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What is ESL (English as a Second Language)
The abbreviation ESL is used for the general designation of educational programs in English for students whose primary language is not English - so-called ESL programs

ESL (English as a Second Language) is a term for the usage and instruction of English in English-speaking countries (i.e. in countries where English is the mother tongue of the majority or the official language) of non-native speakers – i.e. for those, whose mother tongue is not English. ESL is hence neither a language certification nor a specific instructional program, but rather a comprehensive designation for the use and instruction of English. The Term ESL is more commonly used in the USA, Canada and Australia, whereas in Great Britain, Ireland and New Zealand the designation ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) is more prevalent.

De-facto synonyms for the term ESL:

  • ELL (English Language Learners)
  • EFL (English as a Foreign Language)
  • EFOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)
  • ESOL (English for speakers of other languages)

ESL in practice:

The use of the term varies; there are several similar or equivalent terms. The abbreviation ESL is used for the general designation of educational programs in English for students whose primary language is not English - so-called ESL programs. These are usually made up of courses for foreigners or non-native speakers, respectively. The courses need not only focus on the teaching of English, but may also instruct the students in related knowledge and abilities, i.e. country specific facts or cultural information. ESL programs exist for all age categories, starting at the pre-school level all the way to courses for the older generation. ESL programs usually involve English instruction in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

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Last update: 19.08.2016

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