New English teachers are often surprised at all the new terminology they come across as they are preparing classes. Many times abbreviations and acronyms of these terms are used. These shorter versions of existing words and phrases are designed to save time and take up less space. Below is a list of common terminology, abbreviations, and acronyms used by English teachers around the world. Included is a brief explanation of each.
L1 - Language 1
This refers to the students' first language, or their native tongue. For example, in the Dominican Republic, the native tongue is Spanish. The L 1 of most EFL students is Spanish and Haitain Creole is the L 1 of a few students.
L2 - Language 2
This refers to the students' second language...or really, any language that a student is learning in addition to his native language. (The number '2' can be misleading because a student may be learning his third, fourth, or fifth language.) Educators also use the term target language to refer to the language that the student is learning.
EFL - English as a Foreign Language.
You can be an EFL student or an EFL teacher. EFL students are learning English while living in their own countries, where English is not the native language. For example: A Dominican student taking English classes in the Dominican Republic, where he doesn't have an opportunity to use it every day because English is not the native language. In an EFL classroom, the EFL teacher and EFL students may share one common language.
ESL - English as a Second Language.
You can be an ESL student or an ESL teacher.
ESL is a common abbreviation used in English-speaking countries. ESL students are immigrants learning English while living in an English environment. For example: A Dominican man moves to the United States and takes English classes while living and working there.
In an ESL classroom, the ESL teacher will often have students from all different backgrounds and not share one common language.
TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
This is a general term for anyone educating English learners. You may hear someone ask about TESOL certification. This course prepares teachers to interact with students whose native language isn't English. There are two other terms used:
(TESL) Teaching English as a Second Language involves teaching English to speakers of other languages while living in an English-speaking country. It assumes that the language of their country of origin is their first language and that English is their second language (although they may speak a few languages).
(TEFL) Teaching English as a Foreign Language involves teaching English in a country where English is not the primary language.
This is a student who hasn't had a lot of exposure to English and therefore, has very little English vocabulary upon which to build. He will need to train his ears to distinguish individual words while listening to the intonation or 'music' of English. He may initially feel overwhelmed as he struggles to find a learning style that works for him and may also feel intimidated by other students who seem to progress, or understand more readily.
This refers to a student who brings some prior knowledge of English to the classroom. Perhaps he studied at one time, or has friends or family who speak English, or has spent a lot of time listening to English music, television, or video games, but has had little formal English training. This student may decide to start at the first level in order to review or fill in 'gaps' in his knowledge.