Interview with Mia Williams, Co-owner of Trusted TEFL Reviews

One of the first things every teacher must do at the beginning of their career is take a teacher training course. The most common course for teachers working abroad is referred to as TEFL, and there are hundreds of companies offering these courses online. How can you pick the right course? Are there any differences between them? To answer these questions and more, we interviewed Mia Williams, one of the founders of Trusted TEFL Reviews.

Why did you create the Trusted TEFL Reviews site?

A friend asked me for advice because she was wanting to teach English overseas, and was finding it difficult to navigate through the TEFL jungle. I took my TEFL nigh on eight years ago – unfortunately the TEFL school that I studied through is of no more – and have been teaching English abroad for just over seven years, so I assumed I’d know where to look and which sources to trust.

I was immediately struck by at how dishonest the industry had become (or maybe it was always this way?) It became pretty obvious, pretty soon, that some of the more popular sites were involved in shady tactics; obviously faking reviews, affiliate link marketing, and generally unleveling the playing field as much as possible to their advantage via under-the-table, underhanded tactics.

It was then that I saw a niche in the market for a trusted source of TEFL courses feedback, and so was conceived and thrust into the world.

I saw a niche in the market for a trusted source of TEFL courses feedback

What are the benefits for teachers taking a TEFL course?

I would have to answer by replying that the benefits for teachers taking a professionally-run TEFL course are many, and that the benefits for teachers taking a shoddily-run TEFL course are few and far between.

But let’s focus on the TEFL programs at the more reputable end of the spectrum.

I’ve met a few teachers during my English teaching travels who thought the only requirement for teaching English was that you had to be the holder of a passport from a native English-speaking country. Predictably, they all sucked at teaching – the main reason being that they had very little knowledge of grammar or teaching methodology.

I think the main benefit of taking a TEFL course is therefore acquiring a foundational knowledge of what your students will expect you to know, and also acquiring a sense of confidence that you took a teaching qualification and that you belong in the classroom.

Some forum trolls like to go on and on about how it’s only the onsite (residential) courses that will really train you up proficiently, but the fundamental difference between these courses and most online TEFL courses is the addition of 6 teaching practice hours – very little, and not really worth the extra expense over an online TEFL course. Anyway you look at it, the real TEFL training begins once you start your (paid) teaching English career.

Having some training though – either through an onsite or online TEFL course, will much better prepare you for that transition. The problem is that we as humans learn mistakes very quickly and teachers with no TEFL certification experience tend to start off on the wrong foot, and continue along that route with the bad habits they picked up at the start.

"Anyway you look at it, the real TEFL training begins once you start your (paid) teaching English career."

Whatโ€™s the deal with all these different course accreditations?

Yes, what IS the deal? ๐Ÿ™‚

I often find myself laughing, quite literally out loud, when I see a school boasting about this and that accreditation.

There is no international accreditation body for online TEFL certification courses; neither for onsite TEFL certification courses (with the exception perhaps of CELTA and Trinity College, but even in this case I would stop short at defining these bodies as being international accreditation bodies.)

If an online TEFL school claims accreditation, it can mean one of three things.

1. They quickly created a website themselves, and invented their own accreditation.

2. They pay a yearly fee to someone else, who created a website themselves, and who invented their own accreditation.

3. They did both 1 and 2 combined ๐Ÿ™‚

What really makes me laugh though is how some of these online TEFL schools claim that they are regularly inspected by such and such accreditation body, in order to maintain high standards. What a load of baloney.

My advice is not to focus on accreditation. It is completely meaningless.

There are so many options, both good and bad, for TEFL courses. How can teachers spot the good ones?

This is difficult.

There are a few (popular) TEFL review websites which have been around for donkey’s years, and I’ve recently discovered that they also partake in the affiliates marketing system.

This means that a TEFL school will pay the reviews website when a customer signs up for one of their courses, who found them on the reviews website. So, this obviously brings up countless questions regarding impartiality, and actually questions the authenticity of these review sites to the core.

Over at we publish verified TEFL reviews, written by course graduates, and this should be your first stop on your TEFL journey for reliable, honest, trustworthy TEFL courses feedback.

Online schools are so good at disguising negative comments and promoting positive ones

Besides not being listed on Trusted TEFL Reviews, are there any other red flags a teacher should look out for when reviewing a TEFL course?

It’s difficult to say really because the online schools are so good at disguising negative comments and promoting positive ones, so that most online searches will never uncover the truth.

Perhaps one good system is to contact a school that you are interested in taking a TEFL course with and seeing how quickly, and how detailed, they respond to your questions. Try sending a few emails off, to see if they are consistent in their replies and timely response. If they are, there is a good chance they will be also when you need to get a hold of them during your TEFL studies.

Some people view these teaching certificates as a waste of time, do you think the system needs to change?

I actually don’t, no.

Teaching English isn’t exactly rocket science, and I feel that a 2-4 week online TEFL course is a good enough prerequisite to starting teaching students in a classroom. You have to bear in mind that most courses that follow a syllabus have a Teacher’s Book that quite literally instructs you what to say and do during a lesson – a bit like flying autopilot on an A380.

Again, the real training starts when you enter your first classroom, to teach your first (paid) class.

Another point is that although teaching English wages are relatively good, they are not excellent. This means that a short and to the point course is required for this profession in order to minimize the career entry costs.

Lastly, many young people decide to do TEFL for a gap year, or for a few year’s stint around the world while traveling. Many of their students are not only interested in learning the mechanics of the language, but also pay for classes to experience the way of thinking of English speakers, and to pick up their language fluency in terms of slang, accent, etc. This means that while it is important to know what you are doing, you don’t need to have a degree in Education to effectively teach English as a foreign language overseas.

I personally feel that these TEFL courses fill a need and will be around for as long as until they are overtaking by TCFL – Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language – courses.

Written by Mia Williams. Currently teaching English in Vienna, Austria.
Co-owner of

Which TEFL? Helping you choose your best online TEFL/TESOL certification course.

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