Widely regarded as the gold standard qualification for teaching English as a foreign language, the CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is issued by Cambridge University and is available as either an online, face-to-face or mixed-mode course at ES Dubai, with a duration of 5 to 12 weeks, depending on the course option you choose.
We talked to Catharine Latham, our highly experienced CELTA instructor with over 12 years of CELTA training experience. Catharine has tutored face-to-face, online, and more recently, the new mixed-mode CELTA courses in over 12 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Who should consider enrolling in the CELTA course?
Catharine: The CELTA is a qualification that is useful to a wide range of people of different ages, backgrounds and professions worldwide. For example, we get teachers from private and public sector schools across the UAE, because they want the qualification to improve their skills, for professional development or because their school requires it.
We also get applicants who are interested in a career change. The CELTA makes you instantly employable as you become eligible to apply for numerous jobs in language institutes across the world. It also gives you the opportunity to teach online, which is something that has grown tremendously because of Covid in the past two years. The CELTA offers people a ‘passport to travel,’ so to speak, because it means you can apply for jobs globally as there’s constantly a demand for English teachers.
The CELTA doesn’t just provide you with teaching skills; it also teaches you transferable skills straight away or in the long run. After taking the course, people might go into professions that include management positions in language schools, publishing or corporate training. People can consider the CELTA even if they don’t necessarily want to become teachers.
What can applicants expect during the application and interview process?
Catharine: Before applying for the CELTA course, I would highly recommend that applicants do the following:
- Read up about the CELTA and what the implications are. It’s a lot of work and a big commitment in terms of time, whether you take it full-time or part-time. Do your research online and get a feel for what people say. For native speakers, the hardest part tends to be learning the grammar because we don’t learn that growing up, while non-native speakers might find other challenges on the course.
- Make sure this is the right course for you.
- Take your time and fill out the application form properly. I can’t assess someone’s eligibility and knowledge and how committed they are to the course if the form isn’t filled in completely (and accurately).
- Strictly avoid plagiarism.
- Include any certificates that you have. If we are unsure about your level of English, we might ask you to take a placement test. We have to be very strict in the selection process relating to the level of English because:
a) Teachers need to have a sufficiently high level of English in order to teach all levels.
b) There are 4 assessments which have to be accurately written, so applicants require a strong language level to communicate.
If your application form is strong, you will be invited for the interview, which might take place face-to-face or online. Often it will be a small group interview, so that candidates can discuss various elements of the course, as well as ask questions regarding the English language, grammar, etc. Through the interview, we can learn a lot of things about the applicants’ level of English, knowledge of English grammar, awareness of language systems, etc. We also ask candidates to do two timed written assignments during the interview to assess their written ability. We do a brief presentation about the CELTA course that includes key information (which is a Cambridge requirement) that prepares you for the start of the course. It gets you thinking about language and different aspects of teaching.
We’ll let you know whether you’ve been successful or not in your CELTA application within 24 hours.
How is the online CELTA experience?
Catharine: It’s amazing how we have adapted to teaching the CELTA online during this period of change. One of my biggest concerns when switching to an online CELTA was whether the rapport that the trainees and tutors build with each other over the course would be lost because you spend a lot of time together. I was worried that this bonding would not take place on an online course. However, I was proved wrong very quickly as I found that even if we’re teaching and learning online, course participants and students bond with each other just like in a normal classroom. There’s humour, there’s friendship.
I was so pleased to see how the trainees supported each other right from day one, creating WhatsApp groups and organising Zoom meetings to meet as groups. It all works very, very smoothly. In fact, it will be an experience you’ll never forget, in a positive way. It’s a very supportive environment and not competitive in any way. The more the trainees support each other, the better everyone does. Taking the CELTA online is also really useful because it teaches you the technical side of the course and then you can apply for online teaching jobs.
What advice do you have for those considering taking the CELTA?
Catharine: Be aware that however experienced you are, the CELTA is a big challenge, so don’t underestimate this. If people fail or withdraw, it tends to be because they haven’t fully taken aboard the intensity and amount of work involved.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Really know what the CELTA course is all about by going to the Cambridge website and reading comments online to get an idea of the challenges.
- Choose a time of the year when you know you can dedicate yourself 100% to the course, as you don’t want any distractions which might result in your grade suffering.
- Give yourself time to prepare for the course. The pre-course task takes about 20 hours, so allocate enough time for that. We recommend two key books – a methodology book and a grammar reference book – to look up any grammatical or language focus questions.
- If trainees haven’t taught before, online grammar courses by Cambridge are available. If anyone needs some support in terms of grammar during the interview, I will send them a voucher for the course which really helps with language awareness.
- www.elttraining.com provides some useful resources.
- Be ready to make life-long friends on the course. It’s always a very intense and memorable journey!