English as a second or foreign language

English as a second or foreign language is the use of English by speakers with different native languages. Language education for people learning English may be known as English as a second language (ESL), English as a foreign language (EFL), English as an additional language (EAL), or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). The aspect in which ESL is taught is called teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).

The term "ESL" has been seen by some to indicate that English would be of subordinate importance; for example, where English is used as a lingua franca in a multilingual country. The term can be a misnomer for some students who have learned several languages before learning English. The terms "English language learners" (ELL), and, more recently, "English learners" (EL), have been used instead, and the students' native languages and cultures are considered important.[1]

Methods of learning English are highly variable depending on the student's level of English proficiency and the manner and setting in which they are taught, which can range from required classes in school to self-directed study at home. In some programs, educational materials (including spoken lectures and written assignments) are provided in a mixture of English and the student's native language. In other programs, educational materials are always in English, but the vocabulary, grammar, and context clues may be modified to be more easily understood by students with varying levels of comprehension (Wright, 2010). Adapting comprehension, insight oriented repetitions and recasts are some of the methods used in training. However, without proper cultural immersion (social learning grounds) the associated language habits and reference points (internal mechanisms) of the host country are not completely transferred through these programs (Wright, 2010). As a further complication, the syntax of the language is based on Latin grammar hence it suffers inconsistencies.[2][3][4] The major engines that influence the language are the United States and the United Kingdom and they both have assimilated the language differently so they differ in expressions and usage. This is found to a great extent primarily in pronunciation and vocabulary. Variants of English language also exist in both of these countries (e.g. African American Vernacular English).

The English language has great reach and influence, and English is taught all over the world. In countries where English is not usually a native language, there are two distinct models for teaching English: Educational programs for students who want to move to English-speaking countries, and other programs for students who do not intend to move but who want to understand English content for the purposes of education, entertainment, or conducting international business. The differences between these two models of English language education have grown larger over time, and teachers focusing on each model have used different terminology, received different training, and formed separate professional associations. English is also taught as a second language for recent immigrants to English-speaking countries, which faces separate challenges because the students in one class may speak many different native languages.

Terminology and types

The many acronyms and abbreviations used in the field of English teaching and learning may be confusing and the following technical definitions may have their currency contested upon various grounds. The precise usage, including the different use of the terms ESL and ESOL in different countries, is described below. These terms are most commonly used in relation to teaching and learning English as a second language, but they may also be used in relation to demographic information.[citation needed]

English language teaching (ELT) is a widely used teacher-centered term, as in the English language teaching divisions of large publishing houses, ELT training, etc. Teaching English as a second language (TESL), teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) are also used.[citation needed]

Other terms used in this field include English as an international language (EIL), English as a lingua franca (ELF), English for special purposes and English for specific purposes (ESP), and English for academic purposes (EAP). Those who are learning English are often referred to as English language learners (ELL).

English outside English-speaking countries

EFL, English as a foreign language, indicates the teaching of English in a non–English-speaking region. Study can occur either in the student's home country, as part of the normal school curriculum or otherwise, or, for the more privileged minority, in an anglophone country that they visit as a sort of educational tourist, particularly immediately before or after graduating from university. TEFL is the teaching of English as a foreign language; note that this sort of instruction can take place in any country, English-speaking or not. Typically, EFL is learned either to pass exams as a necessary part of one's education, or for career progression while one works for an organization or business with an international focus. EFL may be part of the state school curriculum in countries where English has no special status (what linguistic theorist Braj Kachru calls the "expanding circle countries"); it may also be supplemented by lessons paid for privately. Teachers of EFL generally assume that students are literate in their mother tongue. The Chinese EFL Journal[5] and Iranian EFL Journal[6] are examples of international journals dedicated to specifics of English language learning within countries where English is used as a foreign language.

English within English-speaking countries

The other broad grouping is the use of English within the English-speaking world. In what Braj Kachru calls "the inner circle", i.e., countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, this use of English is generally by refugees, immigrants, and their children. It also includes the use of English in "outer circle" countries, often former British colonies and the Philippines, where English is an official language even if it is not spoken as a mother tongue by a majority of the population.

In the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand this use of English is called ESL (English as a second language). This term has been criticized on the grounds that many learners already speak more than one language. A counter-argument says that the word "a" in the phrase "a second language" means there is no presumption that English is the second acquired language (see also Second language). TESL is the teaching of English as a second language. There are also other terms that it may be referred to in the US including: ELL (English Language Learner) and CLD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse).

In the UK and Ireland, the term ESL has been replaced by ESOL (English for speakers of other languages). In these countries TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is normally used to refer to teaching English only to this group. In the UK and Ireland, the term EAL (English as an additional language) is used, rather than ESOL, when talking about primary and secondary schools, in order to clarify that English is not the students' first language, but their second or third. The term ESOL is used to describe English language learners who are above statutory school age.

Other acronyms were created to describe the person rather than the language to be learned. The term Limited English proficiency (LEP) was first used in 1975 by the Lau Remedies following a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. ELL (English Language Learner), used by United States governments and school systems, was created by James Crawford of the Institute for Language and Education Policy in an effort to label learners positively, rather than ascribing a deficiency to them. Recently, some educators have shortened this to EL – English Learner.

Typically, a student learns this sort of English to function in the new host country, e.g., within the school system (if a child), to find and hold down a job (if an adult), or to perform the necessities of daily life (cooking, taking a cab/public transportation, or eating in a restaurant, etc.). The teaching of it does not presuppose literacy in the mother tongue. It is usually paid for by the host government to help newcomers settle into their adopted country, sometimes as part of an explicit citizenship program. It is technically possible for ESL to be taught not in the host country, but in, for example, a refugee camp, as part of a pre-departure program sponsored by the government soon to receive new potential citizens. In practice, however, this is extremely rare. Particularly in Canada and Australia, the term ESD (English as a second dialect) is used alongside ESL, usually in reference to programs for Aboriginal peoples in Canadian or Australians. The term refers to the use of standard English by speakers of a creole or non-standard variety. It is often grouped with ESL as ESL/ESD.

Umbrella terms

All these ways of denoting the teaching of English can be bundled together into an umbrella term. Unfortunately, not all of the English teachers in the world would agree on just only a simply single term(s). The term TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is used in American English to include both TEFL and TESL. This is also the case in Canada as well as in Australia and New Zealand. British English uses ELT (English language teaching), because TESOL has a different, more specific meaning; see above.

Systems of simplified English

Several models of "simplified English" have been suggested or developed for international communication, among them:

  • Basic English, developed by Charles Kay Ogden (and later also I. A. Richards) in the 1930s; a recent revival has been initiated by Bill Templer[7]
  • Threshold Level English, developed by van Ek and Alexander[8]
  • Globish, developed by Jean-Paul Nerrière
  • Basic Global English, developed by Joachim Grzega[9]
  • Nuclear English, proposed by Randolph Quirk and Gabriele Stein but never fully developed[10]