CELTA course FAQ's
Do I need to have teaching experience to do the course?
No, CELTA is an initial training qualification and thus does not require you to have any previous teaching experience. It is also fine if you have a lot of previous teaching experience – both experienced and inexperienced candidates will be able to benefit (and have benefitted!) from doing the course.
How important is it to know English grammar (specific terms and rules related to how things work)?
While it is important that your own level of English is no lower than CEFR C1, it is not essential for you to know the ‘theory’: CELTA being an initial training qualification, you will learn things as you go. There are several input sessions on the course that cover the most important aspects of the English grammar, and you will also explore grammar when planning your lessons, and pick up even more while observing your peers’ TPs.
How can I prepare for the course?
After you have been accepted on the course, we will send you a pre-course task. Working on it will help you to start thinking about the five main components of the course and guide you in your research and preparation. You will also receive a reading list; you do not need to read everything on it, but you can have a look at some of the books to help you have a better idea about the methods that you will be learning about.
Do CELTA courses differ from country to country?
While the tutors design their own sessions, the curriculum for all CELTA courses is the same and the criteria are identical. Each CELTA course is externally assessed, which helps Cambridge maintain the same standards throughout the CELTA centres, and the tutors undergo standardisation every year too. When choosing the centre to do the CELTA with, think about the context that you would like to be working in in the future and see if the TP groups match that context.
Who are my tutors? What qualifications do they have? Are they all native speakers?
Your tutors may come from very different educational backgrounds – a lot of them will be DELTA qualified, others will have MAs and even PhDs in linguistics and/or TESOL. To become a CELTA tutor, one needs to go through vigorous training, shadow at least one full CELTA course and be approved by Cambridge. Tutors also have to complete an annual standardisation task in order to make sure that all CELTA courses are graded in the same way and adhere to the same standards. The tutors in our centre have worked together on multiple courses, improving and polishing the content of their sessions from year to year, which we see as one of our centre’s strengths.
Not all CELTA tutors are native speakers, but they are all highly qualified and experienced professionals. We believe that having a native and a non-native tutor working on the same course adds to its value, allowing our trainees to benefit from observing two different types of professionals.
Is it possible to fail the course? When will I know that I’m failing? What can I do?
It is possible to fail the course. However, the tutors are there to do everything that they can to prevent this from happening. Make sure that you are responding well to and learning from your tutors’ feedback and follow their advice. An unsatisfactory outcome will never come as a surprise: If the tutors feel that you are not performing the way that you should be on the course, they will talk to you individually and discuss the steps that you will need to take to improve. Besides, the pre-course interview is there to help the centre select candidates that are ready to take the course and thus are unlikely to fail it.
Will I be able to teach kids?
While a lot of the techniques taught on the CELTA course can be applied to teaching children, the course is about teaching adult learners. You would need to know a lot more about child development and psychology and acquire specific skills and methods to become an effective YL (Young Learner) teacher. That is why this year IH Riga is offering a CELTA + IHCYLT package. The IHCYLT is moderated by Cambridge and focusses on the principals and practice of teaching young learners aged 8-18.
Will I be able to teach 1-to-1 classes, Business English and ESP (English for Specific Purposes)?
Strictly speaking, CELTA only focuses on teaching General English to adult learners, and since your teaching practice will be done with groups of learners, that is what you will be the most experienced with once you have done the course. At the same time, a lot of the techniques taught on the course can be applied to other types of classes, including Business English, exam English, etc. During the last week of the course you will also be offered a number of sessions on different teaching contexts (we usually tailor those to the needs of the group), thus giving you some ideas about those specific contexts and the type of professional development that you are going to benefit from in your chosen area of interest.
I’d like to continue working while doing the course. Is that possible?
While we cannot prohibit you from doing some work in the evenings when you are not studying, we do strongly advise against having any commitments other than the course. The course is a lot of work and you will have to be doing a lot of independent research and preparation in the evenings, planning your lessons, doing some reading, and working on your written assignments. Doing any extra work on top of the CELTA puts you in danger of falling behind and burning out, both physically and emotionally.
I am a non-native speaker of English. Will I be at a disadvantage compared to the native speakers?
Definitely not. As a rule, non-native speakers of English are better aware of what their learners are going through as they have had the very same experience of earning English as a foreign language. A lot of non-native speakers find teaching/analysing grammar and phonology less challenging for the very same reason. Native speakers often benefit form their knowledge of natural language use. The great thing about the CELTA course is that native and non-native teachers work together very closely and can thus learn and benefit from each other’s strengths.
What are the benefits of doing the CELTA abroad?
Apart from this being a great opportunity to travel and explore a different culture, doing the CELTA abroad has a couple of other benefits:
- it is much easier to focus on your work when you are not faced with the chores, duties, and routines that you have at home. Being away from home will help you really focus on your studies.
-if you are thinking of teaching abroad in the future, this is a fantastic way to see what working abroad would be like.
- you will get to teach students who belong to a different culture and speak a different language ‘on their territory’, learning to adapt to their mentality and observing and noticing the difficulties in learning English that are specific to their L1s.
Will I get help with employment after the course?
One of the last sessions on the course offers you an insight into the jobs market and show you the paths that you can take in your professional development. We will look at the types of jobs and contracts that you can be offered and discuss what you can expect from working for different types of schools.
Some of our CELTA graduates have stayed in Riga to work for International House Riga after the course, so this, too, is a possibility.
Is there an exam at the end of CELTA?
No. Assessment by the tutors is continuous, and you will be graded on your teaching practice, your written assignments and professional development. You will be given feedback after every lesson and there will be at least one progress tutorial during the course. Self-awareness and the ability to reflect on your teaching are important considerations. The CELTA course is also externally assessed by an assessor appointed by Cambridge English Language Assessment.
Is the CELTA course only for native speakers of English?
No. However, you must have a high level of English, awareness of language and competence in written and spoken English that enables you to follow the CELTA course. This competency requirement also applies to native speakers.
Is there an age limit for CELTA applications?
No, but you must be over 20 years old by the end of the course.
Will the CELTA help me in making teaching my career?
Yes. Most schools recognise the CELTA as the minimum specialist qualification for teachers of English as a foreign language.
Do I need a University degree to apply for the CELTA course?
No, but most CELTA trainees have a tertiary qualification. The minimum requirement is a qualification that will allow you to enter Higher Education in your own country.
What do I need to know about grammar?
You need to have a good understanding of the structure of the English Language and how it functions as a means of communication. In order to gain entry to the course you will need to demonstrate some familiarity with English grammar and pronunciation, and by the end of the CELTA course you should be able to identify aspects of form and meaning in the tense system of English.
Do I need to speak a foreign language?
No, but it will certainly help if you have had some experience in learning a second language and analysing its grammatical structure.
How can I teach without using the learners' native language?
You need to give clear demonstrations, use simple language in your instructions, clear explanations, and use visual aids and gestures where necessary. With low level learners you need to ensure your language is graded to their level, while still remaining natural.
Is personality important?
Everyone has a different teaching style. What is important on the course is being able to co-operate with and listen to other people, accept criticism, be flexible and be considerate to your fellow trainees.
Is the CELTA course stressful?
Yes. You will often be in stressful situations, since your lessons will be observed by your tutors and other trainees. You have to be able to meet deadlines in lesson preparation and written assignments. It helps to be organised and to be able to manage your time well.
Will I enjoy the CELTA course?
The CELTA course is hard work, at times confronting, and often a transforming experience. You will learn a lot about yourself and about other people, and find yourself constantly challenged. The vast majority of trainees find the course immensely rewarding and worthwhile!