What does TESOL stand for?

The world of English language teaching is very fond of acronyms and TESOL is one of the most common. TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and is used when referring to the act of teaching, as well as the qualification required by teachers wishing to do the teaching. Below are a range of other popular teaching acronyms and their definitions.

ESL: English as a Second Language

ESL may have had its beginning with the rise of the British Empire in the 15th Century. As more countries were being colonized by Britain the use of English was taught to the native speaking leaders of the country, so they could continue to carry out Britain’s rule after the British left the country.

ESOL: English to Speakers of Other Languages. There are two sides to this: the learners and the teachers. The learners are often referred to as English Language Learners (ELL’s) and the teacher’s role which leads to the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

EFL: English as a Foreign Language, There are two sides to this: the learners and the teachers. The learners are often referred to as English Language Learners (ELL’s) and the teacher’s role which leads to the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

TEYL: Teaching English to Young Learners

There are different schools of thought as to what ages constitute young learners. One classification assumes that everyone who is not an adult learner (16-18 years and above) is a young learner. As some schools now cater for English learners from the age of 18 months this category of learners potentially encompasses a whole range of different maturations.

TBE: Teaching Business English

One of the major misconceptions regarding the teaching of business English is that you have to know something about business. This is definitely not the case. The vast majority of the English used in business English is regular English usage. While it would be worth learning a few commonly used business terms, a thorough knowledge of business practice will not be required.

TEO: Teaching English Online

This area of English language teaching has expanded rapidly over the last ten years with many companies offering these services. In order to teach English online it is useful to have some form of certification such as a TEFL or TESOL certificate. Being a non-native English speaker and not having a degree are not barriers to employment with some companies.

TEAP: Teaching English for Academic Purposes

There are a number of international examination systems that often have dedicated ESL teaching for them. A couple of examples are IELTS and TOEIC. These exams can be used in certain countries for proof of English competence for university entrance.

IELTS: The International English Language Testing System

IELTS is an English language test for study, migration or work. Over three million people take the test every year. IELTS is accepted by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies around the world. Source:

TOEFL: The Test of English as a Foreign Language

The TOEFL® tests prepare students for university study, immigration and more. Source:

TOEIC: The Test of English for International Communication

The TOEIC® program is the global leader in assessing English-communication skills for the workplace and everyday life.

CEFR: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR organizes language proficiency into six levels, A1 to C2, which can be regrouped into three broad levels: Basic User, Independent User and Proficient User. This can be further subdivided according to the needs of the local context. The levels are defined through ‘can-do’ descriptors.

All these definitions were correct at the time of writing, but may be subject to redefinition over time.

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