What is ESL?

If you have spent any time looking into the world of English language teaching (ELT) you will probably have noticed that the industry has a fondness for acronyms. Terms such as TEFL, TESOL, ESOL, EFL, ESL, among others, are all regularly used when talking about teaching and studying English, as well as when referring to teaching qualifications. Here we will look at ESL and the first thing to make clear is that ESL stands for English as a Second Language. ESL, and any of the other acronyms mentioned above, are routinely used interchangeably when discussing scenarios where the English language is being taught to or studied by non-native English speakers.

What is the difference between ESL and EFL?

As previously mentioned, ESL and EFL are commonly used interchangeably within the English language teaching world. However, there is a technical difference between the two that you should be aware of. English as a Second Language (ESL) should be used in scenarios where an English student is learning the language in a country where English is the official language. This scenario is common practice in English speaking countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, etc, due to relatively high levels of immigration. An example of ESL would be an Italian student taking English lessons in London.

If the same Italian student was taking English lessons in their home city of Milan, this would be an example of EFL (English as a Foreign Language). EFL should be used in scenarios where an English student is learning the language in a country where it is not commonly spoken (most often their country of birth). In this type of environment the student is only likely to speak English for a few hours a week during their EFL classes.

What is ESL in the classroom?

When talking about actually teaching English, ESL is usually replaced by TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). Once again, TESL is used to refer to situations where English is being taught in an English speaking country. An example of teaching English as a second language would be an American teacher teaching Mexican people English in New York.

One other thing to be aware of is that TESL is commonly used interchangeably with another acronym TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), when referring to any scenario where non-native speakers are being taught English. Technically, TESOL is considered to be a term that covers all EFL and ESL scenarios, irrespective of where it is happening.

Who are ESL students?

As we have already covered, ESL students can be found in any country where English is not an official language and it is not commonly used by the media, government, or in the daily lives of the majority of its citizens. Because of this, ESL learners and teachers face many challenges as students have little exposure to the language on a day-to-day basis. To combat this situation ESL teachers need to possess a wide range of skills and knowledge that allow them to create the necessary environment in the classroom that will stimulate learning and motivation among the class.

The best way to reach the level of understanding required is to sign up for a TESOL certification course. Take a look at our range of online and in-class TESOL course options that will provide everything you need to set your future ESL students on the right path.

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