These are the most common acronyms now used to describe English language teaching.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) refers to teaching people whose first language is not English, but who need to learn it for work or leisure. These students are usually adults who are paying for the courses themselves, or their company is. They are often highly motivated and literate, and already have an aptitude for languages.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is often used to mean the same thing as TEFL, but it is also used to describe English language teaching to people living in an English-speaking country who are not native English speakers – such as refugees and first generation immigrants. This teaching is provided by the state, and supported in the UK by the Learning and Skills Council. Students do not pay for their own lessons. In the UK, TESOL courses provide students with a level of English that will allow them to integrate into the country’s educational, work and cultural environment. There may be a need to teach basic literacy and other life skills as well.

TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) is different again. English is spoken as a common second language in the context of official communication and administration in many countries where several other language groups co-exist – such as Nigeria, Kenya, India and Singapore. Another term that may be used in this context is TEAL (Teaching English as an Additional Language).


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