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Encyclopedia > English as a Second Language

English as an additional language is used to refer to the learning of English by speakers of other languages. The term is commonly abbreviated to EAL. In British usage, this is also simply called English language teaching or ELT. EAL covers both ESL -- English as a second language, and EFL -- English as a foreign language.


Types of EAL

ESL refers to the learning of English within an English-speaking region, generally by refugees, immigrants and students. (The term has been criticised on the grounds that English may not be someone's second language but their third, fourth, or more.) TESL is the teaching of English as a Second Language.

EFL indicates the learning of English for eventual use in a non-English-speaking region. It can occur either in the student's home country (think of millions of schoolchildren around the world, sweating to achieve the level necessary to read this page as fluently as you are doing now), or, for the more privileged minority, in an anglophone country which they visit as a sort of educational tourist, e.g. after graduating from university back home. TEFL is the teaching of English as a Foreign Language.

If you find all these acronyms confusing, it may help to simplify. ESL tends to concentrate on English for daily needs and for living in an English-speaking community. EFL tends to concentrate on English for academic success (whether in the local school exam system, or for post-graduate study abroad), on exams, and sometimes on using English at work, i.e. within an office where English is sometimes needed.

Part of the confusion is created by the funding structure. Again, as a gross generalisation, in English-speaking countries such as Canada and Britain, the government pays for ESL to integrate newcomers into the wider society, and the individual student or his sponsor (parents, boss) pays for EFL.

It is worth noting that ESL/EAL/EFL programs also differ depending on the variant of English being spoken; "English" is a term that can refer to various dialects, including British English, North American English, and other dialects. For example, students studying ESL/EFL in Hong Kong are more likely to learn British English, especially British idioms, which may make travel to the United States marginally more complex for them, as North American English uses very different idioms and slang. For this reason, many teachers of English as a foreign language now emphasize teaching English as an international language (EIL), also known as English as a lingua franca (ELF).

EAL-related associations

  • TESOL Inc. is the international professional organization of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, based in the United States.
  • IATEFL is the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, based in Britain.

Common European Framework for Languages

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).

The Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) took the CEF levels and developed a series of "can-do statements" which describe what a learner should have achieved at each level. ALTE calls the steps "level 0 - 5" rather than using the CEF terminology.

This table compares EFL exams according to the ALTE/CEF levels:

ALTE level CEF level IELTS exam BEC exam and CELS exam Cambridge exam Pitman ESOL TOEIC TOEFL
Level 5 C2 7.5+ - CPE Advanced 910+ 276+
Level 4 C1 6.5 - 7 Higher CAE Higher Intermediate 701 - 910 236 - 275
Level 3 B2 5 - 6 Vantage FCE Intermediate 541 - 700 176 - 235
Level 2 B1 3.5 - 4.5 Preliminary PET - 381 - 540 126 - 175
Level 1 A2 3 - KET Elementary 246 - 380 96 - 125
Breakthrough level A1 1-2 - - Basic - -

See also

External links

  • Directory of EAL sites (http://dmoz.org/Arts/Education/Language_Arts/English/English_as_a_Second_Language/) at the Open Directory Project
  • ESL Headquarters (http://www.eslhq.com)
  • Internet ESL Journal (http://iteslj.org/)
  • ESL Activites and Curriculum (http://www.efl-esl.com/)
  • Teacher Resources (http://www.esl-lounge.com/)
  • Association of Language testers in Europe, ALTE (http://www.alte.org/index.cfm)

  Results from FactBites:
English As a Second Language and English Literacy Development > Ministry of Education (13003 words)
Although a student may leave formal ESL or ELD classes and become completely integrated into the mainstream program within two or three years, the student’s progress should continue to be monitored until he or she has demonstrated a level of proficiency in English similar to that of English-speaking peers.
Second-language learners need access to their first language as a tool for learning and thinking, at least until they are sufficiently proficient in the second language to use it for a wide range of academic purposes.
ESL and ELD teachers therefore need to be aware of the expectations in other subject areas so that they can design relevant units of work for their students.
  More results at FactBites »



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