Alphabet Soup

Kate: “I’m taking the TESOL program at the U of T.”
Friend #1: “Oh, don’t you mean TEFL?”
Friend #2: “I thought it was called TEAL…”

On the first day of classes, in order to break the ice, we did a “Find Someone Who…” activity. On the sheet were statements such as, “find someone who speaks more than one language,” and “find someone who has taught abroad.” “Okay, easy enough,” I thought to myself. But as I scanned downed the page, I was met with a bowl of alphabet soup. “Find someone who knows what CLB stands for,” “find some who knows what IELTS stands for,” “find someone who has taught in a LINC classroom.” I was hard-pressed to find others who could identify these mysterious letters, because I sure couldn’t. Well, nearly halfway through the program, I think I’ve got them just about down. Without further ado, here’s your handy guide to TESOL acronyms:


TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language, or in a country where English is an official language.
TEAL: Teaching English as an Additional Language, or in a country where English is an official language. This term is used primarily used in the UK. It is the same thing as TESL.
TEFL:  Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or in a country where English is not an official language, and/or not widely used.
TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. A certificate that allows you to teach both in your English-speaking home country or abroad.

General Acronyms:

ESL: English as a Second Language
EAL: English as an Additional Language
EFL: English as a Foreign Language
EIL: English as an International Language
EAP: English for Academic Purposes
ESP: English for Specific Purposes
ELL: English Language Learners
ALL: Adult Literacy Learners

Testing Systems:

TOFEL: Test of English as a Foreign Language
IELTS: International English Language Testing System

Fluency Classifications:

CLB: Canadian Learning Benchmarks
CEFR: Common European Framework of References for Languages

Community-Based Classes:

LINC: Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada

Teaching and Assessment Methods:

CLT: Communicative Language Teaching
PBLA: Portfolio-Based Language Assessment

Research Terms:

SLA: Second Language Acquisition
L1: first language; native language
L2: second language; target language (TL)

At the end of the TESOL program, some students may go on to teach ELLs of various CLB levels in a LINC class using CLT and PBLA. Others may choose to teach EFL in Asia to prepare their ELLs for the TOFEL or IELTS exams. I think I’d like to pursue a Linguistics degree and learn more about how a learner’s L1 influences SLA. Which bowl of alphabet soup appeals to you?


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