Articles for Students: TESOL

TESOL Programs   - 
ATC - Advanced College of Languages and Training Canada
© Alex Shenassa. Permission is granted to individual teachers to make copies of the article below for classroom teaching.

TESOL, TESL, or TEFL? What's the difference anyway?

By Alex Shenassa

So you want to teach English and travel the world… but what kind of certification do you need? Perhaps like many you've been surfing the internet trying to come to a clear understanding, and found that the more you search, the more confusing it all seems… here's a brief explanation:

There were slight variations in the perception of the terms TESOL, TESL, and TEFL when they were first introduced years ago, but in today's ESL world, they are used interchangeably to basically mean the same thing: teaching English to people whose native language is not English. The acronyms stand for:

TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
TESL = Teaching English as a Second Language.
TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

During recent years, the term TESOL has gained more popularity in North America and many parts of Asia, particularly in Korea, China, and Japan, and it continues its growth in other parts of the world. The terms TESL and TEFL are also recognized internationally.


Alex Shenassa is a writer, teacher trainer, and the director of ATC Advanced College of Languages and Training Canada.