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.


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:


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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Highly Recommended! Everyone is helpful and the course itself was very helpful, especially for people who have no teaching background and would like to change careers.
Cheyenne Albon
08:00 10 Oct 18
I had a good time doing my TEFL here in Madrid with EBC. The classes always started on time with a very realistic approach used to teach. I would recommend people to do TEFL from EBC to learn good ways to teach English and make it fun for students.
gaurav swamy
12:52 05 Oct 18
i learned a lot of strategies in teaching.I took the intensive 1 month course and it was really hard work but it was well worth it. Thanks a lot to our amazing teacher. I was so happy to receive my Certificate.Thanks alot EBC for everything.
lhiz Velasco Cabales
08:27 05 Sep 18
EBC is a wonderful academy. I attended an intensive course to gain my TEFL/TESOL qualification. The teaching was in-depth, covering skills, general and business English, as well as how to teach children and adults. All of this was imparted by our professional guide, John. Thank you to all the staff who went out of their way to be encouraging and helpful. It has been a memorable experience!
Michelle Fernández
18:00 02 Sep 18
Great course with an awesome staff. All aspects of teaching, grammar, finding work and even living in Spain are covered in great detail. Would recommend highly to anyone looking to do their TEFL.
Joe Kemp
12:53 31 Aug 18
Excellent and very comprehensive programme. Our instructor taught us everything we need to know about teaching English. The practice teaching sessions we did are great experience for the real world and I now feel confident that I can teach professionally. Thank you John for your commitment and dedication.
Susi Santorelli
12:03 31 Aug 18
Totally recommend EBC. A thorough course, well worth the money and with highly qualified instructors. I had never taught before taking this course, but the 8 hours teaching practice makes you feel so prepared. They answered every single one of my questions and made me feel confident to make this investment. Don't hesitate taking this course!
Kathryn Royal
11:59 31 Aug 18
Great course! You'll work very hard (it's very intensive) but definitely worth it. I totally recommend it.
Sol Montaser
09:00 27 Jul 18
The class was very good. The instructor John is friendly and very thorough with his classes. William, in the front office, is a joy and is very helpful with all of my course needs. Tita, is very nice and was helpful in explaining different options for working and staying in Madrid.
Jaime Tully
08:59 27 Jul 18
John is a good teacher and he puts efforts inorder to understand your requirements. He teaches you in the right ways, like how to present the language in a simple way, how to keep the motivation on, etc.It´s a intensive course but it´s really worth !!Willam is a good administrator. Thanks for all the help and support. 🙂
Tanya Bhagat
11:41 18 May 18
The course is very intensive but IT IS REALY WORTH! If you are looking for a course that teaches you how to become an English teacher, well this is the best one. You really get the better skills for teaching English at all levels with a clear knowledge about what you are doing. The staff of the course is really nice and helpful. He is a really nice person who helps you whatever you need.Teachers here at really good and they really know how to train you as a English teacher very well.
Dro !
11:24 18 May 18
I am very pleased with my experience at EBC Madrid. Professor John was an amazing mentor that really prepared my classmates and I to teach English. I feel confident going into the job market and finding a teaching job.
Elizabeth Wohlford
15:28 08 Mar 18
EBC Madrid had equipped me with the necessary knowledge and skills I need to be better in teaching. William is so nice and is very accommodating to us students. And, John is the best teacher who can simplify and make the students understand even the most complicated grammatical concept. Kudos!
Anne Marnelli
14:42 08 Mar 18
The course is very intensive but it helps a lot to bring out the best in me. John is an amazing teacher and he is very professional. I'm very thankful for all the guidance and help that I received from EBC. I highly recommend it.
Roxanne A.
14:42 08 Mar 18
The course is really useful. It makes you equipped with the right knowledge, training and attitude. Things you need to have that confidence to go out and face the world as an English teacher. Highly recommended!
Pedi Dela Cruz
14:25 08 Mar 18
This is a great place to get your TEFL certification. The staff is kind, organized and very helpful. It was such a comfortable learning environment that I enjoyed very much. I liked the personalized attention and I got a lot more confidence and experience to be an English teacher. Thanks for everything!
Victoria Metz
10:35 02 Feb 18
I found the instruction throughout the course to be very effective and I finished the course feeling excited and prepared to begin teaching. There is nothing fancy about the EBC facility, however this doesn't in any way reduce the overall quality of the course. John, the instructor, has extensive experience (both as an TEFL teacher and a TEFL course trainer), which is evident in the thoughtful organization of the course. My class had only five students, which created lots of time for personal attention and advice. Make sure you come prepared to work hard!
Adam Schreiber
12:06 14 Dec 17
It was a great and intensive course! I learned and enjoyed this whole learning how to teach experience. Thank you very much for your time and knowledge. I feel well-prepared now. EBC Madrid, 2017.
Michele Buitron
11:57 14 Dec 17
I've just finished my EBC TEFL course. It was a great experience. I definitely recommend this course. John is an amazing teacher and he is very professional. It was just a pleasure. Thank you so much and good luck!
Natalia Egorova
15:04 10 Nov 17
The course has been really useful and the teacher, John, made the classes so much fun and very interesting. It is has been a great experience and has helped me realise how much I really enjoy teaching. It has also been a bit intense at times but I would recommend this course to anyone who would like to become an English teacher.
Natasha Jimenez
20:17 05 Oct 17
Class of August 2017.It's been a busy stressful 4 weeks but I am happy the group and I have all made it and we have TEFL certificates to show for all our hard-work and sleepless nights. Much thanks to our trainer John for his patience and ability to find solutions and guidance to help you find your way and energy throughout the course. EBC international is the best place to learn and share your knowledge of teaching. And for people like me who has no idea how to teach things like grammar and also to learn the grammar...this is the place to be!
Ashley Kabanda
11:14 31 Aug 17

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