TESOL, TEFL or TESL what’s the difference?

Considering the ESL Industries main goal is to make English understandable, it is amazing how complex it has become to understand the qualifications of teachers within the field! Lets breakdown some of the common acronyms and find out what the differences really are.

  • TESOLTeaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
  • TEFLTeaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESLTeaching English as a Second Language

They all look very similar, don’t they?  While the subtle changes in the title seem to do little to change the overall meaning, in reality, their effect is more pronounced than many understand.

EFL ( English as a Foreign Language)

EFL focuses on teaching English to students living in a country that does not routinely use English as a language.  That is not to say English isn’t used in those countries; it’s not something with which the students would have daily contact.  The methods of teaching used as tailored to take into account this fact.  Also, EFL-trained teachers tend to pay closer attention to the cultural differences of their students.

ESL (English as a Second Language)

ESL aims to improve the English skills of non-native speakers living in an English speaking country.  Suppose you are a non-native speaker living amongst native speakers. In that case, your priorities will shift slightly from wanting to learn the language to being able to communicate.  Also, the fact that you are immersed in the language on a daily basis changes how your teacher will instruct you.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

TESOL is more generalized. It is usually only used for university-level qualifications. TESOL tends to be too broad for the short certificate level courses offered in both TEFL and TESL.  Teachers with TESOL training are prepared to deal with students in either an EFL or ESL environment.

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