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What is The Difference Between Teaching ESL and EFL?

What is The Difference Between Teaching ESL and EFL? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

While English is a popular language used globally, people learn and use the language differently, a feature that informs the techniques employed in teaching the language. A Chinese immigrant living in the United States with his parents, for example, will learn English as a Second Language (ESL). Such a learner would learn in an environment where English is the primary language for interaction. The case is different with a French boy learning English in a school in Paris. The boy in this context learns English but is likely to continue using his French mother tongue while out of class. As such, he learns English as a Foreign Language (EFL). The two learners in this hypothetical case have unique needs in their learning with the environment being a significant factor that will influence how fast they learn and use the language. As such, a teacher must tailor the teaching methodologies to resonate with the needs of the learners.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Yuanchun L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

ESL Teaching

In an ESL, for example, a teacher should focus on enhancing the communication skills and competency of the learners in the language to enable them to interact with their peers and study other subjects successfully. Approach to teaching should be hands-on and designed to enable the learners to overcome their needs for the language. Basic activities like filling out forms, engaging academic advisers, and interacting with peers in social settings should be used as platforms for enabling the students to master the rules of grammar (Nation & Newton, 2008). Likewise, teaching should focus on cultural integration. The teachers should hone the social skills of the learners by boosting their confidence levels and encouraging them to practice with the language even out of the classroom. ESL students enjoy immense exposure to English. As such, teachers should focus on improving the ability of the learners to understand the language which is used popularly in their immediate environment. Teachers can use books and other media including music and radio to improve the ability of the learners to understand the language and its usage within the cultural context.

Also Read: Why I Decided to Take a TEFL Course?

EFL Teaching

The case is different in an EFL classroom where teachers employ the traditional modes of teaching and even use examples in their local languages. In such an environment, the teaching follows a specific step by step order with the teacher introducing concepts of increasing complexity as the students master them. Similarly, given the fact that the learners rarely have a chance to practice the language, teachers must rely extensively on practice and improvise teaching aids like appropriate media to enhance the exposure of the learners to the new language (McGrath, 2013). Teachers in EFL classrooms must focus on motivating their learners by encouraging them and giving them reasons to learn the language. The teaching process should not focus on the rules of grammar. Instead, the teachers should encourage the learners to live and experience the language and its cultural products like music and even films. Some techniques that may encourage the learners include using school trips, pen-pals, novels, short stories, and other non-traditional teaching materials.

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Summarily, teaching ESL is different from teaching EFL primarily because of the environment and the motivations for the learners. ESL students live in an environment where English is the predominant language of interaction. As such, they have both motivations and the support to learn the language. EFL learners, on the other hand, require constant motivation. EFL teachers in such a classroom should employ non-traditional methods of teaching and motivating their students to enjoy the learning process.

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