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.
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’ .
Migrant: This term refers to people who have moved to another country for another reason such as work or to get married etc.
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 .
L1: A students’ first language.L2: A students’ second language or the language they are learning.
 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)
ESOL Levels compared to TEFL and CEFR
I'm often asked how ESOL class levels compare to general teaching levels in TEFL. This is a very "rough" guide based on the classes I teach and my experience of teaching ESOL learners...
A student’s level
What this means:
(in an ESOL context).
A1 (very low)
These students are absolute beginners.
They may be completely illiterate in their L1 or use a language with a different alphabet like Arabic or Farsi.
Equally, they may have some literacy, but do not know a lot of vocabulary or be able to communicate in English.
These students have some basic understanding/ experience of English.
At this level students learn basic grammar such as the present simple and continuous tenses.
They will learn to do basic tasks such as write a note, fill in a simple form and phone a friend.
These students are able to communicate and do simple tasks in English.
At this level students learn grammar such as the past simple and ‘be going to’ for future plans. They will learn about modal verbs such as ‘can’ and ‘must’ and how to make comparisons.
They will learn to do activities such as write a short letter, send an e-mail and have a short discussion.
These students are able to hold a conversation in English and can communicate confidently.
At this level students learn grammar such as the present perfect tense and conditional sentences. They also learn about using ‘will’ for the future, how to use ‘should’ to give advice and how to form indirect questions.
They will learn about formal/ informal language and how to write formal letters and e-mails.
These students are able to communicate well and have good reading and writing skills.
At this level students learn more complex grammar structures such as the active/passive voice, reported speech and question tags.
Students will learn to do activities such as giving a short presentation in English, write magazine and newspaper articles and be able to have long discussions in English.
These students are able to communicate very well and have a good grasp of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in English.
At this level students will learn complex grammar structures such as the future perfect tense, gerunds and infinitives and the 3rd conditional.
They will also learn vocabulary such as phrasal verbs, idioms, similes and metaphors.
If they are studying for ESOL/ Functional skills exams they will need to identify facts, opinion and bias in a text and language features such as sarcasm and use irony.
C1 and C2
At this level students are almost fluent. They will be able to study complex grammar structures and are able to communicate very well.
· ESOL exams: These are exams taken by ESOL students studying adult education centres. These exams are designed for non-English speakers. Students can taking reading, writing, speaking and listening exams separately.
· Functional Skills exams: These are exams taken by both British English speakers and ESOL students. They are not designed for ESOL learners. Functional Skills at Level 1 is roughly a GCSE grade C-D (4-5) and Level 2 is roughly a GCSE grade B-A (6-9) .
· IELTS exam: This is an exam students will need to take if they want to study at university or to transfer a qualification (e.g. medicine/ engineering) from their country to work in the UK.
 This is based on the NOCN ESOL and Functional Skills exam syllabus 2020.