ESL And EFL: What’s The Difference?

question-mark-7788951.jpgThey stand for English as a Second Language and English as a Foreign Language, respectively, and generally teachers think of people who will use a given language in their everyday lives, such as immigrants to the country where that language is spoken, as learning a second language; to me this means it can become “their” language, even if they speak their first language with some family and friends still. On the other hand, while people who study a foriegn language may become extremely proficient at it, the goal was never for it to become “their” language, even if they do use it everyday…and perhaps even if they use it more than a second language learner does.

This is my stab at a distinction, and I don’t think it’s perfect – if any readers have suggestions I welcome them (though I reserve my right to disagree :)). But in the classroom, I think there is often a difference in focus;

ESL often involves more practical or functional language – language for going shopping, giving directions, even expressing sympathy, and EFL is often more grammar-oriented, often because people have to take and pass tests or be able to write business letters in English when it is their foreign language. Are these differences for the best? It’s hard to say. Different people in each group will have different goals.

**Okay, the more I read my definitions, the more I question them. Is it as simple as “ESL is when the learners will use the language mainly in the country where they learn it? Mainly in a country where it is the native language?” The TEFL Logue is running out of steam on this one…