Acronyms in English Education

English as a Second Language favorite things o...English as a Second Language favorite things on display in June (Photo credit: Newton Free Library)By Richard D. Miller

As an English teacher from Canada living overseas I am often asked if I teach ESL.

I actually teach EFL and there is a simple explanation in that ESL (which is English as a Second Language) is when English is learned and taught in a country that is an English speaking country.

On the other hand EFL, (English as a Foreign Language) is taught and learned in non-English speaking countries. So, learning English in Japan would be EFL and learning English in Canada would be ESL.

There have been comments that many students of English in ESL programs already are in possession of a second language, however the "a" in ESL negates that argument. An acronym that has grown in common use, particularly in the UK, New Zealand and Australia, is ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

When educators are studying to become an English language teacher, there are several options to the student of language pedagogy. An organization named TESOL which means Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, was formed in the mid 1960's in America and is now designated an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) by the United Nations is dedicated to English language pedagogy.

However, TESOL also means Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. There are even degrees in TESOL offered at the undergraduate and graduate levels. There is also TEFL, Teaching English as a Foreign Language and TESL Teaching English as a Second Language that may even be offered at the certificate or diploma levels.

There is also the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and CTEFLA (the Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults) replaced the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) Certificate.

In addition to the American based TESOL that is an NGO, many groups also implement the acronym in their organizations where language teachers support them, such as KoTESOL (Korea TESOL) and CamTESOL (Cambodia TESOL).

As for testing the abilities of the students of English, there are several. The biggest that is put on by ETS (Educational Testing Service) is TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) that is the largest English norm-referenced test, and within the TOEFL it has its own acronym within which is the TWE (Test of Written English). And, the TOEFL has several versions, the CBT (Computer Based TOEFL), the iBT (internet Based TOEFL) and the PBT (the Paper Based TOEFL).

The other major language test that ETS puts on is the TOEIC (Test Of English for International Communication). There are several other testing options available and they include the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), the YELT (York English Language Test) and MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery).

Richard Miller teaches at Kansai University in Osaka.

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