The TEFL / TESOL profession uses a whole range of acronyms. Here’s a guide to some of the more common ones you’re likely to encounter.
EFL English as a Foreign Language
ESL English as a Second Language
TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL Teaching English as a Second Language
TESOL Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Traditionally, TEFL refers to teaching in non-English speaking countries, whereas TESL refers to teaching in English speaking countries, to non-native speakers living or working there. In practice, though, the two terms are often used interchangeably, and both are covered by the all-encompassing TESOL.
DOS Director of Studies
ELL English Language Learner
ELT English Language Teaching or Training
EAP English for Academic Purposes
EAP involves teaching students who are studying, or who intend to study, in higher education in an English speaking country. This could include teaching study skills or preparing students for an exam such as the TOEFL.
ESP English for Specific Purposes
ESP refers to teaching English to a learners with specific needs and objectives, and usually refers to teaching professionals in a specific field. For example, doctors may require medical English, bankers may require financial English, company directors may require language for negotiating or making presentations.
CALL Computer Assisted Language Learning
CALL refers to language instruction through the use of technology. It usually refers to using language learning software to teach specific language points.
K12 Kindergarten to 12th Grade
K-12 is not specific to English language teaching, but you may see job advertisements asking for K-12 ESL teachers. The term is common in the USA and refers to teaching children from kindergarten through to 12th grade.
L1 A student’s first language
L2 A student’s second language
If someone asks you if you use L1 in the classroom, they are asking if you use your students’ native language, or if you only use L2, i.e. English.
STT Student talking time
The amount of time that students spend talking during a class (ideally as much as possible).
TTT Teacher talking time
The amount of time the teacher spends talking during a class.
CELTA Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
The CELTA is one of the most internationally recognised and accepted entry-level qualifications. The old name for the CELTA was the CTEFLA (Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults). There are many other entry-level qualifications.
CELTYL Certificate in English Language Teaching to Young Learners
CELTYL is no longer offered. Instead, Cambridge offer the Young Learner Extension to the CELTA, for those who want to specialise in teaching Young Learners.
Delta Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults
The Delta is a higher level qualification, usually studied after two or more years of teaching for career progression. The old name for the DELTA was the DTEFLA (Diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults).
TKT Teaching Knowledge Test
The TKT focuses on the core teaching knowledge needed by teachers, whatever your background and teaching experience.
PGCE Post Graduate Certificate in Education
PGCE is a UK teaching qualification required to teach in the state sector, and is not specific to language teaching.
IDLTM International Diploma in Language Teaching Management
The IDLTM is designed for teachers looking to take on management responsibility.
ICELT In-service Certificate in English Language Teaching
More information about exams
BEC Business English Certificates
BULATS Business Language Testing Service
CAE Certificate in Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced
CELS Certificates in English Language Skills
CPE Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency
FCE First Certificate in English or Cambridge English: First
IELTS International English Language Testing System
KET Key English Test or Cambridge English: Key
PET Preliminary English Test or Cambridge English: Preliminary
TOEFL Test of English as a Foreign Language
TOEIC Test of English for International Communication
YLE Cambridge Young Learners English Tests
IATEFL International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language
TESOL TESOL International Association