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37 Key English Teaching Terms Explained

37 Key English Teaching Terms Explained | ITTT | TEFL Blog

As with most professions the world of [Teaching English as a Foreign Language](37 Key English Teaching Terms Explained) has many of its own particular and sometimes peculiar terms and jargon. Getting to grips with the wide array of acronyms in the industry can sometimes feel like learning a whole new language! So if you have trouble telling the difference between your IWB and your OHP this article is a great guide to what’s what in the English language teaching industry.


Two of the most commonly used phrases in English teaching relate to certification, and they are the two that cause most confusion. The culprits are TEFL and TESOL. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and TESOL means Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Other terms include:

CELTA = Certificate in English Language Teaching to AdultsCTBE = Certificate in Teaching Business EnglishCTEYL = Certificate in Teaching English to Young LearnersDELTA = Diploma in English Language Teaching to AdultsTESL = Teaching English as a Second Language

Also read: 6 Reasons Why I am Happy to Obtain My TEFL Certificate

Teaching Methods

Teaching methods are another area where terms can be confusing. Below are explanations of a number of different teaching methodologies you will probably encounter as a teacher.

  • CLT = Communicative Language Teaching – this teaching method has interaction at the core of its teaching and learning goals.
  • ESA = An English teaching methodology with the three elements of Engage, Study and Activate as its base.
  • PPP = Presentation, Practice, Production – a teaching methodology similar to ESA but which lacks flexibility of the ESA method.
  • TBL = Task-Based Learning - a teaching method focused on learning a language through the completion of certain tasks.
  • CLL = Community Language Learning – a method where students decide what to talk about and the teacher stays outside of the group and provides help when necessary.


There are many different disciplines within English language teaching and it can sometimes feel that there is little to differentiate them. EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language and ESOL means English for Speakers of Other Languages. Another term, ESL, means English as a Second Language and is generally used when talking about English learners studying in an English speaking country (e.g. UK/USA). EFL usually refers to those who are studying English in their own country (e.g. China/Brazil), while ESOL has come to be a term that encompasses them both. Other terms to look out for are:

  • EAL = English as an Additional Language
  • EAP = English for Academic Purposes
  • ESP = English for Specific Purposes
  • EYL = English for Young Learners

Also read: Teaching Adults vs. Teaching Young Learners


Of course technology does not escape the use of jargon in the classroom while CD and DVD players are well-known outside the classroom, teaching specific technology can appear baffling to new teachers.

  • IWB = Interactive Whiteboard
  • MLD = Monolingual Learner Dictionary – A dictionary for English language learners written only in English.
  • OHP = Overhead Projector – A way to project text or images onto a board or wall.

Classroom Activities

You don’t want to be confused in the classroom so it’s good to be clear on what the activities your course books or colleagues are referring to before starting lesson plan.

  • Chants = an exercise where students repeat a language point in a rhythmic way.
  • Drill = an exercise where students repeat words or phrases after the teacher chorally or individually.
  • Gap-fill = an exercise where students have to fill the missing parts of a text with the correct word. The missing words are usually provided in a separate box.
  • Information-gap = an exercise where one student has information the other needs. The information is obtained by asking the right questions.
  • Matching exercises = an exercise where students have to match a vocabulary word and a picture, a question and an answer, two halves of a sentence etc.
  • Role-play = an exercise where students pretend to be in a particular situation and act out roles in that situation. For example shop assistant and customer.

Teaching Programs

If you are thinking about teaching English abroad, the chances are you will have heard of or seen the two programs below even if you don’t know what they are.

  • EPIK = English Program in Korea – A program to place English teachers in schools in certain parts of South Korea.
  • JET = Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme – A program to place English teachers in schools around Japan.

    Also read: Why Should You Teach English in South Korea?


Below are some other common terms you will encounter as you train to teach and throughout your career.

  • CEF = Common European Framework
  • L1 = a student’s first language or mother tongue.
  • **L2 ** = the language a student is learning.
  • Language level = the ability in English a student has e.g. beginner, intermediate etc.
  • STT = Student Talking Time
  • **Syllabus **= a list of the language items a student will study and be expected to learn during a number of classes.
  • TTT = Teacher Talking Time

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