What does TEFL stand for?

TEFL, TESOL, IELTS - these are just a handful of the many acronyms in TEFL - so, to help you out, here's a few explained!

Have you ever wondered what TEFL stands for? (The answer is Teaching English as a Foreign Language, by the way). What the difference is between TEFL, TESL and TESOL? (All terms used to refer to teaching English to students who do not speak it as their first language, just in case you were wondering.) Indeed can English language teachers themselves tell you what TOEIC, IELTS and TOEFL stand for? (Those are all internationally recognised English language tests. Yes we know it is complicated – that is our point!) Look at any website about English language teaching and it can feel like you have entered a foreign land with a new language all of its own. Before you run away screaming in the opposite direction, here is our quick decoder to the most common acronyms in English language teaching to help you out.

Thai children

What does TEFL stand for?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Strictly speaking it applies only to teaching English in a country where English is not the official language. However, in practice, it is often used as a broad term for English language teaching to anyone who does not speak English as their first language.

Note: TEFL is a generic term used across the industry and does not refer to any one organisation, course or qualification.

What does TESL stand for?

TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. It is the term used for teaching English language to students whose first language is not English in a country where English is the official language.

What does TESOL stand for?

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Technically the term TESOL encompasses both TEFL and TESL. However, in countries such as the USA, TESOL is often used in place of TESL to refer more specifically to English language teaching in a country where English is the official language.

What does EFL stand for?

EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language. It is the term used when referring to English language teaching in a country where English is not the official language.

Uses of EFL include EFL teaching, EFL students and EFL teachers.

Teacher with students

What does ESL stand for?

ESL stands for English as a Second Language. This term is used when English language is being taught to students whose first language is not English in a country where English is the official language.

Note: This is in contrast to EFL where students are learning English in a country where English is not the official language.

What does ELT stand for?

ELT stands for English Language Teaching. This is the generic term for teaching English to students whose first language is not English.

What is the difference between TEFL, TESL and TESOL?

Technically, TEFL refers to English language teaching in a country where English is not the official language, TESL refers to English language teaching in a country where English is the official language and TESOL encompasses both.

In practice however, TESOL, TEFL and (to a lesser extent) TESL are often used fairly interchangeably.

What does CELTA stand for?

CELTA stands for the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. It is probably the most widely recognised “brand” of TEFL course across the world.

 

What does CertTESOL stand for?

CertTESOL stands for the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Similar to CELTA it is an internationally recognised “brand” of TEFL certificate.

What does TOEFL stand for?

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL is a written test to measure English language proficiency. It can be taken either online or at a registered test centre.

Universities or colleges in English speaking countries such as the USA and Canada often require EFL students to pass TOEFL as part of their general entry requirements.

 

What does TOEIC stand for?

TOEIC stands for Test of English for International Communication. TOEIC is used by companies who want to test the English proficiency of potential employees.

There are two types of TOEIC test – one for reading and listening and the second for speaking and writing. Companies can also purchase a licence to create their own internal version.

Smiling class of Chinese TEFL students with their TEFL teacher

What does IELTS stand for?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. IELTS tests English language skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

IELTS comes in two forms: an academic test and a general training test. Students who want to study in an English speaking country will take the academic form of IELTS. Those who wish to live or work in an English speaking country will take the general training form of IELTS.

What is the difference between TOEFL, TOEIC and IELTS?

TOEFL is aimed at students who want to study in an English speaking country. It is mainly used in the USA and Canada. TOEIC is aimed at those who want to work in an English speaking country. IELTS is particularly used in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and covers both work and study. Students who are looking for employment take the IELTS general training test and those who want to study in a university or college will take the academic form of the test.

Why do TOEIC, IELTS and TOEFL matter to TEFL teachers?

TEFL teachers often have to prepare students for TOEIC, IELTS and TOEFL exams – so it is important to know what they are.

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