What's The Difference Between ESL And EFL

What’s the Difference Between EFL and ESL? A Comprehensive Guide

Do you often wonder what’s the difference between EFL and ESL in learning the English language?

If you’re considering teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) or as a second language (ESL), it’s important to understand the difference between the two. While both involve teaching English to non-native speakers, there are significant differences in terms of the learners, the context, and the approach to teaching. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the difference between EFL and ESL, explore the core differences in language proficiency as well as the meticulous teaching strategies that each method requires.

Read on to get a more accurate view of these two main types of English language learning.

What’s the Difference between EFL and ESL? what's the difference between ESL and EFL

According to statistics, there are 1500 million people worldwide who are fluent in English. However, only 375 million of this figure are native speakers. It simply means that out of all the languages globally, English is the number one that most people want to learn. But one important thing that many educators and students may not be aware of is the difference between EFL and ESL despite the high demand for English teachers due to the significance of language proficiency in second language acquisition.

What is ESL?

ESL stands for English as a Second Language. This term serves as a traditional label for students who study the universal language in English-speaking countries such as the USA, Australia, and the UK. They are compelled to learn and enhance their English language skills not only inside classrooms but almost everywhere. The good thing is that ESL students have ample opportunities to practice their skills mainly because they constantly get exposed to English media. They can review news in English, have casual and meaningful conversations with colleagues, or simply socialize with the local people.

It’s also worth noting that ESL students have more substantial demands to learn English because they need it to survive. They have no choice but to practice, which strengthens their English capabilities and skills.

What is EFL?

EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language. EFL students are located in non-English speaking countries. Mostly, they learn English because it’s a part of the school curriculum or mainly because it’s the language of trade worldwide. The EFL students’ exposure to the English language is limited compared to ESL students since most of the time; they are only required to use the language inside their classrooms.

How Can English Teachers Help ESL Students Second Language Acquisition? Person in Brown Coat Holding White Printer Paper

Although ESL students have plenty of opportunities to learn the English language, having a teacher who has a proven and tested  methodologies can help ease their burden. So, if you’re one, how do you plan to help them? Here are some tips.

Provide ESL students with hands-on lessons and assistance.

If you teach a class full of immigrants, do them a favor by teaching them how to fill out necessary documents and forms. In case you have doctoral students, guide them on how to talk to the academic professors. Perhaps, you might be thinking about teaching them about proper grammar right there and then. However, keep in mind to attend to their immediate needs first and foremost.

Help them understand the country’s culture.

ESL students can come from different places. It’s pretty challenging to ask them one by one about the place they’ve come from, about their traditions and the likes. Well, there’s a time and place for that. To help your ESL students get comfortable, teach them about the cultural norms. Let’s say you’re an English teacher based in the US, and your class came from Asian countries. Tell them the basics of how they can get along with American society. Tell them how the people in your country see them as a foreign nation. You might think it’s not a critical element, but you will find that it can make all the difference in the students’ journeys in the long run.

How Can English Teachers Help EFL Students Second Language Acquisition? Woman in Pink and White Floral Shirt Standing Beside Woman in Blue Shirt

In most EFL classes, teachers use a traditional way. The learning method is carried out step by step. It includes teaching the students grammatical structures, in which the difficulty level increases depending on the students’ age or grade. But while EFL students can master the English language in class, they have limited to no chances at all in terms of practicing what they have learned. Here are some suggestions that can help you provide your students with maximum exposure to the English language.

Create ample opportunities that would require EFL students to use English orally.

EFL students need lots of practice, particularly in speaking. You can teach them about grammar, tell them to read stories or listen to English learning materials. But, the endpoint is, they would usually write down what they have learned in paper-based examinations, right? Try to ask them to converse with a native English speaker, and you would notice that most of your students would falter. To help them practice English, create learning opportunities that would require them to speak. Or conduct speaking tests. In some countries, most educators implement an English-speaking zone within learning grounds.

Give them the motivation to learn the four core skills of learning a new language.

Take time to find what things are dear to your students, such as their hobbies and passion. Create lesson plans that would tie English to the things that matter the most to them. Connect them with English communities that share the same area of your student’s interests.

Here’s more!

As an ESL teacher, you might think that your roles are limited within physical and online classrooms. Perhaps, being a guidance counselor is not your cup of tea. But since most of your students are migrants, they will need help along the way, in one way or another. They will likely approach you and tell you their problems, especially when it involves integrating themselves within the foreign community. Lending a helping hand to your students even if it is not included in your job description wouldn’t hurt. For instance, help them apply for a job or connect them with reliable immigrant assistance associations.

On the other hand, most EFL students can get their English exams perfectly. Give them a set of 50 questions, and they can nail them. However, don’t lead them to believe that English speaking should be that precise and formal at all times. Many EFL students are afraid to converse in English, thinking that it will affect their grades if they make mistakes. Yes, the end goal is to get proficient and fluent in speaking this foreign language; however, give them time to learn and guide them as they discover what is right and what is wrong. After all, they don’t get to come across a native English speaker every day, so there’s plenty of things to work out.

Be your student’s greatest support system!

EFL and ESL students need someone who can completely understand them. As a teacher, you should be patient and compassionate in teaching. You should build a connection between you and your students so that you can easily determine their strengths and weaknesses. Remember, you should not be the cause of your student’s distress and frustration. Let them know that you will guide and help them in the best way that you could. It’s a win-win situation, your students will be much attentive and open to ask questions. In your case, it would be easier for you to point out their errors. Students have different attitudes and response to your actions. Some are introverts while some are extroverts. The teacher has to encourage the students to learn and interact with each other and create a healthy learning environment.

Provide creative teaching strategies for them to enjoy learning.

EFL teachers are known to be versatile and creative. You have to balance work and fun inside the classroom by knowing how to use teaching games, jokes, and fun activities to teach, encourage, and inspire students to learn English. If you already know your student’s hobbies and interests, it’s time for you to think of ways to teach them concerning the things they love. If they love games, you can divide the class into groups and play Charades or Tongue Twisters to spice up their excitement. This way, students can learn and enjoy at the same time. You can provide nice prizes to motivate the students to do their best. As long as you’re committed to teaching, you can always think of ways to motivate your students to enjoy and learn at the same time.  

Difference between EFL and ESL: Key Takeaways

The key takeaways are that there is a significant difference between EFL and ESL, with ESL being a more immersive way of learning English. ESL students have a greater level of exposure to native English speakers and can apply what they learn in almost any situation. EFL students, on the other hand, may find it trickier to learn the universal language to its fullest extent as they are not driven by survival-related goals but rather by the desire to get high grades. This difference in motivation and drive can make teaching and keeping their focus a challenge for EFL educators. Overall, language proficiency and second language acquisition are essential factors to consider when understanding the difference between EFL and ESL.