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English classes in Moscow in 1964

English as a second or foreign language refers to the use of English by individuals whose native language is different, commonly among students learning to speak and write English. Variably known as English as a foreign language (EFL), English as a second language (ESL), English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), English as an additional language (EAL), or English as a new language (ENL), these terms denote the study of English in environments where it is not the dominant language. Programs such as ESL are designed as academic courses to instruct non-native speakers in English proficiency, encompassing both learning in English-speaking nations and abroad.

Teaching methodologies include teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) in non-English-speaking countries, teaching English as a second language (TESL) in English-speaking nations, and teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) worldwide. These terms, while distinct in scope, are often used interchangeably, reflecting the global spread and diversity of English language education. Critically, recent developments in terminology, such as English-language learner (ELL) and English Learners (EL), emphasize the cultural and linguistic diversity of students, promoting inclusive educational practices across different contexts.

Methods for teaching English encompass a broad spectrum, from traditional classroom settings to innovative self-directed study programs, integrating approaches that enhance language acquisition and cultural understanding. The efficacy of these methods hinges on adapting teaching strategies to students' proficiency levels and contextual needs, ensuring comprehensive language learning in today's interconnected world.

Definition and purposes

The aspect in which EFL is taught is referred to as teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), teaching English as a second language (TESL) or teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Technically, TEFL refers to English language teaching in a country where English is not the official language, TESL refers to teaching English to non-native English speakers in a native English-speaking country and TESOL covers both. In practice, however, each of these terms tends to be used more generically across the full field. TEFL is more widely used in the United Kingdom and TESL or TESOL in the United States.[1]


The term "ESL" has been seen by some[who?] to indicate that English would be of subordinate importance; for example, where English is used as a lingua franca in a multilingual country. The term can be a misnomer for some students who have learned several languages before learning English. The terms "English language learners" (ELL), and, more recently, "English learners" (EL), have been used instead, and the students' native languages and cultures are considered important.[2]

Educational approach

Methods of learning English are highly variable, depending on the student's level of English proficiency and the manner and setting in which they are taught, which can range from required classes in school to self-directed study at home, or a blended combination of both. Teaching technique plays an important role in the performance of English language acquisition as a foreign language.[3][4][5] In some programs, educational materials (including spoken lectures and written assignments) are provided in a mixture of English, and the student's native language. In other programs, educational materials are always in English, but the vocabulary, grammar, and context clues may be modified to be more easily understood by students with varying levels of comprehension. Adapting comprehension, insight-oriented repetitions, and recasts are some of the methods used in training. However, without proper cultural immersion (social learning grounds) the associated language habits and reference points (internal mechanisms) of the host country are not completely transferred through these programs.[2][6][7][8] The major engines that influence the language are the United States and the United Kingdom and they both have assimilated the language differently so they differ in expressions and usage. This is found to a great extent primarily in pronunciation and vocabulary. Variants of the English language also exist in both of these countries (e.g. African American Vernacular English).


The English language has a great reach and influence, and English is taught all over the world. In countries where English is not usually a native language, there are two distinct models for teaching English: educational programs for students who want to move to English-speaking countries, and other programs for students who do not intend to move but who want to understand English content for the purposes of education, entertainment, employment or conducting international business. The differences between these two models of English language education have grown larger over time, and teachers focusing on each model have used different terminology, received different training, and formed separate professional associations. English is also taught as a second language for recent immigrants to English-speaking countries, which faces separate challenges because the students in one class may speak many different native languages.

Terminology and types

The many acronyms and abbreviations used in the field of English teaching and learning may be confusing and the following technical definitions may have their currency contested upon various grounds. The precise usage, including the different use of the terms ESL and ESOL in different countries, is described below. These terms are most commonly used in relation to teaching and learning English as a second language, but they may also be used in relation to demographic information.[citation needed]

English language teaching (ELT) is a widely used teacher-centered term, as in the English language teaching divisions of large publishing houses, ELT training, etc. Teaching English as a second language (TESL), teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) are also used.[citation needed]

Other terms used in this field include English as an international language (EIL), English as a lingua franca (ELF), English for special purposes and English for specific purposes (ESP), and English for academic purposes (EAP). Those who are learning English are often referred to as English language learners (ELL). The learners of the English language are of two main groups. The first group includes the learners learning English as their second language i.e. the second language of their country and the second group includes those who learn English as a totally foreign language i.e. a language that is not spoken in any part of their county.

English outside English-speaking countries

EFL, English as a foreign language, indicates the teaching of English in a non–English-speaking region. The study can occur either in the student's home country, as part of the normal school curriculum or otherwise, or, for the more privileged minority, in an anglophone country that they visit as a sort of educational tourist, particularly immediately before or after graduating from university. TEFL is the teaching of English as a foreign language;[9] note that this sort of instruction can take place in any country, English-speaking or not. Typically, EFL is learned either to pass exams as a necessary part of one's education or for career progression while one works for an organization or business with an international focus. EFL may be part of the state school curriculum in countries where English has no special status (what linguistic theorist Braj Kachru calls the "expanding circle countries"); it may also be supplemented by lessons paid for privately. Teachers of EFL generally assume that students are literate in their mother tongue. The Chinese EFL Journal[10] and Iranian EFL Journal[11] are examples of international journals dedicated to specifics of English language learning within countries where English is used as a foreign language.

English within English-speaking countries

The other broad grouping is the use of English within the English-speaking world. In what Braj Kachru calls "the inner circle", i.e., countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, this use of English is generally by refugees, immigrants, and their children. It also includes the use of English in "outer circle" countries, often former British colonies and the Philippines, where English is an official language even if it is not spoken as a mother tongue by a majority of the population.

In the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand this use of English is called ESL (English as a second language). This term has been criticized on the grounds that many learners already speak more than one language. A counter-argument says that the word "a" in the phrase "a second language" means there is no presumption that English is the second acquired language (see also Second language). TESL is the teaching of English as a second language. There are also other terms that it may be referred to in the US including ELL (English Language Learner) and CLD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse).

In the UK and Ireland, the term ESL has been replaced by ESOL (English for speakers of other languages). In these countries TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is normally used to refer to teaching English only to this group. In the UK and Ireland, the term EAL (English as an additional language) is used, rather than ESOL, when talking about primary and secondary schools, in order to clarify that English is not the students' first language, but their second or third. The term ESOL is used to describe English language learners who are above statutory school age.

Other acronyms were created to describe the person rather than the language to be learned. The term Limited English proficiency (LEP) was first used in 1975 by the Lau Remedies following a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. ELL (English Language Learner),[12] used by United States governments and school systems, was created by James Crawford of the Institute for Language and Education Policy in an effort to label learners positively, rather than ascribing a deficiency to them. Recently, some educators have shortened this to EL – English Learner.

Typically, a student learns this sort of English to function in the new host country, e.g., within the school system (if a child), to find and hold down a job (if an adult), or to perform the necessities of daily life (cooking, taking a cab/public transportation, or eating in a restaurant, etc.). The teaching of it does not presuppose literacy in the mother tongue. It is usually paid for by the host government to help newcomers settle into their adopted country, sometimes as part of an explicit citizenship program. It is technically possible for ESL to be taught not in the host country, but in, for example, a refugee camp, as part of a pre-departure program sponsored by the government soon to receive new potential citizens. In practice, however, this is extremely rare. Particularly in Canada and Australia, the term ESD (English as a second dialect) is used alongside ESL, usually in reference to programs for Aboriginal peoples in Canada or Australians. The term refers to the use of standard English by speakers of a creole or non-standard variety. It is often grouped with ESL as ESL/ESD. the

Umbrella terms

All these ways of denoting the teaching of English can be bundled together into an umbrella term. Unfortunately, not all of the English teachers in the world would agree on just only a simple single term(s). The term TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is used in American English to include both TEFL and TESL. This is also the case in Canada as well as in Australia and New Zealand. British English uses ELT (English language teaching), because TESOL has a different, more specific meaning; see above.

Difficulties for learners

Young Jayaji Rao Sindhia, Maharaja of Gwalior, studying English, 1846

Language teaching practice often assumes that most of the difficulties that learners face in the study of English are the consequence of the degree to which their native language differs from English (a contrastive analysis approach). A native speaker of Chinese, for example, may face many more difficulties than a native speaker of German, because German is more closely related to English than Chinese. This may be true for anyone of any mother tongue (also called the first language, normally abbreviated L1) setting out to learn any other language (called a target language, second language or L2). See also second-language acquisition (SLA) for mixed evidence from linguistic research.

Language learners often produce errors of syntax, vocabulary, and pronunciation thought to result from the influence of their L1, such as mapping its grammatical patterns inappropriately onto the L2, pronouncing certain sounds incorrectly or with difficulty, and confusing items of vocabulary known as false friends. This is known as L1 transfer or "language interference". However, these transfer effects are typically stronger for beginners' language production, and SLA research has highlighted many errors which cannot be attributed to the L1, as they are attested in learners of many language backgrounds (for example, failure to apply 3rd person present singular -s to verbs, as in 'he make' not 'he makes').

Some students may have problems due to certain words being usable, unchanged, as different parts of speech. For example, the word "suffering" in "I am suffering terribly" is a verb, but in "My suffering is terrible" is a nounand confounding matters is the fact that both of these sentences express the same idea, using the same words. Other students might have problems due to the prescribing and proscribing nature of rules in the language formulated by amateur grammarians rather than ascribing to the functional and descriptive nature of languages evidenced from distribution. For example, a cleric, Robert Lowth, introduced the rule to never end a sentence with a preposition, inspired by Latin grammar, through his book A Short Introduction to English Grammar.[13] The inconsistencies brought from Latin language standardization of English language led to classifying and sub-classifying an otherwise simple language structure. Like many alphabetic writing systems, English also has incorporated the principle that graphemic units should correspond to the phonemic units; however, the fidelity to the principle is compromised, compared to an exemplar language like the Finnish language. This is evident in the Oxford English Dictionary; for many years it experimented with various spellings of 'SIGN' to attain a fidelity with the said principle, among which were SINE, SEGN, and SYNE, and through the diachronic mutations eventually settled on SIGN.[14] Cultural differences in communication styles and preferences are also significant. For example, a study among Chinese ESL students revealed that preference for not using the tense marking on verb present in the morphology of their mother tongue made it difficult for them to express time-related sentences in English.[15] Another study looked at Chinese ESL students and British teachers and found that the Chinese learners did not see classroom 'discussion and interaction' type of communication for learning as important but placed a heavy emphasis on teacher-directed lectures.[16]


Main articles: Non-native pronunciations of English and Accent reduction

English contains a number of sounds and sound distinctions not present in some other languages. These sounds can include vowels and consonants, as well as diphthongs and other morphemes. Speakers of languages without these sounds may have problems both with hearing and pronouncing them. For example:

Languages may also differ in syllable structure; English allows for a cluster of up to three consonants before the vowel and five after it (e.g. strengths, straw, desks, glimpsed, sixths). Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese, for example, broadly alternate consonant and vowel sounds so learners from Japan and Brazil often force vowels between the consonants (e.g. desks becomes [desukusu] or [dɛskis], and milk shake becomes [miɽukuɕeːku] or [miwki ɕejki], respectively). Similarly, in most Iberian dialects, while a word can begin with [s], and within a word [s] can be followed by a consonant, a word can never both begin with [s] and be immediately followed by a consonant, so learners whose mother tongue is in this language family often have a vowel in front of the word (e.g. school becomes [eskul], [iskuɫ ~ iskuw], [ɯskuɫ] or [əskuɫ] for native speakers of Spanish, Brazilian and European Portuguese, and Catalan, respectively).


For example, the opposite of "You must be here at 8" (obligation) is usually "You don't have to be here at 8" (lack of obligation, choice). "Must" in "You must not drink the water" (prohibition) has a different meaning from "must" in "You must have eaten the chocolate" (deduction). This complexity takes considerable work for most English language learners to master.
All these modal verbs or "modals" take the first form of the verb after them. These modals (most of them) do not have past or future inflection, i.e. they do not have past or future tense (exceptions being have to and need to).


First-language literacy

Learners who have had less than eight years of formal education in their first language are sometimes called adult ESL literacy learners. Usually, these learners have had their first-language education interrupted.[20] Many of these learners require a different level of support, teaching approaches and strategies, and a different curriculum from mainstream adult ESL learners. For example, these learners may lack study skills and transferable language skills,[20][21] and these learners may avoid reading or writing.[22] Often these learners do not start classroom tasks immediately, do not ask for help, and often assume the novice role when working with peers.[23] Generally, these learners may lack self-confidence.[24] For some, prior schooling is equated with status, cultured, civilized, high class, and they may experience shame among peers in their new ESL classes.[25][26]

Second-language literacy

Learners who have not had extensive exposure to reading and writing in a second language, despite having acceptable spoken proficiency, may have difficulties with the reading and writing in their L2. Joann Crandall (1993)[27] has pointed out that most teacher training programs for TESOL instructors do not include sufficient, in most cases "no", training for the instruction in literacy. This is a gap that many scholars feel needs to be addressed.[citation needed]

Social and academic language acquisition

Basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) are language skills needed in social situations. These language skills usually develop within six months to two years.[citation needed]

Cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) refers to the language associated with formal content material and academic learning. These skills usually take from five to seven years to develop.[citation needed]

Importance of reading in ESL instruction

According to some English professionals, reading for pleasure is an important component in the teaching of both native and foreign languages:[28]

"Studies that sought to improve writing by providing reading experiences in place of grammar study or additional writing practice found that these experiences were as beneficial as, or more beneficial than, grammar study or extra writing practice."[29]

Differences between spoken and written English

For further discussion of English spelling patterns and rules, see Phonics.

As with most languages, written language tends to use a more formal register than spoken language.

There is also debate about "meaning-focused" learning and "correction-focused" learning. Supporters for the former think that using speech as the way to explain meaning is more important. However, supporters of the latter do not agree with that and instead think that grammar and correct habit is more important.[32]


Varieties of English

Teaching English, therefore, involves not only helping the student to use the form of English most suitable for their purposes, but also exposure to regional forms and cultural styles so that the student will be able to discern meaning even when the words, grammar, or pronunciation are different from the form of English they are being taught to speak. Some professionals in the field have recommended incorporating information about non-standard forms of English in ESL programs. For example, in advocating for classroom-based instruction in African-American English (also known as Ebonics), linguist Richard McDorman has argued, "Simply put, the ESL syllabus must break free of the longstanding intellectual imperiousness of the standard to embrace instruction that encompasses the many "Englishes" that learners will encounter and thereby achieve the culturally responsive pedagogy so often advocated by leaders in the field."[36]

Social challenges and benefits

Class placement

ESL students often suffer from the effects of tracking and ability grouping. Students are often placed into low ability groups based on scores on standardized tests in English and math.[37] There is also low mobility among these students from low to high performing groups, which can prevent them from achieving the same academic progress as native speakers.[37] Similar tests are also used to place ESL students in college-level courses. Students have voiced frustration that only non-native students have to prove their language skills, when being a native speaker in no way guarantees college-level academic literacy.[38] Studies have shown that these tests can cause different passing rates among linguistic groups regardless of high school preparation.[39]

Dropout rates

Dropout rates for ESL students in multiple countries are much higher than dropout rates for native speakers. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the United States reported that the percentage of dropouts in the non-native born Hispanic youth population between the ages of 16 and 24 years old is 43.4%.[40] A study in Canada found that the high school dropout rate for all ESL students was 74%.[41] High dropout rates are thought to be due to difficulties ESL students have in keeping up in mainstream classes, the increasing number of ESL students who enter middle or high school with interrupted prior formal education, and accountability systems.[40]

The accountability system in the US is due to the No Child Left Behind Act. Schools that risk losing funding, closing, or having their principals fired if test scores are not high enough begin to view students that do not perform well on standardized tests as liabilities.[42] Because dropouts actually increase a school's performance, critics claim that administrators let poor performing students slip through the cracks. A study of Texas schools operating under No Child Left Behind found that 80% of ESL students did not graduate from high school in five years.[42]

Access to higher education

ESL students face several barriers to higher education. Most colleges and universities require four years of English in high school. In addition, most colleges and universities only accept one year of ESL English.[38] It is difficult for ESL students that arrive in the United States relatively late to finish this requirement because they must spend a longer time in ESL English classes in high school, or they might not arrive early enough to complete four years of English in high school. This results in many ESL students not having the correct credits to apply for college, or enrolling in summer school to finish the required courses.[38]

ESL students can also face additional financial barriers to higher education because of their language skills. Those that don't place high enough on college placement exams often have to enroll in ESL courses at their universities. These courses can cost up to $1,000 extra, and can be offered without credit towards graduation.[38] This adds additional financial stress on ESL students that often come from families of lower socioeconomic status. The latest statistics show that the median household income for school-age ESL students is $36,691 while that of non-ESL students is $60,280.[failed verification][43] College tuition has risen sharply in the last decade, while family income has fallen. In addition, while many ESL students receive a Pell Grant, the maximum grant for the year 2011–2012 covered only about a third of the cost of college.[44]

Interaction with native speakers

ESL students often have difficulty interacting with native speakers in school. Some ESL students avoid interactions with native speakers because of their frustration or embarrassment at their poor English. Immigrant students often also lack knowledge of popular culture, which limits their conversations with native speakers to academic topics.[45] In classroom group activities with native speakers, ESL students often do not participate, again because of embarrassment about their English, but also because of cultural differences: their native cultures may value silence and individual work at school in preference to social interaction and talking in class.[37]

These interactions have been found to extend to teacher-student interactions as well. In most mainstream classrooms, a teacher-led discussion is the most common form of lesson. In this setting, some ESL students will fail to participate, and often have difficulty understanding teachers because they talk too fast, do not use visual aids, or use native colloquialisms. ESL students also have trouble getting involved with extracurricular activities with native speakers for similar reasons. Students fail to join extra-curricular activities because of the language barrier, the cultural emphasis of academics over other activities, or failure to understand traditional pastimes in their new country.[45]

Social benefits

Supporters of ESL programs claim they play an important role in the formation of peer networks and adjustment to school and society in their new homes. Having class among other students learning English as a second language relieves the pressure of making mistakes when speaking in class or to peers. ESL programs also allow students to be among others who appreciate their native language and culture, the expression of which is often not supported or encouraged in mainstream settings. ESL programs also allow students to meet and form friendships with other non-native speakers from different cultures, promoting racial tolerance and multiculturalism.[45]

Controversy over ethical administration of ESL programs

ESL programs have been critiqued for focusing more on revenue-generation than on educating students.[46][47] This has led to controversy over how ESL programs can be managed in an ethical manner.

Professional and Technical Communication Advocacy

The field of technical and professional communication has the potential to disrupt barriers that hinder ESL learners from entering the field, although it can just as easily perpetuate these issues. One study by Matsuda & Matsuda sought to evaluate introductory-level textbooks on the subject of technical communication. Among their research, they found that these textbooks perpetuated the "myth of linguistic homogeneity—the tacit and widespread acceptance of the dominant image of composition students as native speakers of a privileged variety of English."[48] While the textbooks were successful in referencing global and international perspectives, the portrayal of the intended audience, the you of the text, ultimately alienated any individual not belonging to a predominantly white background and culture. In constructing this guise, prospective ESL learners are collectively lumped into an "other" group that isolates and undermines their capacity to enter the field.

Furthermore, this alienation is exacerbated by the emergence of English as the pinnacle language for business and many professional realms. In Kwon & Klassen's research, they also identified and criticized a "single native-speaker recipe for linguistic success,"[49] which contributed to anxieties about entering the professional field for ESL technical communicators. These concerns about an English-dominated professional field indicate an affective filter that provides a further barrier to social justice for these ESL individuals. These misconceptions and anxieties point towards an issue of exclusivity that technical and professional communicators must address. This social justice concern becomes an ethical concern as well, with all individuals deserving usable, accessible, and inclusive information.

There is a major concern about the lack of accessibility to translation services and the amount of time and attention their English proficiency is given throughout their educational experiences. If a student lacks an understanding of the English language and still needs to participate in their coursework, they will turn to translations in order to aid their efforts. The issue is that many of these translations rarely carry the same meaning as the original text. The students in this study said that a translated text is "pretty outdated, covers only the basics or is terribly translated," and that "The technical vocabulary linked to programming can be complicated to assimilate, especially in the middle of explanatory sentences if you don't know the equivalent word in your native language."[50] Students can't be proficient in their given subjects if the language barrier is complicating the message. Researchers found that syntax, semantics, style, etc., scramble up the original messages.[citation needed] This disorientation of the text fogs up the message and makes it difficult for the student to decipher what they are supposed to be learning. This is where additional time and attention are needed to bridge the gap between native English speakers and ESL students. ESL students face difficulties in areas concerning lexico-grammatical aspects of technical writing., overall textual organization and comprehension, differentiation between genres of technical communication and the social hierarchies that concern the subject matter.[51] This inhibits their ability to comprehend complex messages from English texts, and it would be more beneficial for them to tackle these subjects individually. The primary issue with this is the accessibility to more instruction. ESL students need an individual analysis of their needs and this needs to revolve around the student's ability to communicate and interpret information in English.[52] Due to the civil rights decision of Lauv v. Nichols[53] school districts are required to provide this additional instruction based on the needs of students, but this requirement still needs to be acted on.

Many ESL students have issues in higher-level courses that hinder their academic performances due to the complicated language used in these courses being at a more complex level than what many ESL students were taught.[54] In many cases of ESL students learning Computer Programming, they struggle with the language used in instructional manuals. Writing media centers have caused ESL students issues with universities unable to provide proofreading in their writing media center programs. This causes many ESL students to have difficulties writing papers for high-level courses that require a more complex lexicon than what many of them were taught.[55] Fortunately, university tutors have had successes with teaching ESL students how to write a more technically complex language that ESL students need to know for their courses, but it raises the question of if ESL learners need to know a more complex version of the English language to succeed in their professional careers.[56]

Peer tutoring for ESL students

Peer tutoring refers to an instructional method that pairs up low-achieving English readers, with ESL students that know minimal English and who are also approximately the same age and same grade level. The goal of this dynamic is to help both the tutor, in this case, the English speaker, and the tutee, the ESL student. Monolingual tutors are given the class material in order to provide tutoring to their assigned ESL tutee. Once the tutor has had the chance to help the student, classmates get to switch roles in order to give both peers an opportunity to learn from each other. In a study, which conducted a similar research, their results indicated that low-achieving readers that were chosen as tutors, made a lot of progress by using this procedure. In addition, ESL students were also able to improve their grades due to the fact that they increased their approach in reading acquisition skills.[57]


Since there is not enough funding to afford tutors, and teachers find it hard to educate all students who have different learning abilities, it is highly important to implement peer-tutoring programs in schools. Students placed in ESL program learn together along with other non-English speakers; however, by using peer tutoring in a classroom it will avoid the separation between regular English classes and ESL classes. These programs will promote community between students that will be helping each other grow academically.[58] To further support this statement, a study researched the effectiveness of peer tutoring and explicit teaching in classrooms. It was found that students with learning disabilities and low performing students who are exposed to the explicit teaching and peer tutoring treatment in the classroom, have better academic performance than those students who do not receive this type of assistance. It was proven that peer tutoring is the most effective and no cost form of teaching[58]


It has been proven that peer-mediated tutoring is an effective tool to help ESL students succeed academically. Peer tutoring has been utilized across many different academic courses and the outcomes for those students that have different learning abilities are outstanding. Classmates who were actively involved with other peers in tutoring had better academic standing than those students who were not part of the tutoring program.[59] Based on their results, researchers found that all English student learners were able to maintain a high percentage of English academic words on weekly tests taught during a tutoring session. It was also found that the literature on the efficacy of peer tutoring service combined with regular classroom teaching, is the best methodology practice that is effective, that benefits students, teachers, and parents involved.[59]

Research on peer English immersion tutoring

Similarly, a longitudinal study was conducted to examine the effects of the paired bilingual program and an English-only reading program with Spanish speaking English learners in order to increase students' English reading outcomes.[60] Students whose primary language was Spanish and were part of the ESL program were participants of this study. Three different approaches were the focus in which immersing students in English from the very beginning and teaching them reading only in that language; teaching students in Spanish first, followed by English; and teaching students to read in Spanish and English simultaneously. This occurs through a strategic approach such as structured English immersion or sheltered instruction.

Findings showed that the paired bilingual reading approach appeared to work as well as, or better than, the English-only reading approach in terms of reading growth and results. Researchers found differences in results, but they also varied based on several outcomes depending on the student's learning abilities and academic performance.[60]

ESL teachers' training

Teachers in an ESL class are specifically trained in particular techniques and tools to help students learn English. Research says that the quality of their teaching methods is what matters the most when it comes to educating English learners. It was also mentioned[who?] how it is highly important for teachers to have the drive to help these students succeed and "feel personal responsibility."[61] It is important to highlight the idea that the school system needs to focus on school-wide interventions in order to make an impact and be able to help all English learners. There is a high need for comprehensive professional development for teachers in the ESL program.[62]

Effects of peer tutoring on the achievement gap

Although peer tutoring has been proven to be an effective way of learning that engages and promotes academic achievement in students, does it have an effect on the achievement gap? It is an obvious fact that there is a large academic performance disparity between White, Black, and Latino students, and it continues to be an issue that has to be targeted.[63] In an article, it was mentioned that no one has been able to identify the true factors that cause this discrepancy. However it was mentioned that by developing effective peer tutoring programs in schools could be a factor that can potentially decrease the achievement gap in the United States.[63]

Exams for learners

See also: Category:English language tests

Learners of English are often eager to get accreditation and a number of exams are known internationally:[64]

Many countries also have their own exams. ESOL learners in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland usually take the national Skills for Life qualifications, which are offered by several exam boards. EFL learners in China may take the College English Test, the Test for English Majors (TEM), and/or the Public English Test System (PETS). People in Taiwan often take the General English Proficiency Test (GEPT). In Greece, English students may take the PALSO (PanHellenic Association of Language School Owners) exams.

The Common European Framework

Main article: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Between 1998 and 2000, the Council of Europe's language policy division developed its Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The aim of this framework was to have a common system for foreign language testing and certification, to cover all European languages and countries.

The Common European Framework (CEF) divides language learners into three levels:

Each of these levels is divided into two sections, resulting in a total of six levels for testing (A1, A2, B1, etc.).

This table compares ELT exams according to the CEF levels:

CEF Level ALTE Level RQF Level PTE General Trinity College London ESOL GESE Trinity College London ESOL ISE UBELT exam IELTS Cambridge English Language Assessment BULATS Cambridge English Language Assessment BEC Cambridge English Language Assessment General Cambridge English Language Assessment YLE Cambridge English Language Assessment Skills for Life[67] CaMLA[68]
C2 Level 5 Level 3 Level 5 Grade 12 ISE IV 4.0–5.0 8.5–9.0 90–100 n/a CPE n/a n/a ECPE
C1 Level 4 Level 2 Level 4 Grade 10, 11 ISE III 3.0–3.5 7.0–8.0 75–89 Higher CAE n/a Level 2 MET, MELAB
B2 Level 3 Level 1 Level 3 Grade 7, 8, 9 ISE II 2.0–2.5 5.5–6.5 60–74 Vantage FCE n/a Level 1 MET, MELAB, ECCE
B1 Level 2 Entry 3 Level 2 Grade 5, 6 ISE I 1.5 4.0–5.0 40–59 Preliminary PET n/a Entry 3 MET, MELAB
A2 Level 1 Entry 2 Level 1 Grades 3, 4 ISE 0 1.0 n/a 20–39 n/a KET Flyers Entry 2 MET, YLTE
A1 Breakthrough Entry 1 Level A1 Grade 2 n/a <1.0 n/a 0-19 n/a n/a Movers Entry 1 YLTE

Qualifications for teachers

Qualifications vary from one region or jurisdiction to the next. There are also different qualifications for those who manage or direct TESOL programs[69][70]

Non-native speakers

Most people who teach English are in fact not native speakers[citation needed]. They are state school teachers in countries around the world, and as such, they hold the relevant teaching qualification of their country, usually with a specialization in teaching English. For example, teachers in Hong Kong hold the Language Proficiency Assessment for Teachers. Those who work in private language schools may, from commercial pressures, have the same qualifications as native speakers (see below). Widespread problems exist of minimal qualifications and poor quality providers of training, and as the industry becomes more professional, it is trying to self-regulate to eliminate these.[71]

Australian qualifications

The Australian Skills Quality Authority[72] accredits vocational TESOL qualifications such as the 10695NAT Certificate IV in TESOL and the 10688NAT Diploma in TESOL. As ASQA is an Australian Government accreditation authority, these qualifications rank within the Australian Qualifications Framework.[73] And most graduates work in vocational colleges in Australia. These TESOL qualifications are also accepted internationally and recognized in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and China.

British qualifications

Common, respected qualifications for teachers within the United Kingdom's sphere of influence include certificates and diplomas issued by Trinity College London ESOL and Cambridge English Language Assessment (henceforth Trinity and Cambridge).

A certificate course is usually undertaken before starting to teach. This is sufficient for most EFL jobs and for some ESOL ones. CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), issued by Trinity, and CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), issued by Cambridge, are the most widely taken and accepted qualifications for new teacher trainees. Courses are offered in the UK and in many countries around the world. It is usually taught full-time over a one-month period or part-time over a period of up to a year.

Teachers with two or more years of teaching experience who want to stay in the profession and advance their career prospects (including school management and teacher training) can take a diploma course. Trinity offers the Trinity Licentiate Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (DipTESOL) and Cambridge offers the Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA). These diplomas are considered to be equivalent and are both accredited at level 7 of the revised National Qualifications Framework. Some teachers who stay in the profession go on to do an MA in a relevant discipline such as applied linguistics or ELT. Many UK master's degrees require considerable experience in the field before a candidate is accepted onto the course.

The above qualifications are well-respected within the UK EFL sector, including private language schools and higher education language provision. However, in England and Wales, in order to meet the government's criteria for being a qualified teacher of ESOL in the Learning and Skills Sector (i.e. post-compulsory or further education), teachers need to have the Certificate in Further Education Teaching Stage 3 at level 5 (of the revised NQF) and the Certificate for ESOL Subject Specialists at level 4. Recognised qualifications which confer one or both of these include a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in ESOL, the CELTA module 2, and City & Guilds 9488. Teachers of any subject within the British state sector are normally expected to hold a PGCE and may choose to specialise in ELT.

Canadian qualifications

Teachers teaching adult ESL in Canada in the federally funded Language Instruction to Newcomers (LINC) program must be TESL certified. Most employers in Ontario encourage certification by TESL Ontario. Often this requires completing an eight-month graduate certificate program at an accredited university or college. See the TESL Ontario or TESL Canada websites for more information.

United States qualifications

Some U.S. instructors at community colleges, private language schools and universities qualify to teach English to adult non-native speakers by completing a Master of Arts (MA) in TESOL. Other degrees may be a Master in Adult Education and Training or Applied Linguistics[74].[citation needed] This degree also qualifies them to teach in most EFL contexts. There are also a growing number of online programs offering TESOL degrees.[75] In fact, "the growth of Online Language Teacher Education (OLTE) programs from the mid-1990s to 2009 was from 20 to more than 120".[76]

In many areas of the United States, a growing number of K–12 public school teachers are involved in teaching ELLs (English Language Learners, that is, children who come to school speaking a home language other than English). The qualifications for these classroom teachers vary from state to state but always include a state-issued teaching certificate for public instruction. This state licensing requires substantial practical experience as well as course work. In some states, an additional specialization in ESL/ELL is required. This may be called an "endorsement". Endorsement programs may be part of a graduate program or maybe completed independently to add the endorsement to the initial teaching certificate

An MA in TESOL may or may not meet individual state requirements for K–12 public school teachers. It is important to determine if a graduate program is designed to prepare teachers for adult education or K–12 education.

The MA in TESOL typically includes second-language acquisition theory, linguistics, pedagogy, and an internship. A program will also likely have specific classes on skills such as reading, writing, pronunciation, and grammar. Admission requirements vary and may or may not require a background in education and/or language. Many graduate students also participate in teaching practica or clinicals, which provide the opportunity to gain experience in classrooms.[77]

In addition to traditional classroom teaching methods, speech pathologists, linguists, actors, and voice professionals are actively involved in teaching pronunciation of American English—called accent improvement, accent modification, and accent reduction—and serve as resources for other aspects of spoken English, such as word choice.

It is important to note that the issuance of a teaching certificate or license for K–12 teachers is not automatic following completion of degree requirements. All teachers must complete a battery of exams (typically the Praxis test or a specific state test subject and method exams or similar, state-sponsored exams) as well as supervised instruction as student teachers. Often, ESL certification can be obtained through extra college coursework. ESL certifications are usually only valid when paired with an already existing teaching certificate. Certification requirements for ESL teachers vary greatly from state to state; out-of-state teaching certificates are recognized if the two states have a reciprocity agreement.

The following document states the qualifications for an ESL certificate in the state of Pennsylvania.[78]

Chile qualifications

Native speakers will often be able to find work as an English teacher in Chile without an ESL teaching certificate. However, many private institutes give preference to teachers with a TEFL, CELTA, or TESOL certificate. The Chilean Ministry of Education also sponsors the English Opens Doors program, which recruits native English speakers to come work as teaching assistants in Chilean public schools. English Opens Doors requires only a bachelor's degree in order to be considered for acceptance.

United Arab Emirates qualifications

Native speakers must possess teacher certification in their home country in order to teach English as a foreign language in most institutions and schools in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Otherwise, CELTA/TESOL/TEFL/ Certificate or the like is required along with prior teaching experience.

Professional associations and unions

Acronyms and abbreviations

See also: Language education

Note that some of the terms below may be restricted to one or more countries, or may be used with different meanings in different countries, particularly the US and UK. See further discussion is Terminology, and types above.

Types of English

Other abbreviations

See also

Language terminology

General language teaching and learning

English language teaching and learning

Contemporary English

Dictionaries and resources


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Further reading