CELTA, the native-speaker bias and possible paths forward

Last week at IATEFL, Silvana Richardson delivered a rousing, righteous plenary tracing the historical roots of – and critiquing – the institutionalised mechanisms and habits of mind that continue to privilege native=speaker teachers over non-natives. The talk can be viewed online here and speaks for itself, so suffice it to say that it was a powerful and impassioned plea for equality at a pertinent moment in time when we finally seem to be nearing some kind of tipping point and shift towards the acknowledgement that the debate about native / non-native is essentially the wrong one, that instead we need to be discussing what makes a good teacher good – and recognising that good teachers are made, not created at birth! There have been plenty of other weighty contributions to this debate over recent years, not least the great work done by Marek Kiczkowiak, via his TEFL Equity Advocates project, which has the simple aim of agitating for equal employment opportunities for both native and non-native teachers.

However, amidst all these positive developments, there remains a very sizable elephant in the room that very few seem keen to draw attention to – and that’s the CELTA course, the Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Silvana herself is currently Head of Teacher Development at Bell, one of the largest providers of English language and academic programmes in the UK and, of course, providers too of CELTAs. On Twitter last week, I slightly flippantly suggested that a major step towards greater equality would be for BELL to simply refuse to deliver such courses anymore and instead push for a better model of initial qualification. I say flippantly, because as I’m all too well aware, we can’t always match our personal principles to the demands of our employers as closely as we might like to, and individuals within large institutions generally struggle to bring about positive large-scale change that may conflict with the immediate demands of the monster that is The Market!

Yet, of course, there’s a dark irony here, for just as The Market is often offered up as a defence for the continued privileging of natives over non-natives in ELT employment contexts (“Students want natives”, the cry goes, “so that’s what we give them” . . . despite the mass of evidence suggesting that what students REALLY want most of the time is a good teacher – full stop) so too is it invoked to support the current status quo that positions CELTA courses as the gold-standard entry point into teaching EFL as a global profession. Before I go on, I think it’s important to recognise the fact that there are many excellent teacher trainers and educators out there running CELTA courses, whom I am in no way intending to critcise for their work. On top of that, of course, there’s the fact that the courses themselves vary wildly from the somewhat retrograde to the extremely progressive, so to even talk about them as one single monolith is perhaps problematic.

Nevertheless, the fact remains – and it needs saying more often and by more of us within the profession – that CELTA courses offer an inadequate entry to the profession, perpetuate the devalued status of EFL teachers around the world . . . and, perhaps most pertinently in the context of this post, inordinately favour native-speakers. In the Twitter discussion that flowed from my initial flippant suggestion mentioned above, it was notable that those who jumped most readily to CELTA’s defence were actually non-natives. I suspect this is down to the fact that they arrived on the courses having already learned English to an excellent standard, thus having both considerable experience of being in language classes that have engendered success and also having already acquired a considerable amount of knowledge of how languages work. On top of this, many non-natives who turn to CELTA courses as a way to travel and work abroad outside their own L1-speaking contexts will already have done a three- or four-year pedagogical degree and perhaps also have several years of direct teaching experience in often quite challenging classrooms. For these teachers, of course the practical, methodological orientation of most CELTA courses may well help refresh practice and offer the odd extra trick to add to an already impressive repertoire.

For natives such as myself, however, who arrive on courses often having spectacularly failed to learn a foreign language at school, with little or no ability to articulate and explain how language works and with no teaching experience whatsoever, a CELTA offers a crash course in how to fake it. A while back, there was a popular reality TV show on Channel 4 entitled Faking It which tried to teach unlikely candidates how to pass themselves off as a genuine example of someone alien. So, for instance, they’d take an Eton public school boy and coach him how to be a doorman / bouncer in a rough East London club. And the time frame within which this coaching occurred? You guessed it: one month! I can’t have been the only native-speaker teacher who saw uncomfortable parallels with their own entry into ELT because – and I’m being brutally honest here – on leaving my own CTEFLA course (as it was back then in 1993), I was little more than a competent fake, an extrovert performer able to gloss over the gaping holes in my linguistic knowledge with running dictations, a bit of TPR and some jazz chants. And yet in the eyes of the market, I was as qualified as any one of my Polish or Brazilian colleagues who’d done the same course – and of course I was also ‘privileged’ to be a native, despite all their bilingualism and prior experience.

Many on Twitter have pointed out that Cambridge themselves have been surveying current trainers and are keen to revamp the syllabus. We could look at this as a positive sign, of course; we could remind ourselves that many in the profession start from an even lower base and blag their way into work on the back of a week-long course or even a weekend-long one or, in extreme (but nevertheless still depressingly common) instances, simply on the back of having been born in the UK or US! We could embrace any changes and think it’s better than nothing.

Or we could rise up and say enough’s enough. We could refuse to teach on or offer CELTA courses as they’re inadequate preparation for the realities of teaching. We could point out the ridiculous advantages their continued status confers upon natives and just down tools, walk away and instead imagine a better, brighter future where ELT starts seeing itself more as a serious profession, and not one you can claim membership of simply by having done six assessed hours of teaching and twenty mornings of input.

The choice is ours.

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98 Responses

  1. Neil McCutcheon says:

    I don’t see the problem with CELTA myself, Hugh. Sorry. It’s a fine qualification for initial training, and trainees love it. There’s no discrimination in favour of NSs other than asking for C1 level of English as an entrance criterion. “Lifers” will stay on and do DELTA. We train the high flyers to do more of a fluency first approach and give the weaker ones a solid grounding in setting up tasks and responding to students’ language. Really – it’s OK.

    • Lexicallab says:

      You’re missing the point about it privileging natives, I think, Neil.

      The point is that non-natives who take it have already garnered huge amounts of language knowledge through sheer dint of having learned English to C1 level, and have spent many hours in classes being with teachers who’ve done enough to get them to that level, so come equipped with far more thorough linguistic awareness and knowledge of what makes good classroom practice 9and, as I said, on top of that also often have degrees from their own home countries) yet end up with exactly the same qualifications as natives, who finish with a highly provisional understanding of how language works and how best to deal with this complexity in class.

      This may sound like it gives non-natives an edge, I realise, but the very fact that CELTA is regarded as the basic entry point privileges it over all those other qualifications non-natives come with and means we’re allowed to enter the world of global ELT with ONLY one month behind us.

      • Neil McCutcheon says:

        Would you like to prevent people from doing that – kind of pulling up the ladder behind you? Look how much fun and productivity we’ve got from ELT. We’ve built careers on it.

        As far as non-natives on CELTA, they very often do well and get above standard because of all that linguistic and pedagogical experience behind them. And they almost always tell me they benefited very much from the training too. (CLT isn’t really a big thing in many of the countries I’ve trained in; CELTA brings something new.)

        Just as if I were to launch a broadside against course books, I’d expect you to come to the defence of Outcomes, so I will defend my trade and livelihood!

        • Lexicallab says:

          Hi Neil –
          I’m absolutely not advocating pulling up ladders and locking doors behind us, no. Rather, I’m suggesting that at present we’re asking those coming in to scamper up a ragged old threadbare rope ladder that extends into the sky, crawl through a little hole and then panic!

          I’m advocating providing a far better, more thorough, longer course and promoting THAT as the bare minimum entry point into the profession, in the hope that one day we’ll look at CELTAs with the same incredulity CELTA trainers currently tend to look at those one-week courses!

          Your point about non-natives and CELTA is basically the one I thought I’d made in the post: they may well benefit from the methodological aspects of the course, which for many natives is what allows us to pretend we know we’re doing as teachers once we leave. The fact remains, though, that this still privileges natives as we are then more employable . . . as this is still seen as the standard entry point for those wishing to teach overseas.

          Not in any way saying I want to see anyone lose their trade or their income, obviously, Just suggesting maybe all those skills could – and should – start to be put to better and be employed to come up with ways of improving on what we currently have OUTSIDE of simply revamping the four-week model

          • Aeddan says:

            Hope you don’t mind me butting in but I think Neil is right – it’s a fine qualification and I don’t think you are really doing it justice. I did CELTA 14 years ago to see if I could ‘teach’ – I had a place at Canterbury to train as a primary school teacher but wanted to see whether I was any good/whether I enjoyed it. After DELTA, an MA and a PhD, CELTA is still the hardest thing I’ve done. It’s immersive, revolutionary if you haven’t studied in this way before and gets you off on the right foot. It obviously isn’t enough to stop at CELTA – but that’s why it is an initial TT qualification. I teach and train in Poland and increasingly candidates on our courses are MA qualified, experienced Polish teachers. Because CELTA focuses on TP and practical teaching, it can be just as eye opening for a teacher with 15 years plus experience as a newbie “native”.

            So I guess the (belaboured) point I’m trying to make is CELTA is great at what it does – regardless of where you were born and the language you spoke as a child. We have an issue with NS/NNS – especially in Poland – but CELTA isn’t to blame.

          • Lexicallab says:

            Hi Aeddan –
            Not butting in at all. Thanks for dropping by.

            Not sure I have much to add about the points you raise as I’ve tackled the reasons why I think so many non-natives do well on the course elsewhere.

            The fact it’s supposedly an initial preparatory certificate is often overlooked and the majority of employers have no coherent notion of how they aim to build on that initial experience or plan on how to push their teachers onwards. It’s widely accepted as sufficient to throw teachers in at the end deep end and into the classroom.

            The fact that, as you say, the course “focuses on TP and practical methodology” is the root of the issue for me, as it allows natives with only the most minimal of understandings of how language works to go out into the wider world and pass themselves of as qualified teachers, simply down to the fact they’ve learned a few classroom tricks and tools.

            I fail to see how that cannot be part of the “issue with NS/NNs” you acknowledge exists.

            But hey, it could just be me, of course.

          • Aeddan says:

            Thanks for the welcome 🙂 i still think you might be tilting at the wrong windmill – CELTA is meant to give you a set of tools (be fair, not tips and tricks 😉 and to show you can teach to a given international standard. It doesn’t mean you are the finished article – even the description of a Pass at CELTA makes it clear that the graduate will need considerable post-course support. I don’t see a problem here if the schools that these teachers are working at are any good – they know what CELTA means. If they don’t, it isn’t CELTA’s fault.

            If I have a job application from candidates with a BA in English from Poland, Turkey, Spain and the U.K. or someone with a CELTA, at least I know what I’m getting.*

            Are you proposing a longer qualification? How would people finance themselves? Giving up a month of potential earnings is hard enough – a longer course would make becoming a teacher unattainable for many. CELTA gets people out, earning, learning and finding out for themselves what language and teaching is about.

            (*disclaimer – it doesn’t mean I’d give the job to the CELTA qualified teacher but that I know what they can do)

          • Lexicallab says:

            I hear you Aeddan. I’d just suggest that if we want to be taken more seriously as a profession, we should not content with accepting that “a given international standard” is that which can be obtained after four weeks.

            What other field of teaching operates like this? And why are we so determined to ignore that fact and insist on the correctness of such a low entry bar?

            As for not meaning you’re the finished article, that’d be fine if the employment arena operated as though it was in possession of that piece of knowledge. The reality, though, is that schools assume you ARE the finished article and most teachers – myself included – suddenly find themselves teaching 30 hours a week. To kids who’ve paid serious money to be in those classes.

            As for knowing what you’re getting, you’ve returned again part of my initial point. The fact that local (Polish, Turkish, whatever) qualifications are NOT widely known and recognised is down to the native-speaker privilege the course still proffers. Personally, I’d be far more inclined to first look at the non-native who’d learned great English and had a local degree in pedagogy than the native who’d only done a CELTA. But that’s because now I am far more aware of what kind of teaching those candidates are generally capable of. And also because I’ve seen my fair share of post-CELTA lessons as well, and thus have a decent point of comparison.

            What else? Yes, I very much am definitely suggesting a longer course – or suite of courses. People would finance it the way they finance anything: by weighing up the future benefit they feel it would confer upon them against the investment and – hopefully – recognise that the investment of time and cash now would lead to far better future results in the future.

            If the justification for a shorter course is predicated on the fact it then allows graduates to get out and earn quickly in order to recoup their investment, it doesn’t exactly speak volumes about the quality of teaching it delivers.

          • Neil McCutcheon says:

            The thing you’re missing about the four-week model is that it’s great for people on low incomes and unemployed people. In the past year or so, I trained a guy who was *cleaning trains* in France. Now he’s a popular English teacher. He doesn’t think he’s better than NNSs and knows his limitations in terms of knowledge of grammar – but he’s on that path. And the only thing available to him was the 4-week course. It’s a life-changer and you are missing something important by dissing it as “threadbare”.

          • Lexicallab says:

            I’m very well aware of the transformative powers of the course, Neil, having benefited from this myself 23 years ago, when I was a slightly confused English Lit graduate stuck working in pubs and wondering what the hell to do with my life.

            I also wasn’t trying to cast aspersions on your trainees in any way, obviously.

            I guess if enough people are vocally happy with the status quo and seriously feel it’s sufficient for those who finish it to claim to be employable teachers ready for class, then things will continue as they are.

            I suspect, though, that for many, they’re NOT actually “on that path”. In fact, they have idea of the existence of “that path” as the course has done little more than instill grammar anxiety and teach methodological survival skills.

            It’s just unrealistic to expect a one-month course to be able to develop trainees both methodologically AND linguistically (let alone psychologically, culturally, etc.) to the degree where self-development can subsequently occur in anything like the short-term future!

      • Alina Brooks says:

        The problem is that in a lot of countries Bachelor (and Masters) degree programmes include teaching the language, but not teaching how to teach (speaking about Russia, France and Germany now from first-hand experience). Celta fits into this gap very nicely, complementing the training in language the (future or practicing) teachers have already received.
        As a NNEST teacher who graduated from a teacher training university in Moscow I found CELTA tremendously inspiring and useful and never felt it was discriminating against me as a NNEST in any way.

        • Lexicallab says:

          Fair enough Alina, and obviously I cannot tell you you really have been discriminated against in a situation where you feel you haven’t – and have actually benefited. That would be madness.

          People do obviously get things from the course. I’ve never claimed otherwise. I’m sure most trainees benefit massively from it. I just no longer happen to believe it’s a sufficiently meaty or lengthy course for us to consider those who complete it as fully qualified English teachers ready to go off anywhere in the world to teach – often, of course, on higher wages and in better conditions than many local teachers who have local degrees in teaching!

          Also, as I’ve said elsewhere, I can see how it absolutely fills a methodological gap for certain non-natives who’ve studied teaching in a more formal sense at degree or Master’s level. And that’s great.

          But for most natives, there hasn’t been that grounding, so we’re allowed to delude ourselves we end up as qualified as you did, despite the fact that’s patently absurd in the greater scheme of things. The course itself really doesn’t encourage one to see this bigger picture, though. At least mine certainly didn’t, at any rate.

          • Viacheslav Kushnir says:

            I’d say that it depends what you mean by the word ‘qualified’. I’d certainly agree with what Alina said about the situation in Russia where most universities teach a lot of English but no methodology. Well, there are disciplines that are supposed to deal with methodology but sadly what future teachers end up learning is the benefits of drilling and how good the grammar-translation approach is. And when it comes to teaching, they quite often fail and, what is more, quite often stop teaching. However, I’d agree that they know much more ABOUT language than those native speakers who have started doing their CELTA courses with no prior teaching experience. The question is, I think, whether this is enough to be regarded as qualified teachers.

            On the other hand, in my experience (I live and run CELTA courses in Russia and have trained some natives as well as non-natives), we cannot deny the fact that students from non-English speaking countries WANT NSs. At first I used to find it funny to see how responsive CELTA ‘guinea-pig-students’ got when they were taught by a native speaker trainee, how much they were trying to say and how ready they were to interact with a teacher who in fact was on the verge of failing their lesson; and, on the contrary, how disinterested they might seem having a Russian teacher who had to make much more effort to establish rapport with them and whose lesson was much better prepared and delivered. It’s sad, but that’s how it is and I don’t think we should blame CELTA here.

            So the point I’m trying to make is quite simple: as long as we still have this huge demand for native speaker teachers, I would say that hiring a NST who’s just done a CELTA is way better than hiring a native with no qualifications at all in order to satisfy the clientele (which is still common practice here, incidentally). And I totally agree with those who mentioned that CELTA turns out to be an eye-opener for qualified and experienced teachers in countries like Russia. Some of these, I should add, provided they are proactive enough, don’t usually have much difficulty finding better jobs in other (non-EU, but still) countries because they have their teaching degrees _and_ CELTAs.

          • Neil McCutcheon says:

            Thanks for your measured, thoughtful comment Viacheslav. Always good to read something considered like this.

          • Neil McCutcheon says:

            The bottom lime is that it is not a regulated industry and schools will employ who they want anyway. I suspect setting a longer qualification as the standard entry point would be unrealistic, (even if you honestly do think it would be a good thing to put up these kind of barriers to the next generation of young aspirants.)

      • Bell Meadow says:

        Excellent point. This is a good read about it: the NS vs NNS dichotomy based on the NS fallacy that perpetuates the view of NNS as second rate speakers, professionals and citizens. It is not only morally unacceptable but also ignorant, prejudiced, racist and discriminatory.

        • Hugh Dellar says:

          Glad it struck a chord with you. Not sure I’m comfortable calling the status quo ‘racist’, but I’m with you on every other adjective you chose there!

  2. Lakshmi says:

    Hi Hugh, it is a wonderfully interesting point of view and thanks for sharing. However, we have to be realistic that your calls for rejecting the ‘big wigs’ are really not going to favor ‘The Market’ and Internationalization is built on three pillars that have forever crushed the underdog so to speak. Economics is the key driver especially in acquiring and teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language. The bar will always be set higher by the English Native Speaking countries, predominantly the US and UK, for the Non-Natives so as to always be in control. ‘Imperialism forever’. In my opinion this is wishful thinking if Native English speakers deemed competent due to their right of birth, in this context of discussion the drivers and controllers, to give up their reigns just because it is the right thing to do. Nevertheless, it is good to know that some Native speakers, like yourself, are willing to take a jab at their conscience. 🙂

    • Lexicallab says:

      It’s ironic that Silvana’s talk drew so much praise for saying (a) that the market does not actually demand native sopeakers as much as we may sometimes assume and that (b) even where it does, it’s incumbent upon us to attempt to educate the market out of its ignorance (both points I agree with, incidentally), but that if you suggest the CELTA may no longer be seen as a credible entry point, the market is seen as some implacable, unbeatable foe that gets what it has always got and is used to! It can’t be that BOTH these sides of the argument are true.

      I think you’re obviously right when you say that native-speaker markets have for too long got to decide what the bar is, and the fact we’ve set it so low and insisted on our own right to crawl into the trade by limboing under that bar doesn’t sit well with me. Time for a change.

      • Lakshmi says:

        Well, as you have already quite accurately noted, double-standards continue to exist. The bar as you notice for NNS as in the case of ‘Supreet’ in this discussion is set a lot higher, while the same for a NS is inconspicuous. So I do stand by my argument that people are generally looking at things from a single point of view, however, in reality there is a lot not open to the naked eye. Anyway, thanks for the reply and I do agree the Time for change begins with the way each of us think about racist policies that plant the seed for such divides.

    • Supreet Kaur Mishra says:

      Agree with you Lakshmi. I did my CELTA course this Jan and am still looking for ‘non-native’ opportunities. There have been at least 15 opportunities posted in other recruitment groups in the past two days and believe me..each one begins with..’Native Speakers’, only.

      • Lexicallab says:

        Interesting. So the CELTA doesn’t exactly do what it promises to on the tin, then. Those advertisers generally have a very shall we say ‘specific’ notion of what they mean by ‘native speaker’ too, as I’m sure you’re all too painfully aware.

      • Neil McCutcheon says:

        I’m so sorry to hear that. In Europe, this kind of ‘NS only’ ad contravenes at least two articles of EU legislation and the TEFL Equity site has links to letter-writing campaigns to have such ads taken down. I hope you find the right employer who recognises your skills!

        • Lexicallab says:

          Amen! Though as we all now, the fact it’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

          Would be interested to know where the jobs you’ve applied for were, Supreet.

      • Lakshmi says:

        Thanks for the reply Supreet. This is an ongoing disparity, which appears to raise its ugly head for change periodically, and then once again gets swept under the rug. Yet, we have to hang in there and strive for change in our own determined ways.

        • Lexicallab says:

          I think there’;s some really interesting research to be done by someone on the degree to which CELTAs open doors equally for all those who take them. In a riposte to this blog post, Anthony Gaugham raised the following spectre:

          “the qualification does not “level the playing field” for “native-speakers”; it is far more a bait-and-switch trick for “non-native-speakers”. If this were true, the Celta would be implicated in a much larger injustice against “non-native-speaker” teachers than I think Hugh even himself thought to formulate: they would be encouraged and enticed by The Market to invest time, money and hope in gaining a qualification like Celta, but afterwards, their hopes of leveraging this “gold-standard” would be cruelly dashed by the lack of job offers
          granted them.”

          I think he may well have something here and it’s fascinating – albeit also very depressing – to hear of such experiences as those you guys describe above.

  3. Neil McCutcheon says:

    We could refuse to write or promote coursebooks as they’re inadequate for the realities of language acquisition.

    • Lexicallab says:

      If you can find me one coursebook writer who ever claimed that the mere existence of a coursebook somehow ensured language acquisition, I’d be more inclined to engage with that argument. 🙂 We value the teacher far too much to be anything like that delusional . . . which is why the debate about what teachers need to learn in order to call themselves teachers is so important.

      • Neil McCutcheon says:

        Find me one trainer who claims CELTA is the ideal training course. It just does what it does – and well enough to let teachers go on and learn more about their craft, and about language, as they practise.

        • Lexicallab says:

          Again, I’m not saying that trainers claim this. In fact, many that I talk to seem to feel the restrictions and limitations quite keenly.

          We can obviously agree on the fact that “it just does what it does” . . . and may have to agree to differ on whether or not it does this “well enough to let teachers go on and learn more about their craft and about language as they practise.”

          All knowledge is obviously provisional, but I reckon students paying £10+ an hour have a right to expect more than someone frantically learning their craft as they go along.

          • Neil McCutcheon says:

            Try sitting in a very form-led classroom less motivating than your Malaysian classes. I did this in Hungarian, and it was deadly, despite the teacher’s expertise with the language.

          • Lexicallab says:

            I think that the fact that other training courses around the world could well do with a more practical, methodological focus is not in itself an argument in defence of a CELTA, personally. Rather, it’s an argument for ensuring such otherwise decent courses start having more of such a focus!

            In fact, the above potentially also comes close to suggesting that the main role of a CELTA for non-natives is to stick a methodological Band-Aid over their previous training!

          • Neil McCutcheon says:

            Why don’t we (you) just stop putting the boot into CELTA?

            As one of your contributors here says, “even Cambridge don’t propose CELTA as producing expert teachers but merely starting them on the path.” This is only possible on a short course because a lot of people only have modest funds at their disposal!

            For this small investment, CELTA is a magical thing that opens up the possibility of world travel as well as entry into the profession we love. As you yourself say, trainers with some expertise are pouring heart and soul into instilling some basics of Communicative Language Teaching – not a Band-Aid – which benefits natives and non-natives alike. You demean all of those people by calling it a Band-Aid. I know you don’t intend to and some of your latter comments are more generous in this respect.

            *No one* is devaluing the other qualifications people bring; it’s a distinct advantage to have them! I can’t count the number of non-native trainees who feel they have benefited immeasurably from the course – some have even posted their thoughts here.

  4. Neil McCutcheon says:

    Everyone is a beginner at some point in their careers. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve had a foot up in ELT, and in life itself, from courses like CELTA. Some of them – both NS and NNS – have not completed their degrees, or are making the transition from another career. They don’t have money for a year’s training or a Masters. Why would you remove this? I just don’t get it. It does not invalidate or discredit the fuller qualifications. It is what it is – a licence to teach.

    • Lexicallab says:

      I’m not saying get rid per se. I’m saying we should no longer accept that a one-month course provides a suitable license to teach – in the same way that one-week courses or weekend-long ones don’t either.

      What are the “fuller qualifications” that serve as entry points? There aren’t any.

  5. Marc Jones says:

    If a bachelors degree done in English is good enough for natives then it must be good enough for non-natives. Surely an interview and demo would tell you enough. Have traineeships in the school for newbies.

    • Lexicallab says:

      I hear you Marc, but the reality is still that a non-native wanting to work outside of their own country of birth or – in some cases – outside of countries that they share an L1 with – is often forced into doing a CELTA, after which they still find themselves discriminated against and losing out in the employment stakes to natives, many of whom ONLY have a first degree and a CELTA and, as I’ve said elsewhere above, who LACK all the other skills and expertise the non-natives have already garnered.

      • Alina Brooks says:

        And still CELTA can be seen as a leveller between NESTs and NNESTs (whether we see the distinction as fair or not, is a totally different matter) – a non-native speaker with CELTA is more likely to be employed, hence the qualification should remain in place and be open to NESTs and NNESTs alike, as it is now.

        • Lexicallab says:

          Therein lies the problem to my mind Alina. Why should a non-native who’s already qualified and has teaching experience need to do a one-month course with its roots in helping native speakers go off and backpack their way round the world in order to be seen as equal – not better than – equal to a native who has just done this course and has no other experience. It’s not a leveler. It’s part of the perpetuation of native privilege.

          Not, of course, that any of my rantings have a chance of dislodging its place in the market or it’s status.

          No matter how much all this needs saying.

          • Alina Brooks says:

            I just see CELTA as a very useful course – one which both NESTs and NNESTs benefit from as teachers (and therefore the Sts do, too). While the NEST / NNEST issues of course need to be addressed, doing away with CELTA would seem to be throwing the baby away with the bath water… I am afraid I have to stop now and observe a lesson. It’s not a conversational gambit, I really do! 🙂

          • Neil McCutcheon says:

            Often the non-natives don’t need to do the course. They *choose* to. And they have plenty to say about its benefits. I hope more non-natives in this position will post here to convince you on this one point, Hugh.

          • Lexicallab says:

            Well, the ‘choice’ is ofdten dictated by the fact that it’s the only way they can work outside of their own home countries. Their home qualifications are worth less internationally than a one-month course designed originally for natives. You really can’t see there might be any issues here, Neil?

          • Neil McCutcheon says:

            I see there is a problem with discrimination. I don’t think it has *anything* to do with CELTA, which is a perfectly good “licence to teach” and one we have all benefited from – NS and NNS alike. The “full” qualification is at Diploma level and perhaps not enough people realize this.

      • Neil McCutcheon says:

        The Cambridge Teaching Framework is being brought in to help remedy this. There’s also a similar BC structure in place to describe teachers’ abilities – sort of “can do” statements for teachers. As a powerful enabler, CELTA is part of this process! This is not to devalue fuller qualifications – pedagogical degrees, linguistic degrees, MAs etc – which serve as entry points to teaching *all over the world*. (Private language schools, which look for CELTA, are not the only game in town.)

  6. Thehairychef says:

    I bumped into my CELTA trainer at IATEFL in Harrogate, about 7 or 8 years after I’d taken my course at IH London. I was in the middle of explaining to him the premise of the conclusions I’d drawn from my research project into how communicative CLT actually way, and explained that my main motion was that there either needed to be something compulsory between CELTA and DELTA (or Cert and Dip) or there needed to be some kind of move toward making the Dip the new entry point (or replace CELTA with the course that would lie between CELTA and DELTA).

    His response was that removing the CELTA would majorly limit access to recognised qualifications for many in developing countries. I’d like to know what % of teachers worldwide actually hold a CELTA.

    Keep in mind the CELTA, or the course it is derived from was basically created to solve John Haycraft’s issue of needing to standardise the ELT schools he was running in Spain, wasn’t it? He effectively needed to provide some kind of quality control in the shortest possible time within the private sector which was, I gather, largely employing young Brits on gap years. It is also arguable, I would say, that this model no longer necessarily meets the needs of many ELT teachers around the world….

    While I do buy the argument that CELTA provides a useful introduction to teaching, particularly to those who want to change profession, travel/live abroad, I don’t think that this applies to the majority of candidates
    who take the course….(just my suspicion and this is totally unsubstantiated…)

    But mainly, I do agree with Hugh’s suggestion that at the end of the day it undermines the professional standing of ELT. Just look at the CELTA certificate (and the CertTESOL)…the back of certificates state how successful the candidate performed in relation to the amount of ongoing professional support they will need in their next teaching role. While delivery of the courses is standardised and monitored by Cambridge/Trinity, the delivery of on-going PD certainly isn’t.

    But ultimately, I think the key point here is that the assumption that one model of teacher training can apply to all teachers, and that the techniques, methods and activities will easily translate to other contexts is a complete fallacy, and in order to maintain their validity, CELTA/CertTESOL will need to address the issue of local relevancy.

    • Lexicallab says:

      Thanks for this interesting and thoughtful response.

      I’d totally agree that something between CELTA and DELTA – or even DELTA itself – as an entry point, rather than a four-week course, would be far better as the new standard entry point.

      I think the argument about non-natives is disingenuous myself. The vast majority of the world’s EFL teachers have local qualifications and only feel the need to do CELTA courses if they want to travel – because their own local qualifications aren’t internationally recognised as at least as valid, if not more so, than the CELTA. Which bring us back to the native-speaker bias. Again.

      According to Cambridge, btw, about 12,000 people a year take the CELTA . . .

      You’re right too on both the genesis of the course and also, I’d argue,. the fact that the roots of the course make it no longer relevant or fit for purpose in the modern age.

      And just to be clear, I’m not claiming it hasn’t served as a passable introduction for many of the years – simply stating that it’s an insufficient introduction if we then wish to claim we are a profession based on professional standards. We bemoan wages, social status, working conditions and the like and fail to join the dots and ask whether any of this might have something to do with the fact we’ve relied on such a paltry entry route.

      • Thehairychef says:

        I think the point my trainer was making, was that if we make it more time/cost expensive to access entry into the profession, we thereby also make it more difficult for less affluent people to access the same qualifications. Perhaps one practical solution would be to shift the passing criteria on the course….so that now candidates might be required to get a B or pass B grade to be considered qualified….or that those who obtain a C, would be required to be reassessed in 3 months after starting a job in order to be issued a full qualification?

        But by bringing in a change to improve the professional standards of the industry, we may also put internationally recognised qualifications out of reach of some people for reasons we initially never meant to.

        The question then becomes, is “internationally recognised” actually something that adds value to the profession anymore? Will we then end up with two-tiered class of qualifications based on affluence? This is very different to the original point of your discussion which was how CELTA/CertTESOL reinforce the NNEST bias.

        I think his concern is valid, though my inclination is to say it’s political correctness gone mad. A qualification/course that fails to critically differentiate between effective and not-so-effective candidates isn’t particularly useful in terms of instilling professional standards, is it?

  7. Judit Gábris says:

    Non-native here. Pre-CELTA, I held no qualifications. CELTA was important as a life-changer because it was a short/ relatively cheap course that enabled me to start a career that I still have and derive a lot of satisfaction from ten plus years later.

    • Neil McCutcheon says:

      Great to hear this, Judit! I think whatever “issues” people seem to have with CELTA are a different discussion from the problem of NS/NNS discrimination. CELTA is just an initial qualification, and an empowering one – for NS and NNS teachers alike. The short format is key to why it’s empowering.

      • Aeddan says:

        Absolutely – empowering is the word Neil.
        We need to move beyond it being seen as a “native speaker” qualification – 90% of the candidates I work with grew up speaking a language other than English.

    • Stephen Dodd says:

      The celta and cert tesol need a total rethink urgently. They are cash cows and so they don’t want to rock the boat. They are 19th century courses for our 21st century reality. (Trinity trainer)

      • Neil McCutcheon says:

        Why do you think that, Stephen? I know countless trainees who would disagree with this. Perhaps they are labouring under some illusion?

    • Lexicallab says:

      Glad to hear it’s opened doors for you Judit and led you to where you are. I wonder how many other non-natives come to CELTA with no previous qualifications? I’d be genuinely curious to find out. Anyway, certainly not attempting to deny the positive impact the course can have on any who take it, as that would be plain daft given I’m still here almost 25 years down the line!!

  8. Liz Fishwick says:

    I am a CELTA tutor and also an ICELT tutor in Mexico. The ICELT is a year long course and is for in service teachers who either lack formal training and/or have a degree in education which lacked the practical component. This is a very practical and feasible option for teachers who would like to bring their experience to the table and at the same time improve and update their skills through observations and assignments where they can reflect on their experience and better it. The majority of candidates are non native teachers who work locally and I would say that this course addresses their needs and some have found a better teaching job after the course. I have also had more ‘ICELT profile’ candidates take the CELTA and for sure, they have also benefited from the course and this has definitely enhanced their teaching skills. Plus, it provides Mexican nationals a chance to have this converted to a BA in ELT and this really does open doors for teaching professionals here.
    A month isn’t long, I agree but we are not creating an amazing teacher in a month. A lot is down to what the teacher does once the course has finished. I also went down the one month intensive route 18 years ago and the fact I now am a Teacher Trainer has nothing to do with my nationality but more that I was willing to do the hard hard work once I got my first teaching job so that I was beyond a ‘nice and funny British girl’ but more a professional teacher who works hard to meet my learners’ needs.

    • Lexicallab says:

      Hi Liz –
      Thanks for dropping by and chipping in.

      I think the options of ICELT and converting to gain a BA in ELT are excellent options and I salute the efforts made to ensure extended, intensive learning and growth.

      I’d obviously agree that we’re “not creating an amazing teacher in a month”, but would add that we’re not really creating ‘teachers’ at all – certainly not in the way that any other area of the teaching profession would recognise the terms. Instead, we’re creating confident performers who can fake it.

      I don’t have stats to hand, but I’d wager that there’s pretty large dropout rate from the so-called profession in the first couple of years after doing CELTAs – and that many trainees never actually go on to teach at all. Of course, you could put this down to the fact conditions are poor, but hey what were you expecting from a profession that allows you to enter it after a month?! I suspect part of the reason is also down to the fact that as the course often does little more than teach survival skills, boredom, frustration and a creeping sense of banal futility often kick in. The lucky few may progress further, may ask the right questions, may get mentored or developed in a decent way . . . but many won’t.

      Finally, as I’ve said elsewhere, not in any way intending to impute your professionalism or hard work. Do hope that’s clear from my comments – and always worth clarifying.

  9. Ania Kolbuszewska says:

    Thanks a lot, Hugh, for this very interesting and thought-provoking piece. The discussion which I have read with equal interest reminds me of a discussion on ELT Jam re teaching qualifications. I can only repeat here what I said there: I think CELTA (or CTEFLA as it was known in the past) at its best is a really good course, but I fundamentally disagree with it being treated as a qualification. I used to be a CTEFLA tutor and took a decision to discontinue working on CTEFLA courses precisely for that reason; I had no desire to contribute to the profession shooting itself in the foot by allowing people with just over 100 hours of training to work as teachers. I respect the profession and my (largely symbolic, I admit) protest was born out of that respect. Let me stress again: CELTA at its best is a valuable course, but it is not and cannot be a qualification allowing entry into this highly complex and demanding profession.

    • Lexicallab says:

      Amen Ania!

      That’s basically the point I reached myself after running CELTAs for years in my old job.

      Even the idea of calling the six hours of ‘teaching’ that trainees do TP (Teaching Practice) struck me as ridiculous in the end. Do we really believe that someone doing something like a forty-minute ‘lesson’ for the first time is actually ‘practising’ teaching?

      If you accept the dictionary definition of the word ‘practise’ – “to repeat an activity regularly so that you become better at it” – that means that REAL TP is when you’re repeating for the third of fourth time the same lesson / material and finally getting your head round how the pages work, why the flow is the way it is, how to deal with the language that’s there, etc. You can’t practise what you’ve never done before!

      Hats off for your bravery in making this decision, anyway.

      • Ania Kolbuszewska says:

        Thanks 🙂
        As for the native / non-native conundrum, I’m doing a presentation on managing change at a conference in Warsaw in May, and I’m sorely tempted to address the issue of no Polish keynote speakers at this conference, which is largely addressed to the Polish market. How’s that for an area for change?
        Btw, I’ve just realised that the pendulum is swinging dangerously close to the other extreme: shouldn’t we be talking about professionalism / skills / knowledge and not what someone’s L1 is? Personally, I would hate to be promoted because I’m a non-native speaker, just as I’ve always fought against being marginalised or even discriminated against as one.

  10. […] Last week at IATEFL, Silvana Richardson delivered a rousing, righteous plenary tracing the historical roots of – and critiquing – the institutionalised mec  […]

  11. Philip Newman says:

    The business perspective should be mentioned in taking precedence over pedagogy. That may be cynical and I’m sure everyone here are conscientious, hard-working teachers concerned about good pedagogy. But aren’t we the small percentage who’ve trod the CELTA conveyor belt and then gone on to further develop teaching skills? CELTA is a business. Teaching English is, generally, a business. Not an outlook I particularly like, preferring to think of it as a vocation, but the conveyor belt continues to roll on supplying language companies around the world with teachers to do their business. Quantity takes precedence over quality. That’s business. Buy at low price, do the marketing pitch, and sell on at high price.

    • Martin R. says:

      I must agree that teaching English does not pay enough, be it with a CELTA or an MA, but no teacher is in it for the big bucks.
      I have sat the ranks of university for years (and hope to do so longer). Compared to theoretical lecturing at university, which aims towards research, the CELTA was an intensive and highly useful training for me. It is hands on, has a clear pedagogy method and is a good starting point to teach beginners. Of course, a linguistics background and more transferable training skills make you an even better teacher.
      And honestly, with a university degree a language school doesn’t know if you can teach, with a CELTA they know just what you can do (and how it fits in your CV).
      I experienced a great course that I strongly recommend and would even put someone through who will train nurses in the use of an ultrasound, provided they have the language skills – because CELTA certifies actual teaching skills.

      • Philip Newman says:

        Agreed. Absolutely. I did the ten week CELTA and learnt bundles. 15 of us on the course and each paid a grand. Not a bad little earner for the company! Long time ago now, though. It just seems that all the emphasis in such discussions as here hovers around pedagogy – that’s what we’ve been CELTA formatted to think about. Good for the language companies to know we’re all so keen to improve our teaching skills. They can get on with running the business – the business of making money – which is not the motivation of EFL teachers – as you rightly point out.

  12. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    When I read this post (yesterday morning), it had zero comments, but I had a feeling it would explode in no time. Agree with most of what you say, Hugh. Can’t think of any other profession that would allow such low entry requirements. Most of the arguments in defence of CELTA (that I’ve seen here, or on other blogs) seem to be:

    1. It’s affordable (some of us can’t pay more or spend years in uni) – if this argument is taken as valid, then why don’t we have geography teachers with 4 week courses. Or accountants. Or engineers. You name it. The argument only make sense in the cynical sense: ELT is a business, not a profession. And CELTA is a huge money maker.

    2. It’s the best thing we’ve got – again flawed logic, methinks. And quite arrogant. Even if it were the best thing round, shouldn’t we aim to make it better?

    3. BA and MA degrees in languages or TESOL often lack a practical component – very true, but CELTA lacks everything else, but a practical component. And there are many MAs which have a solid practical component.

    Anyway, thanks for posting it, Hugh. Great discussion. I did a podcast on this very topic a few months back if anyone is interested in listening 🙂 https://theteflshow.com/2015/10/23/celta-some-things-you-need-to-know/

  13. Jen says:

    Interesting discussion, thank you. I’ve had to “justify” the CELTA many times to people who are not in the Engish teaching world. They are surprised at how quickly you can become certified and move into a new career. So I get where you’re coming from.

    Personally, I found the CELTA (well it was TrintiyTESOL for me) way harder but more rewarding than a law degree. Possibly one of the factors is that 4 weeks on a CELTA is the equivalent to months of other training because it’s so intensive. I thought the CELTA itself was really well-structured so I don’t think the issue is there. But I agree that it was for sure the beginning and not the end, and recruiters need to recognise that.

    I commented only to mention that just this second I’ve encountered inter-NS discrimination from a Native-North-American-only recruiter. Discrimination in any shape or form is bad, and the biggest or strongest get to be the driving force.

    • Neil McCutcheon says:

      Way harder but more rewarding than a *law degree*? Can’t beat that. Thank you for this interesting contribution, Jen! I agree that CELTA is a fine course that motivates many people to pursue a career in ELT. And, of course, in terms of employing and evaluating teacher performance, we should be “first language blind”. But this is clearly a SEPARATE issue – for me, at least.

      • Jen says:

        It was harder partly because of the intensive nature of the course, but also because my grammatical knowledge was so badly lacking at that point. Post experience and DELTA it’s a wee bit better.

      • Stephen Dodd says:

        I’ve been researching these courses from an academic level and they do make much sense at all. But trainees may think they are ok but like with everything you need to see beyond the surface level. That said, a friend of mine just completed her QTS one year training here in the UK and said on reflection it was not good at all. Nothing at all on classroom management which explains why state school teachers are leaving in droves. So actually as bad as they are the celta might be better than QTS! The big difference is hours teaching but if you get little feedback it’s not useful.

      • Stephen Dodd says:

        I’ve been researching these courses from an academic level and they do not make much sense at all. But trainees may think they are ok but like with everything you need to see beyond the surface level. That said, a friend of mine just completed her QTS one year training here in the UK and said on reflection it was not good at all. Nothing at all on classroom management which explains why state school teachers are leaving in droves. So actually as bad as they are the celta might be better than QTS! The big difference is hours teaching but if you get little feedback it’s not useful.

        • Neil McCutcheon says:

          Hi Stephen. I can only speak for myself – my CELTA taught me far more than my PGCE about managing a class. I have been running CELTA and DELTA courses for 10 years, and as a critical practitioner I do see below the surface. Let’s agree to differ on the merits of the course. I have many satisfied trainees, some of whom see it as a life-changing experience, not just in terms of employment opportunities but in terms of being given honest feedback, and personal development. Good luck with your research – I’ll be interested to read whatever you come up with. I will, however, stand up for CELTA and I hope others will too. Initial. Training. Course.

        • Neil McCutcheon says:

          What exactly is so bad about CELTA, Stephen? Why doesn’t the course “make much sense” to you?

  14. Lexicallab says:

    Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by to read this, comment and add to the debate.

    I just thought it worth posting a few quick comments on this, as it’s all I have time for today. I’ll try later on in the week to respond in more depth to individual comments, but in the meantime, a few general things:

    (1) Just to be clear: I’m absolutely not trying to denigrate the work many of you do on these courses. I know there are plenty of trainers out there who have put together innovative courses that tackle some of the inherent limitations in clever, thoughtful ways. Imagine what you could do if the course was double the current length!!!

    (2) I’m also not denying the reality of many of your experiences. It is, of course, quite possible for many of you to have found the CELTA life-changing – and for trainers to have noticed this. It should be noted, though, that there’s no reason to assume you wouldn’t have found a longer, more thorough course even more transformative!

    (3) I’m not denying that some folk (and let’s be honest here, this means native-speaking folk) enter teaching even more poorly qualified than those who go in with CELTAs. This fact, however, does not in itself seem sufficient to me to justify clinging on to the current dominant model of a four-week entry course.

    (4) I’m not saying that the courses themselves involve direct discrimination against non-natives and accept that many non-natives who have done them found them useful. Instead, I’m saying that the fact natives and non-natives alike wind up with the same qualification and that this qualification is still seen as the basic entry point into working abroad is problematic and is indicative of bigger structural prejudices against natives.

    Hope that’s cleared up a few possible misconceptions.
    More later on this week.

  15. Lexicallab says:

    Here’s a Facebook comment made by a native-speaker teacher who met her non-native husband to be on a CELTA course. It rather sums up the point I was trying to make about the subtle ways in which the course operates at the nexus of native-speaker privilege – and yes, before you ask, I did get her permission to use it here:

    “I met my non-native now husband on CELTA. Both of us did it so we could travel. However, he had already done a four-year degree in teaching English (done after he’d already studied International Relations, incidentally) and had eleven years’ teaching experience in Poland (including owning and running his own language school). In my case, I’d done a few private English lessons with Japanese kids and had started a completely unrelated career. But, of course, I was a native speaker!

    I then became friends with my now husband because he was in my teaching group and got him to explain the grammar to me. All of it! He enjoyed the course, but thought it was a piss-take that at its conclusion, the eleven native speakers were deemed as qualified as he was – more so even, despite the fact he sounds like a native, anyway. Their four weeks had somehow become equivalent to all that he had done beforehand!

    Just for the record, by the way, I should add that I felt the CELTA was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and was instrumental in helping me fake it. Both the centre I chose and my tutors were brilliant. I do feel sometimes, though, that after twelve years, a DELTA , and an MA, I’m STILL faking it! Just more convincingly so – and I’m far more aware of the fact that that’s what I’m doing! I almost envy those teachers who ten years later are still in post-CELTA mode, having never furthered their development and thus remain blissfully unaware that there’s more to it than getting students to discuss things in pairs. “

  16. Matthew A says:

    Having worked in a variety of jobs and contexts before doing the CELTA, I believe that the course functions just like the majority of training courses for most work situations.
    Initial training is always lacking, never covers enough material and knowledge to be able to perform the role expertly on completion, merely provides the ability to function within the role.
    What’s different in offices, call centres and sites in other industries is the access to competent others and experts who give ongoing support and monitoring once the trainee has finished that initial training and allows people the time to experience the requirements of the job, to learn more about how to do the job in varying situations and to develop the resources and knowledge to respond to ever-changing challenges.
    I have spent longer being trained to do roles that in no way compare to the complexity of a teaching job than the CELTA, yet felt far less prepared when it came to actually doing the job solo.

    Cambridge considers a teacher to be ‘expert’ on completion of the DELTA. The entry requirements being years of practical classroom experience. herein lies the age old catch-22 of finding a job in your world. If you only propose expert teachers getting jobs then they need experience (and realistically, lots of it). To get experience, you first need a job. This implies that even Cambridge don’t propose CELTA as producing expert teachers but merely starting them on the path.

    Learning about something and doing it are two very different things and I think this may be your point. The problem in the industry is the level of support required by newly ‘qualified’ teachers. The CELTA doesn’t favour native speakers, it favours quick and adaptable learners who meet the requirements of the course who, when thrown in at the deep end, can get on with it and use that adaptability to teach themselves what they need to know to be able to do the job. The difference is that in the real world, If they couldn’t do it they’d be fired with far more frequency. If they can, like yourself, they go on to have successful careers despite an ‘inadequate’ starting point.

    Maybe CELTA is considered the gold standard, not for the tasks that are completed during the four weeks, but because of the types of people who complete it and the skills they have that allow them to go on to develop themselves as teachers without much support.

  17. […] as I started as a backpacking volunteer (though I knew I wanted to do the CELTA – which many might argue is not enough). I have friends who have used the luck of their native speaker identity to get jobs, although I […]

  18. […] couple of days after the conference, Hugh Dellar wrote a post called CELTA, the native-speaker bias and possible paths forward questioning the future of the CELTA. It generated a lot of discussion in the comments and Anthony […]

  19. […] James Taylor To say that our president has seen the world is an understatement. CELTADELTA. Preparing for the CELTA in Nine Easy Steps. Little tips from CELTA training that go a long way. 10 Tips for Lesson Observations. Post-CELTA. 10 Recommended Books for the CELTA Course. Is the CELTA a Waste of Time? CELTA tip: language analysis assignment. Course: A Toolkit for CELTA. CELTA tip: the language skills assignment. CELTA Comparative by Koki Shimazu on Prezi. Post-CELTA professional development: Dogme materials. CELTA, the native-speaker bias and possible paths forward | Lexical Lab. […]

  20. […] Last week at IATEFL, Silvana Richardson delivered a rousing, righteous plenary tracing the historical roots of – and critiquing – the institutionalised mechanisms and habits of mind that continue to privilege native-speaker teachers over non-natives.  […]

  21. Kostas Kemparis says:

    Hi to all. Cambridge CELTA is an absolutely fine qualification as a taster/introductory course for anyone interested in becoming an EFL teacher. CELTA is just the start of an exciting journey, not the end of it. CELTA can give the opportunity to anyone who completed it to work as an ESL instructor at various private language institutions or be involved in private tuition. However, if anyone lacks a uni degree, he cannot land a job at a state school with just a CELTA. This is the huge difference. I myself lack a first degree. I just have my CELTA (Pass A), Now, I am currently doing my DELTA (I have already completed Module 2 with a Pass with Distinction grade) and I am 100% aware that even if I complete all modules of the Delta, I will still be unable to secure a teaching job at a state school as I will not meet the person specification. Bottom line: CELTA is good for what is meant to do. There are more options out there for anyone wanting to develop further, DELTA, MA, PhD to name a few.

  22. Nataliya Vinogradova says:

    I’d say CELTA is just a business, a way to make money. The whole idea of CELTA treats the job of a language teacher disrespectfully. The only requirement to join the course in Ukraine is B2 level. Are they serious to think this way? People who have done the course happen to be mislead that they have become teachers.

  23. David says:

    In reading through the comments, I’m seeing a lot of what I’ve seen through the years regarding qualifications. Certificate syndrome (closely related the the Stockholm syndrome). Teachers do a course and get a certificate. Doesn’t matter, Celta, MA, one week, online course. Given the certificate, they’ll swear to the ninth how great the instructor was, how wonderful the classes, how beneficial, how it is so much better than X etc …. It’s strange. Statistically, 50% of those courses out there are crap but no one will admit any course, training is crap ….. we fall in love with our kidnappers ….

  24. Bruno Leys says:

    I do think this post strikes the right chords! Let me share a concise version of the Facebook conversation I had with LTTB, which on their advertisement for CELTA in Belgium:
    ME: But why should qualified (…) teachers need a CELTA? They already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Shouldn’t that suffice? I’m not criticising the contents of the CELTA or DELTA as such.
    LTTB: Thank you for your enquiry, Bruno. (…) CELTA is for both native and non-native candidates without previous experience who wish to become teachers of English to speakers of other languages, for teachers with no previous training in this field and experienced teachers that wish to further develop their teaching skills. Qualified Belgian teachers that have a previous BA or MA in English teaching would not be needing a CELTA qualification to teach in Belgian state schools. They would, however, need an internationally recognised qualification should they wish to teach in other contexts. This is exactly what CELTA would be offering them. CELTA in fact is the most prestigious and renown qualification for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Employers will always ask if you have a CELTA.
    ME: It was not really meant as an enquiry, but an opinion. As I said I don’t doubt the value of a CELTA, but I think that people who have graduated as English language teachers (…), should not have to take a CELTA degree in order to be considered as qualified to teach English abroad. They have had a very comprehensive education and training and a respectable degree.
    LTTB: Although I fully respect your opinion, a Belgian teaching qualification is not recognised internationally and therefore would not allow you to develop an international career as an English teacher to speakers of other languages. For this purpose you would need a CELTA. You might want to, however, take this up with future employers. Good luck in doing so!

    Having been a teacher trainer for more than 20 years, I cannot understand that a three- or four-years bachelors or masters degree, including a large amount of classroom practice (where I teach it amounts for about 15 weeks of the total course!) still needs to be certified by a four-week-course also open to people with any teaching experience at all. It does seem like an imperial institution wanting to hold tight control on the TEFL world.

  25. Kylie Malinowska says:

    A great conversation to be had regardless of ones views. Thank you, Hugh.

  26. Claudia Molnar says:

    This is a great debate and a valid one I think. When I did CELTA in 1998 I really had to ‘re learn’ my own language as did my daughter who completed hers last year. Here in Hungary as some mentioned earlier TT focuses on theory and very little practical methodology which CELTA offers. It isn’t by any means the making of a great teacher but did give ma great foundation to work from. I have made a career of ELT and went on to DELTA and an MA in TESOL but many just want to travel and ear some money on the way (like my daughter). When I moved to Hungary my CELTA and DELTA meant nothing-the only thing that mattered was that I am a native speaker. ) years in I have been observed twice! No one cares. I can teach as I have an MA-the golden piece of paper here! So the debate goes on. Hugh do you think it would be fairer then if native speakers also had to take a ‘Placement test’? Perhaps this was balance it out a little??? Interested in others views on this- sorry if it has already been mentioned not had a chance to read all comments.

    • Lexicallab says:

      Sorry Claudia. I thought I’d responded to this, but apparently not! Anyway . . . as CELTA tutors would doubtless point out, both native and non-native applicants already do have to take some kind of ‘placement test’ in that there’s usually some kind of language awareness task sent out before interview. Depressingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, these tests are often fairly grammar-heavy and I;’m sure most applicants do what I did – and simply go home and mug up on the answers, check reference sources, Google them, etc. It’s better than nothing and of course depending on how it’s framed can prepare potential trainees for the kind of focus on language they’ll get on the course, but it’s still just sticking plaster on gaping wound stuff imho.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, the fact local degrees don’t have a sufficient focus on practical classroom teaching – and particularly how practice links to theory, which is the crucial missing ingredient in much of the discussion here – is an argument for including more of these kinds of things being included on such courses – rather than an argument for native speakers being allowed to teach solely on the back on a one-month course!!

  27. Claudia Molnar says:

    NEST here! I chose to do CELTA as a means to travel but from day 1 I fell in love with teaching and realised I had found my vocation in life. I went o to do a BA, PGCE, DELTA and then an MA in TESOL and have made a career of it and CELTA showed me the way so to speak. That said I had to learn so so much about my own language and language learning despite having an O level in French. Along my almost 20 year path I have met teachers great and small and so many of the great ones were NNESTs, As I have moved around the globe I realise that Native speaker are magic words and I have it that I am judged on that- I am a qualified ELT I cry but it ultimately falls on deaf ears. Here in Hungary only my MA counts (sadly). I think to even the balance native speakers with no QTS should also be given a ‘placement ‘test to see how much they know about English before joining the course.

    • Lexicallab says:

      Hi Claudia –
      I’m sure most CELTA trainers will say that they DO send out tests before they accept folk onto courses. I certainly remember being sent a pre-course task, which mostly contained questions about grammar (no surprises there!), and which I mugged up on from various reference sources, thus allowing me to blag my way on.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, I think this is the fundamental issue for many natives – the inability of courses to develop any real kind of linguistic knowledge during the month-long course.

      I think the fact Hungary often only takes those with MAs is interesting and possibly indicative of the way the future will take us, where natives with CELTAs are generally regarded as lower down the ladder than non-natives with far more language learning experience and local pedagogical degrees. If natives want to be taken seriously long-term, surely we have to start demanding a more meaty entrance qualification than a CELTA.

  28. Claudia Molnar says:

    absolutely I couldn’t agree more and I also remember doing a pre course test, which I ‘cheated ‘ on 🙂 The theory is def a sticking point as I was lucky enough to do the PGCE soon after which then underpinned what I’d learnt on CELTA-I am still in two minds- for someone who wants to travel and earn a bit of money doing it I say go for it but for those wanting to make a career out of it then one must go further- I really think it is down to employers really or to make the CELTA more DELTA like. I certainly agree that being a native speaker should by no means be the golden key to the door in any situation. (Thanks for setting the forum for this great and very needed debate)

  29. fessjarmer says:

    I’ve just come across this discussion after hearing Hugh speak on The TEFL show. I’m about to do my CELTA in a few weeks at The University of Gloucestershire. I am a native and have a degree in Publishing Media. I must say that after reading this discussion, I am at two minds whether I should be doing it! I have heard so many things about the CELTA, that it’s a really intense course (mine is 5 weeks), and that it’ll be the most difficult thing I’ll ever do. But now after reading this, I’m thinking whether it’s all worth it?
    I’m obviously going to still do it, having already paid for it, however I somehow now feel that I may not be good enough for this course? That the non-natives are going to have an ‘upper hand’ over me? I think I disagree that the CELTA is the problem (even though I haven’t done it yet), as I believe that if you are a native and are willing to work hard (like myself) and adopt all different teaching practises (such as the one you mention Hugh, in the podcast), you can be an as good teacher as a non-native.
    I do however agree with your point about how non-natives feel the need to do the CELTA for their qualifications to he recognised.

    • Lexicallab says:

      Hi there –
      Thanks for finding this and adding your comment.

      Despite how I may have come across above, I’d hate to think I’d put anyone off doing a CELTA and the very fact you’ve been reading up, digging about and generally researching the field before embarking on he course means you’re far more prepared and sussed than I was when I was at your stage of my career!

      I think if you’re going in with an understanding of the issues and a desire to work hard subsequently and develop your language awareness as well as your methodological approach, it’s obviously a good thing.

      Self-awareness and humility go a long way and I wish I’d known as much when I was rolled off the conveyor belt myself back in 1993. 🙂

  30. […] and how adequately they prepare people to enter ELT profession. For example, Hugh Dellar argues in this post that such courses are biased towards native speakers. The article sparked quite a bit of a debate, […]

  31. taynarasegurado says:

    Sufice to say, I once had to teach an American “teacher” what was a “GUErund”………..

  32. […] industry veterans like Geoff Jordan, Hugh Dellar and others out there swinging their hammers at CELTA, I thought I’d take the opportunity to […]

  33. […] I should thank Hugh Dellar for writing critique of CELTA. To cut a long story short, he questions CELTA as a golden standard and its suitability for native […]

  34. […] am aware of recent criticisms of the CELTA regarding the inadequacy of this month-long course and the debate that ensued as a […]

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