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What Are the Differences between TEFL and TESOL?

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  • Written By: E. Reeder
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
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TEFL and TESOL — Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, respectively — are programs designed to teach English to non-native speakers. TESOL students frequently are refugees and immigrants in countries where English is spoken, such as the United States and England, though they also may need to learn the language as a job requirement after moving to another country. TEFL, on the other hand, teaches English as a foreign language in a country where it is not the predominant language, such as Japan.

TESOL students may be either traditional school-age students or adults who need to learn the English language to get by in the English-speaking country in which they live. They need regular and repetitive practice in the basics of the language so they can gain proficiency in speaking, reading and writing. Students in TESOL classes may engage in written and oral drills and be given instruction in the basic structure, rules and vocabulary of the English language.

These students also will learn some conversational English, particularly the types of words and sentences that would be useful and practical. This may include instruction on how to order food from a restaurant or conduct routine business transactions. Other English lessons may focus on enabling them to better integrate into the social, cultural and academic environment of their new country. Students in a single TESOL class might come from different countries and speak many different native languages.

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TEFL classes, in which English is taught as a foreign language, are primarily for adults who need to learn English for work or leisure purposes in a country where English is not the primary language. These students will learn basic and advanced elements of reading, writing, listening and speaking English. These courses may focus more on skills students might use to conduct international business transactions.

TEFL and TESOL courses both focus on these different skills but business English is often a focus in a TEFL course and conversational English fluency will be emphasized. While students in both TEFL and TESOL classes may speak various native languages, students in a TEFL class are likely to speak the same native language, such as Japanese or French. Teachers of both TEFL and TESOL classes must be fluent in English, but TEFL teachers often come from an English-speaking country, such as America, to teach English to students in a foreign country.

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