I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at a business meeting in my past where there were acronyms being thrown around like candy at child’s Halloween party. Many different walks of life and career industries use them; however, we usually know what they mean with relative certainty.
The English-as-a-Second language industry is no different, but do we really know what they all mean and when to use them?
“We know the acronyms well — EFL, ESL, ELT, TESOL, CELTA, DELTA, TEFL — we’ve seen them and used them, sometimes, interchangeably.”
Let’s focus on the big two — EFL and ESL.
We have seen and used both synonymously. EFL means English as a Foreign Language. ESL means English as a Second Language.
What’s the difference?
It seems to boil down to UK/US wording whereas EFL is known in the UK and ESL is known in the US.
However, it goes beyond just which continent you are on. There is some controversy, but the majority seem to agree that ESL is learning English in a country where English is predominantly spoken or where English is the official language.
EFL, on the other hand, is learning English in a non-English-speaking country. For example, students in China who are learning English are considered EFL students because English is not the official language of the country. But if those same students were in the U.S. learning English, they would be considered ESL students.
There you go….