What is EFL?

Anyone who is involved in English language teaching (ELT) is well aware of the industry’s love of acronyms. If you have researched training courses you will undoubtedly have come across several such as TEFL, tesol, ESOL, EFL, ESL, ELT, and many more. Here we will look at EFL and the first thing to clear up is that EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language. It is often used interchangeably with some of the other acronyms mentioned when referring to the teaching or studying of the English language by non-native English speakers.

What is the difference between EFL and ESL?

Although these two acronyms are regularly used interchangeably within the teaching world, there are technical differences between the two. English as a Foreign Language (EFL) refers to situations where a student is learning English in a country (normally their home country) where English is not a native language. Students in this scenario typically speak their native tongue for the vast majority of the time and only speak English while attending English lessons for a few hours a week. A simple example of this would be a Spanish speaking Mexican taking English language classes in Mexico City.

If the same Mexican student moved to the United States and continued taking English lessons, this scenario would then be considered English as a Second Language (ESL). English as a second language refers to situations where a student is learning English in a country where English is the main language spoken. This is normal in most English speaking countries such as the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, etc, where immigration from non-English speaking countries is commonplace.

What is EFL in the classroom?

When it comes to actual teaching, EFL typically becomes TEFL which stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Once again, TEFL is used to refer to situations where English is being taught in a country where it is not an official language. An example of teaching English as a foreign language would be an American teacher teaching local people English in Brazil.

TEFL is often used interchangeably with tesol to refer to any situation where English is being taught to non-native speakers. TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Theoretically this term is used to cover all EFL and ESL groupings, regardless of where the teaching is taking place.

Who are EFL students?

As mentioned, EFL students will be located in a country where English is not a main language and it is not used on a daily basis in government, the media, or most people's day-to-day lives. The big challenge for learners and teachers in this type of scenario is that students are not regularly exposed to English outside of the EFL classroom. Because of this, it is vital that EFL teachers are fully prepared with the necessary understanding and knowledge to provide an environment within the classroom that can, for a short while at least, encourage learning in a productive way.

The best way to achieve this understanding and to provide the very best instruction for your students is to complete a TEFL certification course. At ITTT we have a range of online and in-class TEFL course options that will give you all the skills and knowledge you need to help EFL students towards their personal study goals.