English as a second or foreign language


Terminology and types

The many acronyms and abbreviations used in the field of English teaching and learning may be confusing. English is a language which has great reach and influence; it is taught all over the world under many different circumstances. In English-speaking countries, English language teaching has essentially evolved in two broad directions: instruction for people who intend to live in an English-speaking country and for those who do not. These divisions have grown firmer as the instructors of these two “industries” have used different terminology, followed distinct training qualifications, formed separate professional associations, and so on. Crucially, these two arms have very different funding structures, public in the former and private in the latter, and to some extent this influences the way schools are established and classes are held. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the United States and the United Kingdom, both major engines of the language, describe these categories in different terms: as many eloquent users of the language have observed, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” (Attributed to Winston ChurchillGeorge Bernard Shaw, and Oscar Wilde.The following technical definitions may therefore have their currency contested.

English outside English-speaking countries

EFL, English as a foreign language, indicates the teaching of English in a non–English-speaking region. Study can occur either in the student’s home country, as part of the normal school curriculum or otherwise, or, for the more privileged minority, in an anglophone country that they visit as a sort of educational tourist, particularly immediately before or after graduating from university. TEFL is the teaching of English as a foreign language; note that this sort of instruction can take place in any country, English-speaking or not. Typically, EFL is learned either to pass exams as a necessary part of one’s education, or for career progression while one works for an organisation or business with an international focus. EFL may be part of the state school curriculum in countries where English has no special status (what linguist Braj Kachru calls the “expanding circle countries”); it may also be supplemented by lessons paid for privately. Teachers of EFL generally assume that students are literate in their mother tongue. The Chinese EFL Journal and Iranian EFL Journal are examples of international journals dedicated to specifics of English language learning within countries where English is used as a foreign language.

English within English-speaking countries

The other broad grouping is the use of English within the Anglosphere. In what theorist Braj Kachru calls “the inner circle”, i.e. countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, this use of English is generally by refugeesimmigrants and their children. It also includes the use of English in “outer circle” countries, often former British colonies and the Philippines (a former US colony), where English is an official language even if it is not spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the population.

In the US, Canada and Australia, this use of English is called ESL (English as a second language). This term has been criticized on the grounds that many learners already speak more than one language. A counter-argument says that the word “a” in the phrase “a second language” means there is no presumption that English is the second acquired language. TESL is the teaching of English as a second language. There are also other terms that it may be referred to in the US including; ELL (English Language Learner) and CLD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse).

In the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, the term ESL has been replaced by ESOL (English for speakers of other languages). In these countries TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is normally used to refer to teaching English only to this group. In the UK, people usually use the term EAL (English as an additional language), rather than ESOL, when talking about primary and secondary schools, in order to clarify English is not the students’ first language, but their second or third.

Other acronyms were created to describe the person rather than the language to be learned. The term LEP (Limited English proficient) was first used in 1975 by the Lau Remedies following a decision of the US Supreme Court. ELL (English Language Learner), used by United States governments and school systems, was created by James Crawford of the Institute for Language and Education Policy in an effort to label learners positively, rather than ascribing a deficiency to them. Recently, some educators have shortened this to EL – English Learner.

Typically, a student learns this sort of English to function in the new host country, e.g. within the school system (if a child), to find and hold down a job (if an adult), to perform the necessities of daily life. The teaching of it does not presuppose literacy in the mother tongue. It is usually paid for by the host government to help newcomers settle into their adopted country, sometimes as part of an explicit citizenship program. It is technically possible for ESL to be taught not in the host country, but in, for example, a refugee camp, as part of a pre-departure program sponsored by the government soon to receive new potential citizens. In practice, however, this is extremely rare.

Particularly in Canada and Australia, the term ESD (English as a second dialect) is used alongside ESL, usually in reference to programs for aboriginal Canadians or Australians.The term refers to the use of standard English by speakers of a creole or non-standard variety. It is often grouped with ESL as ESL/ESD.

Umbrella terms

All these ways of denoting the teaching of English can be bundled together into an umbrella term. Unfortunately, all the English teachers in the world cannot agree on just one. The term TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is used in American English to include both TEFL and TESL. This is also the case in Canada. British English uses ELT (English language teaching), because TESOL has a different, more specific meaning

One thought on “English as a second or foreign language

  1. http://www.bramleyhomestay.com/
    I teach english in my own private home in Dublin, Ireland. Get daily english lessons from a qualified TEFL teacher and enjoy the comforts of a family homestay with full board and accommodation. Your experience will include additional trips around Dublin and the beautiful Ireland. Check out my website for further details…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s