English teaching acronyms and testing acronyms

This article, English teaching acronyms and testing acronyms, what they are and what they mean, is part of EBC’s strategies for teaching English series. You need to know your acronyms to avoid confusion with your employers and your students.

Like most modern skill sets, English teaching has its unique set of acronyms. Many are related specifically to teaching English to non-native English speakers and also to examinations that non-English speakers can take in order to prove that they have attained a good level of written and spoken English.

Mainstream teaching acronyms

The two most important acronyms you’ll initially need to know as a teacher are:

  • TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TEFL is a teaching method that is used to teach English to people in a country where English IS NOT the local language, e.g. teaching English in Spain or Argentina.

  • TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TESOL is a teaching method that is used to teach English to people in a country where English IS the local language, e.g. teaching English in the USA, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand.

TEFL vs. TESOL

The main difference between the two teaching methods revolves around communication which is the key to successful teaching.

  • In a TEFL environment your class will have a common language, e.g. Spanish if you are teaching in Argentina or Spain. As you are teaching in a Spanish speaking country, in an emergency (if you can speak some Spanish) you can make an explanation in Spanish that everyone will understand.
  • In a TESOL environment your class will NOT have a common language. Your class can be from any country. Your class will be composed of immigrants or foreign students that want to learn English e.g. from Russia, China, India, Brazil, France, Spain, Poland, etc. This means that you are forced to communicate in English or some other non-verbal form in order to explain something to your class.

For this reason, EBC’s training exposes you to TEFL and TESOL so that you are able to use either teaching method. TESOL is also the name of a US organisation that provides international support for teaching English to non-English speakers. TESOL the organisation is not the same as TESOL the teaching methodology.

TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

TESL and TESOL are synonymous. The UK, Ireland and New Zealand generally use the acronym TESOL. The USA, Canada and Australia generally use the term TESL. There’s usually some debate about which country uses which acronym but the bottom line is that:

TESL = TESOL

Other teaching acronyms that you may find

These acronyms are initially less important but you should familiarise yourself with them for future use as a mainstream English teacher.

Study area acronyms

BE – Business English – English for business or commercial use. It is sometimes used incorrectly to describe teaching English classes at a business location.

EAL – English as an Additional Language – Provision for school children whose first language is not English.

EAP – English for Academic Purposes – entails training students, usually in a Higher Education setting, to use language appropriately for study. EAP courses are sometimes used to raise students’ English levels so that they can enter university.

EFL – English as a Foreign Language – the study of English by a resident of a non-English speaking student e.g. a class of students in Spain.

EIL – English as an International Language – the study of global English e.g. American vs. British English etc.

ELF – English as a Lingua Franca – the study of English as the (usually) chosen method of cross-cultural communication. E.g. a Japanese business person and an Argentinean business person choose English as their method of communication.

ELL – English Language Learner – someone who learns English.

ELT – English Language Teaching – a term covering all aspects of teaching English.

ESL – English as a Second Language – the study of English by a resident of an English speaking student e.g. a class of immigrant students in the USA.

ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages – the study of English by a resident of an English speaking student e.g. a class of immigrant students in the USA.

ESP – English for Special Purposes, or English for Specific Purposes – often used as a synonym for Business English, this is the acronym for teaching English to people that need to learn a very specific type of English, e.g. air traffic controllers, doctors, politicians, accountants, lawyers etc.

TYLE – Teaching Young Learners English – a specialised area covering teaching methods for children and teenagers.

Main testing acronyms

The following testing acronyms  all relate to a few well-known and internationally accepted tests.

BULATSBusiness Language Testing Services.

IELTSInternational English Language Testing System.

TOEFLTest Of English as a Foreign Language.

TOEICTest Of English for International Communication.

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