What do all the acroynms mean?? And other TEFL words you might hear.

When I describe my job to people I realise that I use a lot of acronyms and TEFL specific words which can be quite confusing if you are not familiar with English language teaching. Here are a few explanations of terms which are often used:


ESOL / ESOL students: English for Speakers of Other Languages. This term is often used to refer to students who have moved to the UK because they are asylum seekers, refugees or migrant workers.

EFL/ ESL students: English as a Foreign/ Second Language. This term is often used more generally for anyone studying English (as their first language is different). It is often used for students in private language schools, students who come to study and return to their country or for students who study English in their own country.

EAL: English as An Additional Language. This term is used in primary/ secondary schools for children whose first language is not English.

TEFL: This is a general term for someone who teaches English as a Foreign Language.

TESOL: This is the same as TEFL, but just means Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Refugee: This term refers to someone who has left their country because of a fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion and has moved to another country for safety[1].

Asylum Seekers: This term refers to someone who arrived in a country and has applied for to be a refugee in that country, but is waiting for an answer. When they are granted protection they officially become a ‘refugee’ [2].

Migrant: This term refers to people who have moved to another country for another reason such as work or to get married etc.[3]

International students: This term refers to students who have come to the UK to study either at university, college or a private language school.

ILR: This term means Indefinite Leve to Remain. This refers to students who have settled status in the UK and means there is no limit on where they can work or how long they can stay for [4].

L1: A students’ first language.

L2: A students’ second language or the language they are learning.


[1] The official wording: ‘Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’ (Article 1, 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees)

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