What Is The Difference Between TEFL and TESOL?

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In the TEFL world there are a large number of abbreviations and acronyms which not many people understand. Long, long ago someone decided that we needed to label each and every different TEFL situation. Since then TEFL teachers all over the world have been confused. These acronyms shouldn’t be a cause for concern. So don’t freak out if you don’t remember what they refer to exactly, but sometimes it’s nice to know what everybody is talking about. TEFL, TESOL, EFL, ESOL… are all used interchangeably and mean the same thing really. So what is the difference between TEFL/TESOL/EFL/ESOL/ESL? Here’s our guide to TEFL terms you will probably come across at some point in your TEFL career:

What Is The Difference Between TEFL/TESOL/EFL/ESOL/ESL
                        What Is The Difference Between TEFL and TESOL and other abbreviations?

What is the difference between TEFL/TESOL/EFL/ESOL/ESL?

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

This is the acronym used for teaching students who do not speak English as their first language but are studying it. Usually this refers to a study context in a non-English-speaking country – hence the Foreign Language part – but more and more it’s used to describe any situations in which English is taught to a speaker of another language. If you’re in the position as a foreign teacher and the students are local, you can learn all about the culture by giving learners a chance to communicate their experiences. 

TEFL is not only just about teaching English, but it’s also the certification needed in order to become certified to teach English as a foreign language.  The minimum hours needed to become certified is 120 hours, but TEFL teachers wanting to find the best jobs should get a Level 5 qualification, which will be at least 150 hours in order be considered a level 5 certificate. 

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. In this context, you’ll often be teaching learners that will use the local language to engage with their new surroundings and improve their English for work and study. If you are teaching English in an English-speaking country, your class will be multi-national and multi-lingual.  You can find yourself teaching exam preparation classes and general English. 

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 which is 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, but the content of what is taught. The coursebooks and other materials that we use in the classroom are EFL materials. So while TEFL usually relates to the practice of teaching and how we can be better teachers, EFL can refer to studies or research related specifically to the learner and how they learn languages. The two are clearly closely related. Lately though, the term ELT (English Language Teaching) is now used as an umbrella term.

TEACHING MULTILINGUAL ADULT LEARNERS IN THE EFL CLASSROOM

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

These two are usually used interchangeably. They refer to the English learnt 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.

The difference between ESOL and ESL is that ESOL means that the learner already knows a second or third language. If English is a learner’s third or fourth language then it is limiting to say English as a second language as it is not fully comprehensive in its description.  ESOL and ESL classes can include areas such as general English, and specific listening and speaking skills. 

Let’s break down some specific areas in teaching TEFL/TESOL/EFL/ESOL/ESL:

EAP- English for Academic Purposes

EAP specialises in preparing non-native English speakers for studying at English speaking institutes of higher education. Students will need to know linguistic and communicative competences to use the English language appropriately for study. This includes being able to write academic assignments in English and give presentations.

ESP- English for Specific Purposes

ESP usually refers to teaching the English language to people already in employment with reference to vocabulary and skills related to their profession. One sort of EAP is Business English. Business English focuses on the vocabulary used in business sectors and typical business communication skills such as presentations, correspondence, and report writing.  

TEACHING BUSINESS ENGLISH 1

Exam Preparation

Exam preparation classes are typically for students with an intermediate level of English looking to learn new vocabulary and grammar. Learners may need to prove their English language abilities before working or studying in countries where English is the primary language. 

As a teacher it’s important to be familiar with language tests like IELTS or TOEFL, so you are prepared and know what to cover in your lessons. You must also prepare your students to complete tasks in a time restrictive environment. An effective exam preparation teacher implements the same time constraints that learners would find when taking the real exam. 

Young Learners

Teaching English to young learners is a massive area in EFL, especially in Europe and Asia.  There are opportunities for teaching primary age students in private language schools or in public schools. Understanding the stages of language and skills development in children will help you create age-appropriate lessons and increase motivation. 

young learners

If your head hurts a little by now, don’t worry. There are so many abbreviations and acronyms flying around that most people find it difficult to keep track and to be quite honest. If we know what we’re doing. Is it really necessary for us to know if we’re doing TEFL or TESOL? Will it make a difference to our teaching? We think not.

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