Saturday, 28 November 2015

EFL, ESL or ...

English as a Foreign Language and English as a Second Language are two terms that describe how English is seen. These two terms are used to refer to those learning English as a non-native language. They learn English as a foreign language or second language.

English is learnt as a foreign language by non-natives in their own countries. English is learnt as a second language by non-natives in a ‘native’ country.  There are other definitions as well.  The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary says: “EFL refers to the teaching of English to people for whom it is not the first language; ESL refers to the teaching of English as a foreign language to people who are living in a country in which English is either the first or second language.” Confusing, isn’t it? The definitions imply that these two terms are being used interchangeably. In the words of Dr, Marcwardt, in September—October 1971 issue of The Forum, said: “English as a second language, for the most part, demands the ability to speak and comprehend; English as a foreign language may opt for reading as the principal aim.”

But these definitions do not take into account non-native countries where English IS declared as an official language which implies it’s thought of as a second language; For instance, in India, English is an official language at the Centre, is not needed for oral or written communication but required for knowledge acquisition at higher levels (Courses at higher levels are taught through local languages but they’re not popular) and is used for oral communication between those whose mother tongues are different. For another, in Ethiopia, English is not used for oral or even written communication but is very much needed for academic purposes from the sixth year of schooling. In countries like Singapore, English may be required for all purposes. In countries like France and Germany, English is NOT required for any purpose.   

The English curriculums in native and non-native countries like India do not vary much.
Department for Education, England’s English Programme of Study in National Curriculum has three components: spoken language, reading and writing; Spelling, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation are to be taught in an integrated fashion.  Interestingly enough, ‘listening’ is not seen and taught as a separate skill, requiring equal attention. There’s a glossary for the teacher.

An English Language Arts Curriculum Framework for American Public Schools consists of listening and speaking (discussion and group work and oral presentation), language study (structure and convention of modern English,  vocabulary and content development,  formal and informal English), reading  and literature, research and composition. 

National Council of Education, Research and Training, India includes three skills: speaking (listening), reading and writing with emphasis on grammar and vocabulary.
Internet wasn’t much of help when I tried to learn the English curriculum in countries like France.
Both ESL and EFL are nebulous in their descriptions and hence the acronym TESOL was born to include both TEFL and TESL and has been in vogue since the 1970s. But several others have sprung up: EAP—English for Academic Purposes, ESP—English for Specific Purposes (here we have branches like EST—English for Science and Technology), The United Kingdom, New Zealand and Ireland now use the term ‘English for Speakers of Other Languages’ (ESOL), and the expression ‘English as an Additional Language’ (EAL) is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. The United States, Canada and Australia continue to use ESL, but ‘English Language Learner’ (ELL) is now more widely used to describe a student learning ESL. EAL—English as an Additional Language is also gaining currency in these countries. Source:

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