The International Federation for the Teaching of English grew out of an international conference on English teaching held at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in 1966.

Following this meeting a network of international meetings and publications began to develop, and this eventually led to the formal constitution of IFTE in 1983.

Since then a pattern has developed of holding a major international conference in one of the IFTE countries every four years, with a meeting of the executive attached to it. Executive also meet for an interim meeting in connection with an English conference every two years.

Recent major conferences have been held in New York (1995), Warwick (1999), Melbourne (2003), Calgary (2007), New Zealand (2011), New York (2015), and Birmingham (2018).