Bilingual Education: Decoding ESL Acronyms

When it comes to teaching English to nonnative speakers, the many acronyms that have become associated with this profession can be almost like foreign languages in themselves. It’s easy to become confused by this alphabet soup of abbreviations, so following is a list of the most common acronyms that are used in the bilingual education field along with a decoding of their meanings:

CELTA-Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. This is the brand name of an internationally recognized English teacher training course, which is validated by the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, so it is also known as the Cambridge CELTA course.

CPE-Certificate of Proficiency in English. This is a British term for the language proficiency exam that is required before enrolling in British universities. Its American equivalent is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

DELTA-Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults. This is an additional teaching certification awarded by Cambridge University, usually as a follow-up to the CELTA.

EAL-English as an Additional Language. This is sometimes used interchangeably with English as a second language (ESL) but recognizes the fact that some students regularly use two or more languages in addition to English.

EAP-English for Academic Purposes. This is the term in bilingual education for English that is taught to those who wish to enroll in and study at English-speaking schools. It is usually one of the specific items covered under the umbrella term of English for specific purposes (ESP).

EFL-English as a Foreign Language. This is English that is taught in a country where the natives do not speak English. It is also sometimes used in United States universities to refer to programs in which international students study English with the purpose of returning to their native countries to use or teach it there.

ELL-English Language Learner. This usually means a student in an ESL or EFL program.

ELI-English Language Instructor.

ELT. English Language Training, English Language Teacher, or English Language Trainer.

ESD-English as a Second Dialect. This is taught to students who speak English as their primary language but whose use of it (especially in grammar and syntax) is affected by a native language background.

ESL-English as a Second Language. This is English taught in English-speaking countries to students who do not use it as a native language.

ESP-English for Specific Purposes. This is bilingual education that is specialized to meet the needs of students (typically adults) who will use English in a specific field of work. It includes varieties such as Academic English, Aviation English, Business English, Medical English, Science English, English for tourism workers, and English for waitstaff.

TEFL-Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This refers to teacher training courses.

TESL-Teaching English as a Second Language.

TESOL-Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. This is a blanket term for training courses that also usually includes other terms such as TESL, TEFL, and ELT. It is also the acronym for the American professional association TESOL Inc.

TEYL-Teaching English to Young Learners.

TOEFL-Test of English as a Foreign Language. This is an exam for testing English fluency. It is required for postsecondary students when English is not the primary language.

TSP-Test of Spoken English.

TWE-Test of Written English.