TEFL, ESL, TESOL & TOEFL – which is which?


English conversation and language teaching is a world filled with acronyms. ESL, TEFL, TESOL, TOEFL; what do they all mean. Furthermore you have a number of specific acronyms created by individual schools and language programs. We’re going to address and make sense of some of these for you.

ESL: English as a Second Language

This acronym is usually associated with a class, like ESL 101.  This is a fairly common course name for English language students. It often refers to English conversation as opposed to the grammar courses that are commonly taught by native language speakers from the particular country.

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

This is perhaps the most common acronym used for English teaching certification courses. Many courses like UniTEFL or TEFL International even use the acronym in the name of their businesses. This is due to the easily identifiable and highly specific certifications being offered. When you see “TEFL” you know that it’s referring to certification.

TESOL: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages

This acronym is applied to professional English teachers. It’s also the name of the international association, TESOL International Association. This organization provides a number of resources, insurance and seminars for English teaching professionals.

TESOL is also used synonymously with TEFL. A cursory search for either TEFL or TESOL will result in numerous duplicate results. Don’t be thrown off  – while TESOL can correspond with something specific (the international association), it can also simply mean teaching English to non-native speakers.

TOEFL: Test Of English as a Foreign Language

TOEFL refers to the test administered to students looking to study at English speaking universities in English speaking countries. TOEFL is also a registered trademark of ETS (Educational Testing Service) who creates the exams.

This test is usually required for university as well as a number of professional endeavors. Preparing students for this exam is a common goal for many English teachers and tutors.

Well, we hope this makes sense of these acronyms for you – Good luck!

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