TESOL, TEFL and other ELT acronyms explained

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TESOL, TEFL and other acronyms explained
English language teaching as a profession seems to love acronyms – TEFL, ESOL, EAP, EAL…. you’d be forgiven for being confused. This short video explains the meanings of at least a few of these.
English language teaching as a profession seems to love acronyms – TEFL, ESOL, EAP, EAL….you’d be forgiven for being a bit confused. I’m Jo Gakonga from ELT-Training.com and in this short video I’ll try and explain the meanings of at least a few of these…

Let’s start with TESOL. Many degree titles use this- I work on an MA TESOL, for example. It stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. In theory at least, this is a broad umbrella term and covers English language teaching in all circumstances.

To look at other acronyms, let’s think about the ways in which you can learn English. There are many different possibilities, of course, but here are three main broad areas-

(1) You can be in your home country, speaking your first language the majority of the time, but coming to class to learn English sometimes. Schoolchildren usually fall into this category and many adult learners, too. This is EFL- English as a Foreign Language.

(2) A second possibility is if you are living in an English speaking country on a more permanent basis and need the language to survive, get a job, study etc. This can be referred to as English as a Second Language (this often seems to be used in North America) or English as an Additional Language (acknowledging that you might speak more than two languages – this is often used in UK schools) but, confusingly perhaps, people in this category, especially adults living in the UK are also referred to as ESOL learners.

(3) The third possibility is if you are in school in your home country, but some or all of your education is in English, even though that is not your first language. This is often called CLIL- Content and Language Integrated Learning and usually means maths or science classes in English, meaning that the teacher has to have knowledge of the subject and language teaching. This can also be called EMI- English as a Medium of Instruction- but this usually means that a whole school curriculum or a whole degree is run in English, even though it’s in a country where English isn’t an official language.

There’s one other area that I want to look at and that’s ESP- this stands for English for Specific Purposes and it’s where English is being learnt for a particular reason – for example, Business English, Medical English, English for Peacekeepers – there are lots of examples. One of the most popular ESP courses is EAP- This is English for Academic Purposes and it’s the English you need to learn if you are going to study in a university in an English speaking country. Common exams to test this are IELTS (the International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).

Just as a final interesting snippet, CELTA – is the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The acronym doesn’t fit because it used to be the Certificate in Teaching English to Adults. Cambridge changed the title of the qualification but kept the well-known acronym.

I hope that this has helped to explain some of the letters that whirl around in this area and good luck with your teaching, whatever the acronym!
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