How to become an English teacher

In this great guest post, Nicky Salmon offers some really useful tips for how to get into English language teaching. Nicky is a CELTA trainer, and will be happy to answer any of your questions or comments on this post.

The big decisions.

You have decided that you’d like to teach English to speakers of other languages. Possibly you would like to travel and teach in other countries. What next?

Step 1. Choose a course.

If you don’t already have a teaching qualification, don’t worry. There are a number of excellent Pre-Service teaching qualifications to choose from. You need a minimum of two A2 level passes or equivalent.

Choose from well-known and well-established providers.

Cambridge and Trinity College London are the most well-known, the best and the most popular. Have a long look at their web sites and read about the courses, the content and any reviews.

cambridge english trinity college london

Make sure the course you choose has at least 6 hours of face-to-face teaching practice where you teach real students.

You can’t do a course without getting some hands on experience! Cambridge and Trinity courses will give you this – even the on-line options have a face-to-face element.

Make sure the course you choose has at least 120 contact hours.

Trinity has 130 and Cambridge 120. This means the hours of directed study, input sessions and feedback from your trainers.


Step 2. Choose the WAY you do the course.

There are a few basic questions to ask yourself and the most important is probably – ‘How much time do I have?’

There are 3 options:

intensive option. This is usually 5 days a week for 4 weeks but could be 4 days over 5 weeks in some centres. It’s a good option if you have limited time.

part-time. This could be two evenings a week over 3 months. It depends on the centre. It’s a good option of you are working.

on-line. This is a ‘blended’ option. You view input and post your assignments online but you attend a centre for teaching practice and feedback from your tutors. This suits people who are working and have other commitments.


Step 3: Choose WHERE to do the course.

The web sites will show you all the colleges and schools worldwide.

If you don’t live near a centre, remember you will need to find accommodation to avoid long journeys every day. This might be a reason for you to choose the on-line option.

What about doing a course abroad? Is that a good idea?


-You learn about the teaching possibilities in your chosen country and you are in a good position to find work after the course.

-You experience the challenges of teaching students in their first language environment.

-You will be away from the demands of home and family and free to focus on the course.


-you may be doing the course in an interesting country that you would like to explore, but you won’t have any time to do that!

-you will need to budget for accommodation and travel to the country.


Step 4: Preparing yourself for the course.

Grammar: unless you are already confident and knowledgeable, make sure you spend time learning about the English language and its grammar before you do a CELTA or Trinity TESOL.


1.You just won’t have the time on your course to learn about grammar! This isn’t the point of a CELTA or Trinity TESOL.

2.You will have to teach lessons to students which will involve aspects of grammar. This will probably happen from day 2 of your course.

3.Course assignments will focus on your ability to research and analyse grammar. It is very stressful if you have to resubmit assignments because of your grammar knowledge.


Complete a short, online course to give you the KNOWLEDGE! There are some really good, inexpensive online courses.

I recommend: One of the best is provided by a CELTA trainer and materials writer, Jo Gakonga. Jo also provides a range of webinars for CELTA trainees and lots of advice for practising teachers: 

Cactus also provide a good online course:

There is also a pre-CELTA/Trinity grammar course available at


Step 5: Clear the decks.

Make sure you have no other demands on your time or mental energy.

-no other courses to complete.

-clear your commitments.

-ask family to support you.

-don’t do a course if you have any hospital appointments or medical treatment booked.

Remember that life happens, so if you get ill on your course or have some unexpected family commitments, SPEAK to your trainers as quickly as possible. They will be supportive and together you can work out a plan to meet your course commitments.

Feature photo taken from by @aCliltoClimb, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,

About the author:

Inicky salmon have been teaching and training for over 25 years. I have worked in secondary schools, further education colleges, private colleges and universities both in the UK and abroad.  My training experience is mainly with Cambridge CELTA but I have also worked on Trinity TESOL , Cambridge ICELT and delivered a range of in-service courses to practicing teachers.
I have a special interest in supporting teacher reflection and more recently, an interest in writing for educational publications and blogs. I’m really looking forward to sharing ideas through this blog and learning more about what teachers are interested in.

Click here to read another post from Nicky on how to survive the CELTA course.

Categories: CELTA tips, General

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12 replies

  1. Can you tell me how to teach some very basic vocabulary and phrases such as Hello, What’s your name, Nice to meet you. If I just tell them the meaning and drill, it will take only 15 minutes. My lessons are supposed to last 2 hours. What can I do?


    • Hello Vu
      You don’t mention whether you are on a CELTA or Trinity course at the moment or if you have any curse books to use in your lesson.
      So I’ll imagine that you are on a course.

      First, you will have TP planning sessions with your tutor before you teach. You will also have had a number of input sessions and probably one on introducing new language. Please talk to your trainer about your worries and see advice they have for you. Go back to your notes and handouts from the input session for ideas.

      My thoughts:
      First thought: remember that we NEVER introduce new language (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation) in isolation. There must always be a CONTEXT.
      So the first thing is to think WHERE and WHEN might your students need to use this language? Use visuals to set the scene maybe. This will deal with MEANING. Remember to check understanding- very important- use some CCQs (Concept Check Questions).
      Suggestion: Jo Gakonga has 2 excellent webinars on Youtube and on her site
      Look for ‘checking meaning vocabulary’ and ‘checking meaning structures’ on Youtube. These will REALLY help you to plan some useful CCQs.

      Second thought: remember to model the target language clearly once you have introduced it with your context. So it would be useful to conduct some drills.
      Think first. What do you think the students might have problems with? Individual sounds? Stress?
      This will deal with PRONUNCIATION.

      Third thought: what is the structure of the language? Can you see any patterns? Can the students tell you? This is the FORM.

      Remember it’s always MEANING before PRONUNCIATION and FORM.

      Fourth thought: now you need to get your students to use the language. Set up plenty of paired practice. Think about using different interaction patterns here. They don’t just need to be sitting next to a partner. How about a WHOLE CLASS MINGLE?

      Good luck with the lesson. Let us know how it went.



  2. This will help many people 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. i want to have strong basic in english grammer. can u suggest me any book or any sort of guideline???


    • Hello. This is a good question. Tutors suggest that trainees buy a teacher grammar before you do any course. It’s an investment for your whole teaching career and not just for the duration of a CELTA or Trinity.
      I usually recommend either Martin Parrot ‘Grammar for English Teachers’ (2000) or Micheal Swan ‘Practical English Usage’ (2005). Have a look and see which you prefer.

      Also have a look in a library to borrow and look through-
      Rosemary Aitken ‘Teaching Tenses’ (2002)
      Scott Thornbury ‘About Language’ (2006)
      Micheal Lewis ‘The English Verb’ (1999)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi,
        My go-to grammar book for CELTA trainees is ‘Teaching English Grammar’ by Jim Scrivener. I find Swan to be quite overwhelming for many trainees, although it does have the answer to pretty much every grammar question I’ve ever asked! Parrott and Aitken are particularly accessible for new teachers. I find Thornbury and Lewis interesting, but more for the depth that they go into rather than for beginners.
        Sandy (also a CELTA trainer) 🙂


  4. These tips are really really interesting and will help a lot of aspirants who are planning to make English language teaching their profession. I think, before signing up for CELTA or any other equivalent course, the candidates should read one or two books on Teaching Learning/ Teaching Techniques. Good luck all!


    • Useful advice- maybe look at Scrivener’s ‘Learning Teaching” or Harmers’ “The practice of English Language Teaching’. These are two we recommend to trainees. They are useful resources for your whole career, not just while you are doing a course.

      Another suggestion is to ask at a school or college to see if you can observe a class or two. This helps you to decide whether teaching is really something you want to do.


  5. Hi there. This is a really interesting post. I’d like to ask a question which is related to the overall topic, but not the exact thread here if I may!
    I’m a freelance English teacher wth 6 years experience teaching in Spain (5 years, and where I’m currently based), Asia and the UK. I’m a confident and successful teacher, but have never qualified. As I move forward in my career, in which naturally I intend to grow and progress, I’d like to investigate what I should do going forward. I know that although I’d feel confident should I get my foot in the door for interviews for teaching jobs, my lack of qualifications limits where I can work except for academies and private classes. I’d like to work in schools, universities, perhaps the British Council, in the not so distant future.

    So my question is, do you know if there is perhaps a different type of qualification, or a shortened version of the CELTA available for teachers like myself who can bring experience to the table. If I really have to get the qualification I will, but many colleagues tell me that for someone with my experience it will be frustrating as most elements of the course I’ll already know.

    Or indeed any other advice would be greatly received!

    Many thanks


    • @grammargeek

      Dear colleague,

      believe me, you will not get frustrated, and on the contrary, will learn so many things! Your experience will be an advantage, but there will be things you will unlearn and relearn. I have just finished my CELTA, and I have taught English for more than 10 years now.



    • Hello grammar geek,

      First of all sorry, there isn’t a shortened course for existing teachers.

      I have taught many existing teachers on CELTA and Trinity courses. It is more usual out of the U.K. where people tend to fit your work and experience profile.

      You are right when you say you need a qualification to move forward and this needs to be a recognised one- as outlined in my blog post above.

      In my experience, if have found that existing teachers tend to find CELTA and Trinity courses very challenging. This is often because they come to the course with existing approaches and habits that are quickly questioned and identified by tutors and colleagues as needing change. Having an open mind and a willingness to question what you do is very important if you have already had some teaching experience.

      I agree with Julia. You will learn enormous amounts on a CELTA or Trinity course. You will begin to reflect on what you do and explore a range of approaches and methodologies. You will observe others which is also very enlightening. Time and again, this has been the feedback from exisiying teachers who have done the course.
      You will benefit from having a good grammar knowledge which will help you on a course.

      Also look up Cambridge ICELT. This course was designed for exisiting teachers and means you can use your own classes for observations. However, it takes longer than an intensive 4 weeks CELTA or Trinity and there are fewer centres who provide the qualification.

      If you decide to do a course, and I really recommend that you do, come into it knowing you have something to learn and reflect on. Be ready for challenge and to change what you thought was right. It’s the mark of a good teacher that you can reflect and will mean you get the most from any course you commit to.
      Good luck.

      Liked by 2 people

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