Published 26th March 2021

TEFL abbreviations

You might have heard a lot of people talking about TEFL but do you know exactly what it means?

As in every field, there are lots of abbreviations and acronyms used in teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) that are thrown around with reckless abandon, with no thought for those of us who might not be familiar with them.

At The TEFL Academy, we thought we should put together a handy guide filled to the brim with all the pesky letters you might not know so that you too can whip them out at dinner parties and sound like a rockstar…or at least a teacher.

So here are the most commonly used abbreviations and acronyms in the TEFL world. Don’t fret if you are not familiar with them, because once you’ve read this guide you will know exactly what people are talking about.

General TEFL

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

This is the acronym used for teaching students who do not speak English as their first language. English is not their mother tongue, it might be their second or even third or fourth language.

TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

This is often used as a synonym for TEFL, though it can also be used to refer to teaching English to non-native speakers in an English-speaking country. While TEFL is the term generally used in the UK and Europe, TESOL is more likely to be heard in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In this sense, the origins can be understood to refer to non-English speakers who have immigrated to an English-speaking country.

Just to add a bit more confusion, TESOL is also the acronym for the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, which is the American association and the equivalent of the UK’s IATEFL – the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language.

EFL – English as a Foreign Language

This refers not to the teaching itself, but the content of what is taught. So while TEFL usually relates to the practice of teaching, EFL can refer to studies or research related specifically to the learner and how they learn languages. The two are clearly closely related.

ELT – English Language Teaching

This is the abbreviation used to describe the field of English language teaching. It usually refers to ELT resources and materials.

ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages and ESL – English as a Second Language

These two are often used interchangeably. They refer to the English learned by non-native speakers in an English-speaking country. In other words, the students are learning English in order to be able to communicate in the environment directly outside the classroom, either as a second language or as a foreign language.

Just to clarify, these terms are all quite similar and many are used interchangeably. In our day-to-day lives, it is not a disaster if we say ESOL when we mean EFL because they are essentially the same. In academia, however, these terms become important because the different teaching and learning situations can affect the learning experience, which is important in research.

TEFL Abbreviations and Acronyms

TEFL Qualifications

CELTA – Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

This is a TEFL qualification awarded by Cambridge English. It is a 120-hour TEFL course and is very similar to a TEFL course, with the difference being all CELTA courses around the world are exactly the same while TEFL courses differ from provider to provider.

Read more: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a TEFL Course

DELTA – Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

The TEFL and the CELTA certificates are well, certificates. In other words, they are entry-level qualifications in the EFL field. The DELTA is the diploma, which means it is the next step on the qualification ladder. In order to do the DELTA, you need to have at least two years of full-time experience teaching adults, as well as go through an interview process. The course itself is intensive and divided into three modules. The DELTA qualifies you to become a TEFL instructor or a Director of Studies.

TKT – Teaching Knowledge Test

This is a series of teaching qualifications that test your knowledge in specific areas of TEFL. Each test is in the form of multiple-choice tests. These are also given by Cambridge English and are suitable for both new and experienced teachers.

PGCE – Postgraduate Certificate in Education

This is a qualification that will qualify you to teach in an English-medium school. It is usually a one-year course with a practical component.

English as a Foreign Language exams

IELTS – The International English Language Testing System

A test conducted by the British Council to test a learner’s level of English. It is recognised all over the world by institutions assessing potential students’ language levels. It is also used by immigration authorities to assess applicants for residency permits.

Read more: Deconstructing the IELTS Exam

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

Similar to the IELTS in purpose this is the test for people who want to apply to study at a U.S. university.

TOEIC – Test of English for International Communication

Similar to the IELTS and TOEFL, this test is utilised not to assess suitability not only for studying but also for working in a business setting.

EFL jobs and teacher programmes

EPIK – English Programme in Korea

The South Korean government programme that places TEFL teachers in public schools.

JET – The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme

A programme that places EFL teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools in Japan for two-year contracts.

ALT – Assistant Language Teachers

A teaching position that involves assisting a local teacher. The extent of your duties and responsibilities will vary according to your school and the country.

NETS – Native English Teacher Scheme

A programme in Hong Kong that places native English-speakers in public schools.

EFL language schools

IH – International House

EF – English First

BC – British Council

TEFL teaching terms

CALL – Computer Assisted Language Learning

Lessons that make use of computers and technology to teach the language, i.e. through listening and speaking exercises.

CLIL – Content and Language Integrated Learning

Lessons that teach a subject (not English) through the medium of English.

TBL – Task-based Learning

Lessons that focus on the completion of a task and the language necessary for that aim.

PPP – Presentation, practice, production

A common lesson planning framework.

ARC – Authentic use, restricted use, clarification and focus

Another lesson plan format, similar to PPP but is more flexible and can accomplish its aims in any sequence.

These are just a few of the more commonly used abbreviations and acronyms in TEFL. Hopefully, by now you will know your IELTS from your TOEFL and your CLIL from your CALL. Keep checking back here as we’ll update this list regularly!

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