those in fulltime employment)
– Course Days/Times: Tuesdays & Thursday evenings 6pm-9pm, Saturdays 9am-5pm
– Course fees start from: €1,000
– Minimum €100 deposit require to secure your place
– Only 13 CELT trainees per class
– Over 6 hours of teacher training availble
– Three PT courses held per year starting in April, September and February
– Four week fulltime course also available
– Course coordinator available at hand
– Informative, challenging and fun course
– Two-three weeks post-course to finish assignments and submit portfolio
– Confidence and experience gained in teaching a variety of learners
– Must be 18+
– For more info visit SELT and get in touch with the lovely and very helpful Gillian Cooke (mention Luke and Katie sent you!)


Similar to the above, this is some information I came across when originally researching into TEFL. Guys, I’m not a TEFL expert, I’m not always right. If you are reading this and feel I am in anyway inaccurate, please let me know by emailing me at: katie {at}

TEFL Basics:

– Low cost qualification
– Fees start from €200
– Mostly online course available
– Rare to find a class-based TEFL course
– Weekend courses available, however no teaching experience included (see here)
– TEFL requires you to “self study” which can become tedious
– Must complete assignments in your own time
– NOT certified to teach in Ireland

– Most TEFL courses do not require you to do any actual teaching
– Sometimes only having the knowledge of how to teach is not enough and does not prepare you
– You will learn one way of doing things, unlike CELT where you could learn 3-5 ways
– Not all TELF courses are legit and/or recognised, contact course rep prior to registering
– Majority of employers/schools prefer CELT/CELTA to TEFL (depends on the country)
– Native-level English skills (must be proficient in English)
– Some courses advertised only offer 100 hours of training whereas schools require 120+

I hope the above has been of some help and has given you more of an understanding towards ESL teaching.

To make it even more confusing, there are further courses available to include the CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I have reached out to a number of CELTA qualified teachers asking them to offer their experience with this course (and I will update this as soon as I hear from them). In the meantime, what I can tell you is that:

  • CELTA is the a widely known and highly respected training program for anyone who wants to teach English
  • This qualification is administered by Cambridge University, one of the most reputable universities thus, it is internationally recognised.
  • Similar training course to the CELT, in fact I have been told (by qualified ESL teachers) that the CELT is the Irish equivalent to the CELTA.
  • CELTA course is the most expensive ESL course available, with fees starting at €1400
  • You are ganuaranteed a job with a CELTA, as you are with a CELT


Mark, a professional English teacher working in Dublin with over five years experience in English Language Teaching kindly shared his thoughts on why he opted in for the CELTA:

“For me TEFL refers to the short online/weekend courses which are aimed at the gap year/travel type market. They are mainly accepted in what might be considered less popular destinations. Fine if you want to travel for a bit but won’t get work in Ireland. 

CELT is a course accredited in Ireland. The acronym very conveniently looks like the CELTA, which I’ll talk about later! Funnily enough, when I decided to do CELTA, CELT wasn’t really heard of and it was only when I moved to Dublin that I started to hear about it. A few things to note about the CELT. There have been a few precursors to the CELT down through the years so it’s not as long established as the CELTA . Another is that each course is devised by each particular teacher training school. There seems to be different standards in different schools. My final concern is that it’s not as internationally recognised as the CELTA. When I looked at jobs on most seemed to ask for a CELTA. 

Coming to the CELTA, when I decided to do mine I wanted to do the best possible course that had the best recognition worldwide. The fact that it’s accredited to Cambridge University was also a big plus. Cambridge are very heavily involved in ELT, they run the main suite exams, and develop lots of the training materials so it seems to make for joined up thinking. 

FInally, there is the Trinity TESOL. This is similar to CELTA but like CELT schools have more freedom and less of a strict syllabus to follow. The TESOL isn’t really popular in Ireland as it is accredited to Trinity College London but there is now a course at The English Studio.”


Need More Info:

Don’t overlook the fact that you could hit the road (Jack) and complete your CELT, TELF, CETLA or whatever it may be, on the road. There are many opportunites around the world to bail off and get studying. We hear Chiang Mai (north Thailand) is a wonderful place to learn. Fees start from €1300 and covers the course, accomodation and you are most likely to secure a job there and then afterwards. Jump lads, JUMP!

Guys, I am here. Please, if I can help in any shape or form, simply pop me an email. I am more than happy to answer any questions, or at least help you find what you need. We can chat through Skype or email, whatever is the most effective method to getting you the information you need to follow your teaching dream.

Thanks for sticking with me on this blog, I know it was a novel. Also, as I start my teaching adventures, I’ll be sure to update you.

Best of luck to all you fellow educators. Keep in touch and hopefully our paths will cross along the way.


Author Katie

I’m a self-diagnosed wanderlust sufferer who fell victim to the travel bug. As someone who has yearned for the freedom to travel for as long as I can remember in 2017, I decided to quit my dream job, run away from the "marriage and baby" queries and trade the societal life for a life on the road. Now, I spend my days wandering through the unknown, being nosy as hell while sharing stories, building websites, helping others plan their backpacking adventures, writing, filming, snapping and reminding myself to shut up and stop talking every now and again.

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