promotion image of download ymail app


so i want to know whats the difference between (Esl) English as a second language and (Tesl) Teaching English as a Second Language and (Efl) english as a foreign language (Tefl) teaching english as a foreign language

does it really matter? i want to teach abroad so which of these should i be pursuing as a career choice to teach in a place like japan. all i have seen is Esl as classes to take i havent seen TEFL. what should i do.


i get the TEFL part but in college am i suppose to get a bachelors on ESL or what ? i honestly have not seen EFL as a choice in college classes.

6 Answers

  • Favorite Answer

    the difference between ESL and EFL is actually pretty simple.


    If you are a Japanese student who is living in an English-speaking country and studying English, English would be your second (the's the 's' in ESL) language. Your first language, or mother tongue, being Japanese. You would study ESL in Canada, The UK, USA, etc


    If you are a Japanese student who is living in Japan and studying English, English would be a foreign (that's the 'f' in EFL) language to you. You would study EFL in Japan.

    In each of those two situations the needs of the student will be slightly different. The main difference being that the ESL student will need English to survive and conduct daily life activities. They might be in more of a hurry to master English since their life and livelihood might very well depend on it.

    Of course, the grammar, reading skills, writing skills, speaking skills, and listening skills that English students need are the same regardless of where they study them. But there may be more emphasis placed on speaking and listening skills in an ESL class since those students will need them as soon as they walk outside of the classroom. ESL classes typically focus on functions (eg: requesting information, greetings, responding to invitations, etc) and practical, real-world situations (eg: at the post office, in the supermarket, at a job interview, etc).

    In practice, unless you wish to teach at the college-level (highly unlikely unless you have a master's degree), most English schools in Japan will be delighted that you have any kind of TESL or TEFL credentials. Your manner, your character, your professionalism matter more to Japanese employers than any qualifications.

    Wow. You've just gotten a whole of good free advice...

    Source(s): 19 years teaching English (okay, EFL) in Japan.
    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    EFL and ESL are for students who want to learn to speak English. They are basically the same.

    TEFL and TESL and TESOL are all about teaching and, again, are pretty much the same.

    To teach abroad you'll need a degree (although there are still possibilities if you do not have this) and a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate to get a visa and work. As I said above, this is sometimes known as a TESL or TESOL certificate. The TEFL certificate can be taken either in-house or online at your own pace which is a much cheaper option (see

    Source(s): Introduction to Teaching English overseas: TEFL Acronyms:
    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • Tracy
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    I agree with Ian; they're similar. We certainly have a lot of acronyms in the English as a Second Language world. TESL = Teaching or Teachers of English as a Second Language TEFL = Teaching or Teachers of English as a Foreign Language We who live and teach in a country whose first language is English tend to use ESL or English as a Second Language. Countries where English is not an official language tend to refer to English as a Foreign Language, hence EFL. Where I studied teaching ESL, the program was officially referred to as TESL/FL. There are many more acronyms.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • 10 years ago

    This link provides more information about teaching ESL/EFL in Japan

    The best TESOL or TEFL certificates are TESL Canada, Trinity CertTESOL and CELTA. A BA in any area and a minimum of a 100-hour TESOL/TEFL course would provide you with the credentials and knowledge for an entry level job in Japan.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 10 years ago


    Don't worry - they all refer to pretty much the same thing! (see here:

    To get to Japan you want to make sure you have a degree, then do a TEFL/TESOL course that includes 120 hours or more of study. This can either be just online, or a mixture of online and classroom learning. You can check out courses here:

    The TEFL industry (as I think you've already realized) can be really confusing at times - you might want to download a free copy of TEFL Uncovered to get the lowdown on all the different kinds of courses, where you can teach and how to apply for jobs:

    Good luck!

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
  • 10 years ago

    If it starts with a teach, it pertains to teaching. Otherwise, it pertains to being a student. If you want to teach english abroad, there are plenty of opportunities out there, and they don't necessarily require a specific degree or credential. See my source for more info.

    • Commenter avatarLogin to reply the answers
Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.