English language learning and teaching
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
ESL (English as a second language), ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) and EFL (English as a foreign language) all refer to the use or study of English by speakers of other languages. The precise usage, including the different use of the terms ESL and ESOL in different countries, is described below. These terms are most commonly used in relation to teaching and learning English, but they may also be used in relation to demographic information.
ELT (English language teaching) is a widely-used teacher-centred term, as in the English language teaching divisions of large publishing houses, ELT training, etc. The abbreviations TESL (teaching English as a second language), TESOL (teaching English for speakers of other languages) and TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) are all also used.
Other terms used in this field include EAL (English as an additional language), ESD (English as a second dialect), EIL (English as an international language), ELF (English as a Lingua franca), ESP (English for special purposes, or English for specific purposes), EAP (English for academic purposes), and ELL (English language learner). A somewhat similar term, LEP (Limited English Proficiency), is also used in this field.
Terminology and types
The many acronyms used in the field of English teaching and learning may be confusing. English is a language with great reach and influence; it is taught all over the world under many different circumstances. In English-speaking countries, English language teaching has essentially evolved in two broad directions: instruction for people who intend to stay in the country and those who don't. These divisions have grown firmer as the instructors of these two "industries" have used different terminology, followed distinct training qualifications, formed separate professional associations, and so on. Crucially, these two arms have very different funding structures, public in the former and private in the latter, and to some extent this influences the way schools are established and classes are held. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the United States and Britain, both major engines of the language, describe these categories in different terms: as many eloquent users of the language have observed, "England and America are two countries divided by a common language." (Attributed to Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, and Oscar Wilde.) The following technical definitions may therefore have their currency contested.
English outside English-speaking countries
EFL indicates the use of English in a non-English-speaking region. Study can occur either in the student's home country, as part of the normal school curriculum or otherwise, or, for the more privileged minority, in an anglophone country which they visit as a sort of educational tourist, particularly before or after graduating from university. TEFL is the teaching of English as a foreign language; note that this sort of instruction can take place in any country, English-speaking or not. Typically, EFL is learned either to pass exams as a necessary part of one's education, or for career progression while working for an organisation or business with an international focus. EFL may be part of the state school curriculum in countries where English has no special status (as is the case in most of the European Union); it may also be supplemented by lessons paid for privately. Teachers of EFL generally assume that students are literate in their mother tongue.
English within English-speaking countries
The other broad grouping is the use of English within an English-speaking region, generally by refugees, immigrants and their children. It includes the use of English in countries, often former British colonies, where English is an official language even if it is not spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the population. In the US, Canada and Australia, this use of English is called ESL (English as a second language). This term has been criticised on the grounds that many learners already speak more than one language. A counter-argument says that the word "a" in the phrase "a second language" means there is no presumption that English is the second acquired language (see also Second language). TESL is the teaching of English as a second language.
In the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, the term ESL has been replaced by ESOL (English for speakers of other languages). In these countries TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is normally used to refer to teaching English only to this group. In the UK, the term EAL (English as an additional language), rather than ESOL, is usually used when talking about primary and secondary schools. In the United States, the term English language learner (ELL) is used by governments and school systems. It differs from the other terms above because it refers to learners rather than the language.
Typically, this sort of English (called ESL in the United States, Canada, and Australia, ESOL in Britain, Ireland and New Zealand) is learned to function in the new host country, e.g. within the school system (if a child), to find and hold down a job (if an adult), to perform the necessities of daily life. The teaching of it does not presuppose literacy in the mother tongue. It is usually paid for by the host government to help newcomers settle into their adopted country, sometimes as part of an explicit citizenship program. It is technically possible for ESL to be taught not in the host country, but in, for example, a refugee camp, as part of a pre-departure program sponsored by the government soon to receive new potential citizens. In practice, however, this is vanishly rare.
Particularly in Canada and Australia, the term ESD (English as a second dialect) is used alongside ESL, usually in reference to programs for Canadian First Nations people or indigenous Australians, respectively. It refers to the use of standard English, which may need to be explicitly taught, by speakers of a creole or non-standard variety. It is often grouped with ESL as ESL/ESD.
All these ways of teaching English can be bundled together into an umbrella term. Unfortunately, all the English teachers in the world cannot agree on just one. The term TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) is used in American English to include both TEFL and TESL. British English uses ELT (English language teaching), because TESOL has a different, more specific meaning; see above.
Which variety to teach
It is worth noting that ESL and EFL programs also differ in the variety of English which is taught; "English" is a term that can refer to various dialects, including British English, North American English, and others. Obviously, those studying English in order to fit into their new country will learn the variety spoken there. However, for those who do not intend to change countries, the question arises of which sort of English to learn. If they are going abroad for a short time to study English, they need to choose which country. For those staying at home, the choice may be made for them in that private language schools or the state school system may only offer one model. Students studying EFL in Hong Kong, for example, are more likely to learn British English, whereas students in the Philippines are more likely to learn American English.
For this reason, many teachers now emphasize teaching English as an international language (EIL), also known as English as a lingua franca (ELF). Linguists are charting the development of international English, a term with contradictory and confusing meanings, one of which refers to a decontextualised variant of the language, independent of the culture and associated references of any particular country, useful when, for example, a Saudi does business with someone from China or Albania.
Difficulties for learners
Language teaching practice often assumes that most of the difficulties that learners face in the study of English are a consequence of the degree to which their native language differs from English (a contrastive analysis approach). A native speaker of Chinese, for example, may face many more difficulties than a native speaker of German. This may be true for anyone of any mother tongue (also called first language, normally abbreviated L1) setting out to learn any other language (called a target language, second language or L2). See also second language acquisition (SLA) for mixed evidence from linguistic research.
Language learners often produce errors of syntax and pronunciation thought to result from the influence of their L1, such as mapping its grammatical patterns inappropriately onto the L2, pronouncing certain sounds incorrectly or with difficulty, and confusing items of vocabulary known as false friends. This is known as L1 interference. However, these transfer effects are typically stronger for beginners' language production, and SLA research has highlighted many errors which cannot be attributed to the L1, as they are attested in learners of many language backgrounds (for example, failure to apply 3rd person present singular -s to verbs, as in 'he makes').
While English is no more complex than many other major languages, it has several features which may create difficulties for the majority of learners.
- Consonant phonemes - English does not have more individual consonant sounds than most languages. However, /θ/ and /ð/ (the sounds written with th), which are common in English (thin, thing, etc.; and the, this, that, etc.) are relatively rare in other languages, even others in the Germanic family (e.g., English thousand = German tausend). Some learners substitute a [t] or [d] sound, while others shift to [s] or [z]. Even practiced second language speakers, such as francophone Canadian politicians, retain this pronunciation long after mastering vocabulary and grammar.
- Another sound that is relatively uncommon in other languages is /ŋ/ (as in singing).
- Speakers of Japanese and Chinese varieties may have difficulty distinguishing [r] and [l]. The distinction between [b] and [v] can cause difficulty for native speakers of Spanish, as well as Japanese and Korean.
- Vowel phonemes - The precise number of distinct vowel sounds depends on the variety of English: for example, Received Pronunciation has twelve monophthongs (single or "pure" vowels), eight diphthongs (double vowels) and two triphthongs (triple vowels); whereas General American has thirteen monophthongs and three diphthongs. Many learners, such as speakers of Spanish, Japanese or Arabic, have fewer vowels in their mother tongue and so may have problems both with hearing and with pronouncing these distinctions.
- Syllable structure - In its syllable structure, English allows for a cluster of up to three consonants before the vowel and four consonants after the vowel (e.g., straw, desks, glimpsed). The syllable structure causes problems for speakers of many other languages. Japanese, for example, broadly alternates consonant and vowel sounds so learners from Japan often try to force vowels in between the consonants (e.g., desks /desks/ becomes "desukusu" or milk shake /mɪlk ʃeɪk/ becomes "mirukusēki"). In SLA, this effect has also been attributed to early reading in English; the reader believes each letter must be sounded out, but is yet to learn clusters, so resorts to inserting vowels between the consonants to pronounce everything they see.
- Learners from languages where all words end in vowels sometimes tend to make all English words end in vowels, thus make /meɪk/ can come out as [meɪkə]. The learner's task is further complicated by the fact that native speakers may drop consonants in the more complex blends (e.g., [məns] instead of [mənθs] for months).
- Unstressed vowels - Native English speakers frequently replace almost any vowel in an unstressed syllable with an unstressed vowel, often schwa. For example, from has a distinctly pronounced short 'o' sound when it is stressed (e.g., Where are you from?), but when it is unstressed, the short 'o' reduces to a schwa (e.g., I'm from London.). In some cases, unstressed vowels may disappear altogether, in words such as chocolate (which has four syllables in Spanish, but only two as pronounced by Americans: "choc-lit".)
- Stress in English more strongly determines vowel quality than it does in most other world languages (although there are notable exceptions like Russian). For example, in some varieties the syllables an, en, in, on and un are pronounced exactly alike. Native speakers can usually distinguish an able, enable, and unable because of their position in a sentence, but this is more difficult for inexperienced English speakers. Moreover, learners tend to overpronounce these unstressed vowels, giving their speech an unnatural rhythm.
- Stress timing - English tends to be a stress-timed language - this means that stressed syllables are roughly equidistant in time, no matter how many syllables come in between. Although some other languages,e.g., German and Russian, are also stress-timed, most of the world's other major languages are syllable-timed, with each syllable coming at an equal time after the previous one. Learners from these languages often have a staccato rhythm when speaking English that is disconcerting to a native speaker.
- "Stress for emphasis" - students' own languages may not use stress for emphasis as English does.
- "Stress for contrast" - stressing the right word or expression. This may not come easily to some nationalities.
- "Emphatic apologies" - the normally unstressed auxiliary is stressed (I really am very sorry)
- In English there are quite a number of words - about fifty - that have two different pronunciations, depending on whether they are stressed. They are "grammatical words": pronouns, prepositions, auxiliary verbs and conjunctions. Most students tend to overuse the strong form, which is pronounced with the written vowel.
- Connected speech - Phonological processes such as assimilation, elision and epenthesis together with indistinct word boundaries can confuse learners when listening to natural spoken English, as well as making their speech sound too formal if they do not use them. For example, in RP eight beetles and three ants /eɪt biːtəlz ənd θriː ænts/ becomes [eɪdbiːtl̩zənθriːjæns].
- See also: Accent reduction
- Tenses - English has a relatively large number of tenses with some quite subtle differences, such as the difference between the simple past "I ate" and the present perfect "I have eaten." Progressive and perfect progressive forms add complexity.
- Functions of auxiliaries - Learners of English tend to find it difficult to manipulate the various ways in which English uses the first auxiliary verb of a tense. These include negation (eg He hasn't been drinking.), inversion with the subject to form a question (eg Has he been drinking?, short answers (eg Yes, he has.) and tag questions (has he?). A further complication is that the dummy auxiliary verb do /did is added to fulfil these functions in the simple present and simple past, but not for the verb to be.
- Modal verbs - English also has a significant number of modal auxiliary verbs which each have a number of uses. For example, the opposite of "You must be here at 8" is usually "You don't have to be here at 8", while "must" in "You must not drink the water" has a different meaning from "must" in "You must not be a native speaker". This complexity takes considerable work for most learners to master.
- Idiomatic usage - English is reputed to have a relatively high degree of idiomatic usage. For example, the use of different main verb forms in such apparently parallel constructions as "try to learn", "help learn", and "avoid learning" pose difficulty for learners. Another example is the idiomatic distinction between "make" and "do": "make a mistake", not "do a mistake"; and "do a favour", not "make a favour".
- Articles - English has an appreciable number of articles , including the 'definite' article the and the 'indefinite' article a, an. At times English nouns can or indeed must be used without an article; this is called the 'zero article'. Some of the differences between definite, indefinite and zero article are fairly easy to learn, but others are not, particularly since a learner's native language may lack articles or use them in different ways than English does. Although the information conveyed by articles is rarely essential for communication, English uses them frequently (several times in the average sentence), so that they require some effort from the learner.
- Phrasal verbs - Phrasal verbs in English cause a lot of problems for most learners because many phrasal verbs have several meanings and different syntactic patterns. There are also a number of phrasal verb differences between American and British English.
- Word derivation - Word derivation in English requires a lot of rote learning. For example, an adjective can be negated by using the prefix un- (eg unable), or in- (eg inappropriate), or dis- (eg dishonest), or "im-" (eg impure, impossible).
- Size of lexicon - The history of English has resulted in a very large vocabulary. (Schmitt & Marsden claim that it has one of the largest vocabularies of any known language.) This inevitably requires more work for a learner to master the language.
Differences between spoken and written English
- Spelling - Because of the many changes in pronunciation which have occurred since a written standard developed, and the retention of many historical idiosyncrasies in spelling, English spelling is difficult even for native speakers to master. This difficulty is shown in such activities as spelling bees that generally require the memorization of words. English speakers may also rely on utilities like spell checkers more than speakers of other languages, as the users of the spell checker may have forgotten, or never learned, the correct spelling of a word. The generalizations that exist are quite complex and there are many exceptions leading to a considerable amount of rote learning. The spelling system causes problems in both directions - a learner may know a word orally but not be able to write it correctly, or they may see a word written but not know how to pronounce it or mislearn the pronunciation.
Varieties of English
- There are thriving communities of English native speakers in countries all over the world, and this historical diaspora has led to some noticeable differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar across different regions, as well as that which exists across different social strata within the same country. The world holds over 7000 languages, and most exist within only a small geographic area; even most of the top 100 are limited to a small number of countries or even a single state. Some of the more well-known languages are to some degree managed by a specific organisation that determines the most prestigious form of the language, e.g. French language and the Academie de la langue française or Spanish language and the Real Academia Española. Since many students of English study it to enable them to communicate internationally, the lack of a uniform international standard for the language poses some barriers to meeting that goal.
Exams for learners
Learners of English are often keen to get accreditation and a number of exams are known internationally:
- IELTS (International English Language Testing System), accepted by most tertiary academic institutions in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and by many in the USA
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), an Educational Testing Service test of English language proficiency for academic purposes, developed and used primarily for tertiary institutions in the USA (public and private) and now with general acceptance in tertiary institutions in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK and numerous tertiary institutions in Ireland.
- TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication), an Educational Testing Service test of English language proficiency for business purposes
- Cambridge ESOL General English exams including FCE, CAE and CPE
ESOL learners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland usually take the national Skills for Life qualifications which are offered by several exam boards.
The Common European Framework
Between 1998 and 2000, the Council of Europe's language policy division developed its Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. The aim of this framework was to have a common system for foreign language testing and certification, to cover all European languages and countries.
The Common European Framework divides language learners into three levels:
- A. Basic User
- B. Independent User
- C. Proficient User
Each of these levels is divided into two sections, resulting in a total of six levels for testing (A1, A2, B1, etc).
This table compares ELT exams according to the CEF levels:
Qualifications for teachers
Many non-native speaking teachers who only work in their own country are qualified with the relevant teaching qualification of that country. Those who work in private language schools and in other countries often have the same qualifications as native speakers (see below).
United States qualifications
Most U.S. instructors at community colleges and universities qualify by taking an MA in TESOL. This degree also qualifies them to teach in most EFL contexts as well. In some areas of the country, nearly all elementary school teachers are involved in teaching ELLs (English Language Learners, that is, children who come to school speaking a home language other than English.) The qualifications for these classroom teachers vary from state to state but always include a state-issued teaching certificate for public instruction.
Teachers in all states require state licensing, which requires substantial practical field experiences and language pedagogy course work. The MA in TESOL includes both graduate work in English as one of the classical liberal arts (literature, linguistics, media studies) with a theoretical pedagogical component at the tertiary level. Admission to the MA in TESOL typically requires at least a bachelor's degree with a minor in English or linguistics. A degree in a foreign language can sometimes also be considered sufficient for admission.
It is important to note that the issuance of a teaching certificate or license is not automatic following completion of degree requirements. All teachers must complete a battery of exams (typically the Praxis subject and method exams or similar, state-sponsored exams) as well as supervised instruction as teaching interns. Teaching interns possess initial certification and are independent instructors in their classrooms; however, they are not considered "professionals" until they have sufficiently satisfied governing boards that they are fit to teach. Their performance is evaluated throughout their tenure as interns. Upon successful completion of all components of their training programs, they may be offered a professional certificate. Out-of-state teaching certificates are usually recognized by other states.
Common, respected qualifications for teachers within the British sphere of influence include certificates and diplomas issued by UCLES (University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate) and Trinity International Examinations Board of Trinity College, London.
A certificate course is usually undertaken before starting to teach. This is sufficient for many EFL jobs (see TEFL) and for some ESOL ones. UCLES offers the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), perhaps the most widely taken and accepted course for new teacher trainees. It is usually taught full-time over a one-month period; sometimes, part-time over a period up to a year. Trinity offer the CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), which is usually considered equivalent to the CELTA.
Teachers usually have two or more years of teaching experience and have made a decision to stay in the profession before they take a diploma course. Those who want to move into school management or become teacher trainers usually need a diploma. UCLES offers the DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults). Trinity offers the LTCL DipTESOL (Trinity Licentiate Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). These are usually considered to be equivalent.
Some teachers who stay in the profession go on to do an MA in a relevant discipline such as applied linguistics or ELT. Note that UK master's degrees require extensive preparation and experience in the field before a candidate is accepted onto the course; in this respect they are truly to master the knowledge and skills that the candidate already has.
The above qualifications are well-respected within the UK EFL sector. However, in England and Wales, in order to meet the government's criteria for being a qualified teacher of ESOL in the Learning and Skills Sector (i.e. adult education), teachers need to have the Certificate in Further Education Teaching Stage 3 and the Certificate for ESOL Subject Specialists, both at level 4. Recognised qualifications which confer one or both of these include a PGCE in ESOL, the CELTA module 2 and City & Guilds 9488.
Teachers of children within the state sector in Britain are normally expected to hold the Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). They may choose to specialise in ELT. Teachers of adults (e.g. lecturers at universities or colleges, or teachers in private language schools) do not generally hold the PGCE.
Professional associations and unions
- TESOL Inc. is Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, a professional organization based in the United States. In addition, there are many large state-wide affiliates such as CATESOL in California and Illinois TESOL•BE
- IATEFL is the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, a professional organization based in Britain.
- Several other professional organisations for teachers of English exist at national levels such as the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT ), Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers (SPELT), BELTA in Bangladesh, SLELTA in Sri Lanka, NELTA in Nepal, and MELTA in Malaysia. Professional organisations may be bigger in structure (pan-national, such as TESOL Arabia in the Gulf states), or smaller (limited to one city or province). Some professional organisations are affiliated to TESOL or IATEFL.
- NATECLA is the National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults, a British-based organisation which is focused on teaching ESOL in Britain.
- General Union is a union for English teachers and others in the Osaka area of Japan
- National Union of General Workers is a union for English teachers and others in the Tokyo area of Japan
- Berlitz South Korea is union for English teachers at Berlitz schools in South Korea
Acronyms and abbreviations
See also: Language education for information on general language teaching acronyms and abbreviations.
- CELTA - Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
- DELTA - Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults
- EAL - English as an additional language
- The use of this term is restricted to certain countries. See the discussion in Terminology and types.
- EAP - English for academic purposes
- EFL - English as a foreign language
- English for use in a non-English-speaking region, by someone whose first language is not English. See the discussion in Terminology and types.
- EIL - English as an international language
- ELF - English as a lingua franca
- ELL - English language learner
- The use of this term is restricted to certain countries. See the discussion in Terminology and types.
- ELT - English language teaching
- ESL - English as a second language
- English for use in an English-speaking region, by someone whose first language is not English. The use of this term is restricted to certain countries. See the discussion in Terminology and types.
- ESOL - English for speakers of other languages
- This term is used differently in different countries. See the discussion in Terminology and types.
- ESP - English for special purposes, or English for specific purposes (e.g. technical English, scientific English, English for medical professionals, English for waiters).
- IELTS - International English Language Testing System
- TEFL - Teaching English as a foreign language This link is to a page about a subset of TEFL, namely travel-teaching.
- More generally, see the discussion in Terminology and types.
- TESL - Teaching English as a second language
- TESOL - Teaching English to speakers of other languages, or Teaching English as a second or other language
- See the discussion in Terminology and types.
- TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language
- TOEIC - Test of English for International Communication
- TYLE - Teaching Young Learners English
- UCLES - University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, an exam board
- YL - Young Learners. This can mean under 18, or much younger.
- Second language
- Foreign language
General language teaching and learning
- Language education
- Second language acquisition
- Applied linguistics
English language teaching and learning
- Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), for an extended discussion of travel-teaching
- Non-native pronunciations of English
- English language
- American and British English differences
- English studies
- Ruth Hayman - ESL pioneer
- List of countries by English-speaking population
- TESOL International
- International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language
- Open Directory listing of ELLT-related websites