[Skip to Content]

An Explanation of English Language Acronyms

Tuesday 31st July 2012

Teach English AbroadSo you’ve decided you want to be a teacher and maybe you even know which country you want to teach in. The question now is, what kind of teaching do you want to do? If you look at any books about English teaching, visit teaching websites to look for a job, or speak to people who are involved in the industry, you couldn’t be blamed if you started to think that all the options are too baffling to bother with. The problem is compounded by the terrifying number of acronyms that teachers, schools and various institutions seem to be so fond of using, often pronouncing them phonetically, which appear to be a language in themselves. Here are a few explanations of some of the most common acronyms that you might come across.

Whatever type of training you take, as a teacher who teaches people English, whether in England or abroad, the ‘industry’ you are a part of is:

ELT, English Language Teaching

This is what the main institutions and academic bodies call it.

However, the most common way to refer to what you do is to call it TEFL teaching, (pronounced ‘teffle’), Teaching English as a Foreign Language. (That makes you a TEFL teacher….)

English teaching is a growing world-wide industry, and there are two main recognised industry standard teacher training bodies, Cambridge and Trinity College London.

These bodies provide training for budding teachers either here in Britain or throughout the world at schools whose training courses are accredited by them. So when you’re looking for somewhere to train, look to see if the course the school is providing is accredited by either of these organisations….accreditation isn’t vital, but probably the majority of  schools look for teachers who have these accredited training certificates as a minimum requirement for employment.

The Cambridge teaching certificate is known as CELTA (often pronounced ‘selta’). (A DELTA is the Cambridge teaching Diploma, a stage up from the Certificate, for experienced teachers) and training for the Trinity College London teaching certificate is known, rather confusingly, as TESOL training, (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The certificate you get at the end is called the CertTESOL …obviously….

Last of all, what’s the difference between TESOL (‘tessol’) and TESL (‘tessle’)? And for that matter between TESL and TEFL?

In many countries English is vital on a daily basis, either as a second official language of the country, the language of business, or as the first language in a multicultural society where there are people for whom it it is not their mother tongue (as in the UK and the US).The kind of English teaching that these countries need is:

TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

For those countries which don’t have English as an official second language, English students

are looking for English for a particular reason, from business people who need to talk to English speaking clients to people who need some useful phrases for a visit to Britain. This kind of teaching is called:

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

This is probably the most common acronym in the industry outside America, where TESL teaching predominates, and the best to stick to if someone asks you what you do…. ‘I am a TEFL teacher’…..Easy.