If you are a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree, you might be interested in teaching English abroad. If so, you may have come across the acronyms ‘ESL/EFL’ and wondered what the difference between ESL and EFL is. Fortunately, it’s a simple explanation with a few particular details.
ESL stands for ‘English as a Second Language’, and is usually taught to students in an English-speaking country. EFL stands for ‘English as a Foreign Language’ and is taught to students in a non-English speaking country. For example, the term used in the United States is ESL, whereas EFL is used in countries like China where English is not the native language.
Curious about the difference between ESL and EFL? Continue reading for all the information you need to teach EFL and teach ESL.
What is ESL? What is EFL?
When studying ESL, a student learns English in an English environment. That means that English is spoken outside of the classroom, and immersion is prioritized. In this program, the student learns English to use it in their daily life and outside of the classroom. This program differs from EFL, where immersion is not a part of the program.
On the other hand, a student studying ELF learns English in the classroom but continues to speak their native language at home and in their social lives. For example, a student from Japan might study in English in school, but return home to speak Japanese.
This would differ from an ESL student’s situation in Peru, who would learn English in class and return home to speak English as well. Students in an ESL program will need to learn enough English to keep up with school work and communicate with their peers.
TEFL vs TESOL vs CELTA
To add to the confusion, there are a ton of different acronyms for English teaching certificates. Not to worry, we have a quick summary right here for you. Have a look:
Teaching ESL vs EFL
As you might have guessed, the teaching experiences for each of these programs differ greatly. The difference between programs affects the content of the course and how teachers deliver that content. Keep reading for the information you’ll need to decide between teaching ESL and EFL.
In many ESL classes, students learn general English that they use to communicate with their friends and work in school. Not only will you teach them conversational English, but you will also help them with terminology to succeed in their other courses, like science and history. English is the language of instruction for the rest of an ESL student’s subjects, so it is essential knowledge to ESL students. One of the roles you will have as an ESL teacher will be to expose the students to as much English-speaking culture as possible.
As an EFL teacher, your role and responsibilities change. Classes are more traditional, in that they focus on grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. The difficulty of this content increases with age and time, so older students will be working with more advanced ideas. As the student will not have many opportunities to speak and use English outside of the class, class time is more focused on increasing the exposure and use of English.
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ESL Students Need…
The needs of ESL students differ from EFL students. Check out this list to get an idea of what ESL vs EFL students need.
- Hands-on English instruction
- Exposure to English culture and society
- Integration and immersion
These priorities demonstrate the ESL students require lessons beyond grammar and comprehension. ESL students need opportunities to use and learn English more than anything, and your presence as an English teacher in a foreign country does just that.
EFL Students Need…
Just like their counterparts, EFL students have particular needs. This list will give you an idea of what EFL students need from their EFL teachers.
- Practice and language exercises
- Exposure to English vocabulary
- Reasons and motivation to learn English
As you can see from this list, EFL students have specific needs. As a teacher for EFL students, you should focus on building a strong foundation while helping students maintain interest and involvement with the language. EFL students do not have as many opportunities to practice speaking English, so coming up with fun and engaging activities is one of your most important responsibilities as an EFL teacher.
Join the Conversation about Teaching English Internationally
Are you ready to take the plunge and become an ESL teacher or EFL teacher? Are you ready to look at lesson planning, or do you need some more information on the various English-teaching certification programs?
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Last update on 2022-10-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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