These two common acronyms can often cause considerable confusion among TESOL trainees and other inexperienced teachers. As you can see below, they have slightly different technical definitions. However, in practice they are both used to say the exact same thing in most cases.
TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Where are TESOL and TEFL most commonly used?
Although TESOL and TEFL are commonly used interchangeably all over the world, TESOL is often preferred in the USA and Australia. In contrast, you will come across TEFL more often in the UK. Despite the fact that some countries favor one acronym rather than the other, it is worth remembering that a TESOL certification and a TEFL certification involve the exact same process and materials, which means they are identical qualifications in the eyes of teachers, schools, and government offices worldwide.
What are the technical differences between TESOL and TEFL?
As mentioned, the TESOL and TEFL acronyms are used to describe the same teaching process and the TESOL and TEFL certification earned by course trainees is identical. However, there are some genuine technical differences between the two.
The process of teaching English as a second language (TESOL) is technically supposed to take place in countries where English is widely spoken and the students need to learn the language to gain employment, to socialize, and for shopping etc. In contrast, the process of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is technically supposed to take place in countries where English is not spoken. In this situation, the students often do not need to speak the language in their daily lives, so are learning for travel, business, or even for pleasure.