Decoding ESL Acronyms: 8 Terms Teachers Need to Know

all star directories portion of logo with star

by All Star Staff

March 5, 2018 | ESL

foreign student in front of blackboard with esl

The world of ESL is full of similar sounding acronyms and terms that can mean very different things, so it can be difficult to navigate among the different educational and career options in the field. We’ve created this handy glossary to help you make sense of the many confusing bilingual education terms you will encounter as you earn your ESL degree and pursue your teaching career.


Bilingual Education: A method of teaching English language learners in the U.S. whereby subjects are taught in English as well as the students’ native language.


English as a Foreign Language: Another bilingual education term that refers to the English language when taught to students in non-English speaking regions or countries.


English Language Learner: A U.S. government and school system term referring to students who are learning the English language for use within an English speaking region.


English as a Second Language: A bilingual education term that refers to the English language when taught  in the U.S. to students whose first language is not English.


Teaching English as a Foreign Language: Often referred to as “travel teaching,” the act of teaching basic and/or travel English to students in a foreign country.


Teaching English as a Second Language: The act of teaching standard American English to immigrants in the U.S. who come from non-English-speaking regions.


Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages: An inclusive bilingual education term that covers teaching English as a second language (TESL) and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).


Test of English as a Foreign Language: A test in standard American English, administered to people whose first language is not English. The scores are used to determine eligibility for college or university admittance, or hiring and placement within companies or professional and governmental programs.

This is just a sampling of the bilingual education and English as a second language acronyms you will encounter in your studies. However, this list covers the most common terms you’re likely to find.

Ready to Get Started?