Glossary of TEFL & TESOL Terms

One of the most common questions we're asked is the difference between TEFL, TESOL, TESL and CELTA.

Here's the answer!

This is a simple glossary of terms used by teachers of English. Each word or phrase has a short explanation and many are linked to more detailed articles on the subject.

Note this glossary is for language teaching, for English Grammar & Language terms, see here.

TEFL/TESOL Glossary

1-to-1‏‎ (one to one) - teaching a single student often as a private lesson

academic year‏‎ -  the school year, often September to June, when the school is open for learning

accreditation - how a qualification is monitored and checked

acquisition - learning a language

action mazes - decision making activity for students

advanced - high student level (cf Beginners, Intermediate)

antonyms‏‎ - opposites (e.g. good/bad)

apostilles‏‎ - official government stamps confirming the validity of a document

applied linguistics - the use of academic study in real life teaching

audio-lingual method - a teaching method where students first hear, then speak, then read, then write a language

aural - to do with hearing

authoring‏‎ - being able to add your own new content to educational software

backpacker teacher - an unqualified and low-quality teacher of English

beginners - starting student level (cf Intermediate, Advanced)

behaviorism - a teaching method of stimulus/response

bilingualism - speaking 2 languages perfectly

body language‏‎ - how gestures can convey meaning (e.g. nodding a head or smiling)

business English - English specifically for business

CALL‏‎ (Computer Assisted Language Learning) - using computers in the classroom

Callan Method - a proprietary audio-lingual method of teaching

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) - a high-end TEFL certificate

classroom focus - whether the class is student centered or teacher centered

classroom management - keeping discipline and ensuring a well run classroom

CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) - teaching English through teaching other subjects (e.g. science, geography)

cloze tests - tests where students need to find missing words (aka gap-fill)

collocation‏‎ - how words are commonly found in similar contexts

communicative language teaching - method of teaching which emphasizes communication (as oppose, for example, grammatical accuracy)

competency-based approach - training students to perform specific tasks

computational linguistics - using computers to analyze language

concept checking - a way of checking that students have understood the lesson

concordancer - software which allows you to see examples of how a word is used in everyday English

contact hours - the number of hours actually spent teaching a class (as oppose to marking, preparing lessons, etc)

content based instruction - see CLIL

converse terms - two words describing the same thing but from opposite sides, e.g. give/take, lend/borrow

cooperative learning - learning in groups

corpus‏‎ - a collection of texts which can be searched by a concordancer

criminal records check - official document showing any convictions, etc; sometimes needed to secure work (aka police clearance)

culture shock - the anxiety often felt by teachers in a new country

curriculum - the plan of work to be followed through the course

deductive teaching - giving students grammatical rules so they can produce language (opposite of inductive teaching)

deficit paradigm - a theory on why some students fail

DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) - a higher level teaching qualification after a TEFL certificate

dictation - reading out a text and having your class write down what you read out

direct method - teaching method emphasizing repetition of words/phrases

discourse analysis - the study of language in use

discovery teaching - giving students language and working with them to come up with grammatical rules (aka inquiry or inductive teaching)

dogme - teaching through conversation

DoS - Director of Studies - the school academic manager

drilling - simple repetition in class of certain words & phrases to be learned

EAP- English for Academic Purposes - English for students going to university, etc

EFL - English as a Foreign Language‏‎ - what we teach to learners in a non-English speaking country

eliciting - teaching by asking questions

elision - slurring or losing sounds when speaking

ELF - English as a Lingua Franca

ELT‏‎ (English Language Teaching) - what we do

EPIK - a government program for teachers to work in South Korea teaching English

error correction - the theory and practice of how to correct a student's errors

ESL‏‎ (English as a Second Language) - what we teach to learners in an English speaking country (cf EFL)

ESOL - English to Speakers of Other Languages

ESP (English for Special Purposes) - specialized English teaching

etymology - the study of the history of language

euphemism - a word used to avoid using an offensive or rude word

false friends - words which seem the same in two different languages but which have very different meanings

fillers - short activities to fill 5 minutes at the end of class

flashcards - cards with pictures/words, etc, used to ask questions in class

FCE (First Certificate English) - a common exam for students learning English

focus - whether the class is student centered or teacher centered

fluency - the ability to speak well (although not necessarily accurately)

fossilization - errors embedded in a speaker and difficult to change

functions - language used to perform a task

full immersion - English only in the classroom (aka total immersion)

gap fill - tests where students need to find missing words (aka cloze tests)

gap year - taking a year off between High School and University to travel/teach abroad

general English - everyday English (as oppose to Business English, EAP or ESP, etc)

generative grammar - a method of studying how grammar works

grammar translation - method of teaching where everything is translated into the students' MT

homework - work done by the student at home

homographs - words which are spelled the same but with different meanings & sometimes pronunciation

homophones - words which sound the same but with different meaning & spelling

IATEFL - major organization for TEFL

ice breaker - an activity to help students get to know each other at the beginning of a new class

inductive teaching - giving students language and working with them to come up with grammatical rules (aka inquiry or discovery teaching)

inflection - changing the basic form of a word to show a different grammatical function

innatism - the idea that we are born with a certain ability to understand language

intermediate - medium student level (cf Beginners, Advanced)

intonation - rising and falling levels, pitch, tone, etc in a sentence to show meaning

IPA - International Phonetic Alphabet - an alphabet used to show how words are pronounced

jargon - technical words

JET - a government program for teachers to work in Japan teaching English

L1 - the students' MT

L2 - the target language TL

language item - a specific piece of language to be taught in a lesson

language register‏‎ - the subset of language used in different social circumstances

language skills - reading, writing, listening, speaking

learner-centered - see student centered

lemma - the basic form of a word

lesson target - the specific item of language or language skill to be taught or practiced in a lesson

lexeme - the smallest unit of language with a meaning

lexical approach‏‎ - an approach to teaching where words are of paramount importance (as oppose to grammar, for example)

lexical chunk - a group of words learned as a whole

lexis - words

mnemonics - a shortcut to remember a set of words, etc

monolingual - speaking only one language

morpheme - the smallest unit of language which has a meaning

morphology‏‎ - the study of words and how they are formed

mother tongue‏‎ (MT) - the language we first learn

mother tongue (MT) influence - how our MT influences a second language

multilingual - speaking many languages

multiple-choice - exercises where students have to choose one of several possible answers

n-grams - a type of concordancer which shows how words are used

native speakers - those who speak English as an MT or First Language

needs analysis - analyzing the needs of the student in order to prepare a syllabus or lesson

neologisms - new words which have just been coined

non-native speakers - those who do not speak English as an MT or First Language

one-to-one‏‎ - teaching a single student often as a private lesson

open-ended question - a question which cannot be answered in one word

palindromes‏‎ - a word or phrase which reads the same when reversed

paraphrasing - simplifying and then repeating language

peer correction - having other students in the class correct work (and not the teacher)

phoneme - the smallest unit of spoken language with meaning

phonetics - the study of sound in language

phonology - the sound system of a language

pidgin - a simplified form of language which develops between two groups trying to communicate and with not language in common

police clearance - official document showing any convictions, etc; sometimes needed to secure work (aka criminal records check)

process writing - a way of writing requiring preparation & thought

production - speaking or writing

private lessons (or privates) - teaching students outside the school; often these are one-to-one

realia - using real objects in class

recasting - immediately giving the correct version when a student makes a mistake

recruiters - an agent who gets teachers to work in schools

role playing - acting in small scenes in class to practice language

rote learning‏‎ - learning parrot fashion (repeating but not always understanding)

second language - a new language learned (not the MT or first language)

second language acquisition - the general field of learning a second language

semantic field - a group of words which have a general theme in common, e.g. colors

semantics - the study of meaning

silent period - time when students do not speak English

silent way - a method of teaching where students listen for a long time before speaking

skills - reading, writing, listening, speaking

skimming‏‎ - reading very loosely across a text to find something

slang - informal words

split shifts - working a few hours in the day in the morning, having several hours break and then a few hours in the evening

stress - how certain parts of words are pronounced more strongly

student centered - lessons biased towards the needs of the students

study skills - skills involved in analyzing language, note taking, etc, that EAP students may well need

survival English - basic English necessary to live in a new country

syllable‏‎ - a small unit of spoken language

syllabus - the general overview of the course for a term

synonyms - words with the same meaning

Taboo Words - rude or offensive words/phrases

TALK - a government program for teachers to work in Korea teaching English

target language‏‎ - the language being taught (in our case this is English)

task based language learning - method of teaching to get students to perform certain functions with the language

teacher centered - lessons biased towards the needs of the teacher

teaching English online - teaching English through Skype, etc, to students in a different location

teaching portfolios - a 'diary' where a teacher records ideas, feedback, achievements, etc

teacher talking time (TTT) - the amount of time a teacher talks in class

TEFAL (Teaching English For A Laugh) - the lighter side

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) - teaching English to people in a non-English speaking country

TEFL Certificate - the basic qualification to teach English; also known as a TESL or TESOL certificate

TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language

TESL Certificate - the basic qualification to teach English; also known as a TEFL or TESOL certificate

TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TEYL (Teaching English to Young Learners) - teaching to under 10s.

timelines - diagrams of how verbs are used to talk about events in time

TESOL Certificate - the basic qualification to teach English; also known as a TEFL or TESL certificate

TOEFL - an American exam taken by students learning English

TOEIC - a British exam taken by students learning English

total immersion - English only in the classroom (aka full immersion)

TPR (Total Physical Response) - method of teaching which involves student activity in class

utterance - the written equivalent of a sentence

vocabulary - words

voiced and voiceless - two ways sounds are produced, e.g. /f/ or /v/

volunteering - the teacher paying a middleman to work in a school; it should be the other way around

word frequency - how common different words are in everyday use

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