Posted on March 4, 2019 | By Jenni Fogg
19th Feb 2019
As you enter the world of English Language Teaching, it’s impossible not to notice the swamp of acronyms. What’s the difference between ESL, ELF and EFL? Are acronyms simply there to bamboozle outsiders or are they useful shortcuts to important concepts?
While we let you decide that one for yourself, let’s wade in and explain some of these cheeky combinations. This blog will help you get to grips with the different types of teaching under the umbrella of English Language teaching, so we hope you’ve brought your waterproofs!
ELT – English Language Teaching
ELT for starters is a bit of catch-all term. It covers all the different types of English Language Teaching that exist in different contexts around the world. It is used a lot on Twitter, check out #eltchat – an opportunity to talk about all things ELT with other members of the ELT community. You can also ogle other people’s whiteboards on #eltwhiteboard and share your own too.
EFL – English as a Foreign Language
EFL is the variety that we at LoveTEFL specialise in – English as a Foreign Language. (And, as you may have guessed, TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.) This involves teaching English to students in non-English speaking countries, most commonly in the context of a language school or academy but also in primary or secondary schools. For example, if you move to Japan, you will be teaching English as a Foreign Language.
ESL – English as a Second Language / ESOL – English to Speakers of Other Languages
ESL and ESOL, on the other hand, refer to teaching or learning English in an English-speaking country – often in an adult education centre, language school or in a college. There is a lot of emphasis on functional language to help people get by in their new country. The term English as a Second Language (ESL) was thought to be too limiting as for some students, English might be the third or fourth language they’ve learnt – hence English to Speakers of Other Languages or ESOL.
EAL – English as an Additional Language
For children in primary or secondary school who live in an English-speaking country but originally come from abroad, we use the term EAL. English as an Additional Language supports students who are taking all their lessons in English. It might also be used to talk about English lessons in international schools. Teachers of EAL will have to collaborate with their colleagues to ensure that students have a decent grasp not only of General English but also the language they’ll need to cope with their other subjects across the school curriculum.
ESP – English for Specific Purposes.
Here, students are in a specific context such as their job. Popular types of ESP include medical English and legal English. Having said this, there are also English courses available for taxi drivers, builders and in hospitality, such as working in a restaurant or hotel.
BE – Business English and EAP – English for Academic Purposes
The two most common types of ESP are BE (Business English) and EAP (English for Academic Purposes). BE involves teaching specific vocabulary, grammar and functional language to be used in business and corporate settings around the world. This might include teaching language for negotiations or meetings as well as writing more formal emails. As a teacher, you’ll be going into businesses and teaching groups of students or providing one-to-one lessons. Secondly, EAP is taught to students. English for Academic Purposes helps prepare students for their university education on English-speaking courses. It covers things like writing academic essays and taking notes in a lecture. Pre-sessional courses take place during the summer in English-speaking countries, preparing students to start their degree in September. Some students might take a foundation year of EAP at their university before they start their degree.
ELF – English as a Lingua Franca
In EFL (English as a Foreign Language), students learn “correct” English – an English that meets ‘native-speaker norms’. When we think, however, that around the world there are over four times more people who’ve learnt English as an additional language than native speakers, it’s easy to question why this English must meet native-speaker norms. In many situations, it’s far more likely for conversations to take place between two non-native speakers than a native-speaker and a non-native speaker!
ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) tries to develop an English that is both easy to use and easy to comprehend between non-native speakers. Some of this concerns pronunciation – for example, how important is it that students can make a ‘th’ sound at the starts of words like three? It can still be easily understood by other non-native speakers (and native-speakers) if this sound is replaced with a ‘f’ or ‘d’ sound. Depending on the context in which you’re teaching, your learners might prefer to focus on ELF rather than EFL in the classroom.
Hopefully this guide to some of the acronyms in English Language Teaching will make things a little clearer for you as you explore the industry. Refer back to this guide if you get stuck or use it to start your own glossary of important terms. It might be the case that you only really come across one of these in your career but it’s worth bearing in mind that there’s plenty of variety across different countries and contexts.
In this next part of this series, we’ll be looking at the acronyms used in testing and assessment – so, watch this space!