Distinguishing Between EFL & ESL

EFL and ESL are terms that are commonly used for the teaching or learning of English as a language by people whose first language is not English. These terms might be confusing, as F stands for foreign and S stands for second, but understanding the subtle differences between EFL and ESL is important for those who are interested in teaching English to speakers of other languages. This article will help clarify the differences between EFL and ESL, making it easier for aspiring English teachers to teach students from diverse backgrounds and locations.

EFL is an acronym that stands for English as a Foreign Language and is applicable for English teaching in countries where the majority of people do not speak English as a means of communication. These countries include students who want to learn English because of career prospects and their desire to migrate and work in foreign countries where English is spoken. South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, China, and Thailand can be considered as hot spots to work as an EFL teacher. In such places, students learn English as a subject for years and often have a good grasp of vocabulary and grammar but do not get enough exposure to situations where people converse only in English. If you want to work as an EFL teacher, there are countless opportunities for you in these Asian countries.

ESL is a term that stands for English as a Second Language and requires teaching English to students in countries where English is the basic language for communication. Canada, the UK, the US, and Australia are countries that fall under this category, where English is spoken everywhere, but the students learning English come from diverse backgrounds. These students need to acquire proficiency in English to cope with the requirements in education and employment circles. There are far fewer opportunities as an ESL teacher since the number of students residing in English-speaking countries with no knowledge of English is naturally low.

Key Takeaways

  • EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language, while ESL stands for English as a Second Language.
  • ESL involves teaching English to non-native speakers in an English-speaking country, whereas EFL involves teaching English to non-native speakers in a non-English-speaking country.
  • An American teaching English to Chinese students in China is an EFL teacher, whereas an American teaching English to Chinese students living in the US is an ESL teacher.
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen
Maria Nguyen is a talented writer with a flair for developing captivating content in a range of formats. Her commitment to thorough research and producing top-notch material has contributed to over 4 years of professional writing and editing experience. Outside of work, Maria finds pleasure in solitary activities and immersing herself in nature. Her introspective nature and passion for self-reflection inspire her creativity. She believes that spending time alone and observing the natural world can provide valuable insights and foster personal growth, broadening her perspective as a writer.


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