ESL versus EFL

We’ve had a few listeners ask about the acronyms (abbreviations) ESL and EFL, so I thought I would talk about them briefly. Different countries and organizations use these terms differently, but I’ll tell you how they are generally used.

First, what do ESL and EFL stand for?

ESL = English as a Second Language
EFL = English as a Foreign Language

ESL is a general term used to describe anything related to learning English when English is not the learner’s first or native language. In the U.S., this term is used for people who were born in the U.S. but speak another language at home, or for people who move to the U.S. to study or live. For instance, you will find ESL students, ESL classes, ESL teachers, and ESL books.images3.jpg

EFL is generally used to describe anything related to learning English in a place where English is not spoken by the general public or by the people on the street. Many of our listeners outside of the U.S. are EFL students, studying in EFL classes that are taught by EFL teachers.

Even though it’s useful to sometimes make this distinction (difference) between ESL and EFL, many people use the term ESL for all situations, no matter where the language is being learned. That’s how we are using it here at ESL Podcast. The podcast is for English learners everywhere, no matter where you are.

So, here’s a shout out (informal “hello”) to all of our listeners, especially those in outer space.

~ Lucy images4.jpg

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11 Responses to ESL versus EFL

  1. emiliano says:

    Dear Lucy, as ever a very clear explanation, and thak you for all your good work.
    May I say you that still waiting some opinion about that writers strike?.
    But please we all need you and your scripts, so please do not strike never never never, even if you understand your colleages.

  2. Vittorio says:

    I didn’t know this difference. Thank you for this very interesting argument 🙂

  3. Oleg says:

    Thanks Lucy,
    I even didn’t think about these differences:)
    So, that means that I was EFL student a little time ago, and now I became ESL student after moving to another country where all people speak English 😉

  4. Igor Grivko says:

    Dear Lucy,

    I tnink it is no matter how we may name our lovely Podcast. The main thing I guess is its efficiency in teaching English and I am feeling it very well. I think I can understand almost every word in the “slow” part of the podcasts’ episode, and sometimes I feel that I am undestanding quite well a “quick” part as well.

    I feel that I am getting better in writing and translating too. For my work I have from time to time some pieces of techical guide to translate from Russian to English. It is for our Chinese customers and we are to use only simple words and phrases to make it easy to them.

    For instance I learnt from English Cafe a sentence “a blow-by-blow account”, and I wanted to use it in our user’s guide. But we decided to replace it to “step-by-step description” because of a reason I’ve mentioned above.

    Thank you again for your great work!

    I think it may probably be interesting to start a new blog topic about using ESL Podcast by other students (if we may call them so?). It would be interesting to know how other people use the ESL Podcast or may be how they are learning English in other ways.

  5. ESLPodcast Google Group says:

    Like these abbreviations there are similars abbreviations for the english exams, TOELF, TOEIC, IELTS…

  6. Pedro says:

    Hi, Igor,

    First, thank you for the poem you posted on the other thread. I really apreciate it and happily discovered that there are people out there who still enjoy peotry. Nowadays, the book sellers are not doing well, and sadly, even fewer enjoy poetry.

    Secondly, about ESL Podcast, I normally listen to multiple episodes in a row while running on a trail. For each run, I create a play list by mixing eslpodcasts with the song I like, such as my favorite Joni Mitchelle and James Taylor, and the other podcasts from The New Yorker and NPR. Since I am running 6 to 7 hours a week lately, I get an opportunity to listen to my ipod a lot. When do you normally listen to esl podcasts?

    Lastly, do you think in English? I often wonder what language a person thinks when he speaks in foreign tongues.


  7. Igor Grivko says:

    Hi, Pedro,

    Thank you for your kind reply. I really love poetry but I can state that I really love Pushkin and some poems by other poets. But very often I feel that the poet’s feelings (especially his love feelings) are quite different from mine. There are too many “wild” love feelings in Russian poetry.

    Esenin, for instance wrote many love poems that I really don’t like. Sometimes it sounds so that you cannot read this book to your children.

    And it is the point. When you read about martyrs (old or new Russian) you have very calm feelings, may be because of thier prayers for us, maybe because of they are in Heaven now and give us an example of carrying the cross.

    But when you read a newspaper or watch TV (it is worse) about serial killer or something like this your have diffenrent feelings – some terror, despair and so forth. Sometimes we can find in poetry some wind from Heaven but it is not very often. The beaty of the earth is the light shadow of the Heaven’s beauty I think.

    I am listening ESL Podcast mostly during my daily commutes. It takes about 1 hour one way for me. I can listen only during walking or going by bus, in our subway we have so much noise that you really cannot listen ESL Podcast – only on the stops. Some young people are listening music but I can’t. I trying to read English books, adopted or not. But I think that Podcast helps me more.

    Now I am trying to read some stories by Agatha Cristie, not adopted. I can catch only the main idea, not all details, And too many unknown words. I’ve got a phrase “I fancy”.

    I want to know what country are you from? I fancy you maybe from Spain… But you never know… I couldn’t say that I’m thinking in English. I live in Russia and I have no way to be in English environment.

    Best regards and don’t forget to have turkey for your dinner – now we are having Thanksgiving days!

  8. &rey says:

    Hi, Igor!
    I think that you can be in enlish environment in Russia when you are in the internet. Except Eslpod you can read newspapers, chart with other people all over the world.
    Jeff mentioned Voice of America as a useful source of information for english learners. So i recomend VoA site for all english language learners.
    But those things are not enought certainly. To know english we should speak in english. So thanks Jeff for the Eslpod blog.
    Andrey from Kursk, Russia.

  9. emiliano says:

    Hi Igor, I like always to read your notes, I apreciate them because it looks you as a person with faith and love, who has quite a lot of things to tell, those things so odd nowadays. I detest what we are doing with Christmas for instance, some times it is really insoportable. All is consumerism and business, but where is Jesus birthday?
    In spite of being educated as Christian in an religous school I am not practising, and I have lack of faith, but I do like persons with faith and values, because I would like to have them. I nedd to know that there is something more that this world.
    May I ask you how old are you?. I am more than 60 years old as you may imagine. Agatha Christie is splendid to read, I did it some years ago and liked them a lot. Also as there are so many dialogues it is more easy to understand. But also there are lots of new words in her novels that sometimes it is not neccesary to understand all of them.
    I listen podcast usually at home doing homework like washing up, cleaning, cooking, etc. and all is more easy.
    Best wishes

  10. Igor Grivko says:

    Hi Andrey,

    It is nice to hear from you! We may communicate using English – it is great! Of course I was listening to VOA Special English and I remain some American stories from VOA on my MP3 player.
    The main problem for me is lack of time. I am 38 years old and I have quite a big family – 5 children, so I have to work hard and to do a lot of other things – help my chidren with their homeworks, read books for my youngest daughter, to do shopping and so forth. I live in Moscow.

    Hi Emiliano,

    Thank you for you kind words. I am a Christian. We have Orthodox Church in Russia. There are not many Christians in our country that used to go to the Church every Sunday – about 4-5 percents. They are practicising as you said. I think that faith is the most important thing in the world. I have a lot of things to write but cannot get right words to explain it.

    By the way, it may be interesting as a cultural topic, In Russian Sunday has the name Resurrection (if we translated this word into English). Do you know that?
    Thank you again, God bless you.

  11. emiliano says:

    Igor I didn’t know it and I like that name for Sunday, just I am going to tell my wife, she konws a lot about Russian History and sometimes told me about your origins.
    Yes, we know that you have Orthodox Church, and I think your faith is more real that ours. We have a Greek woman friend that is also Orthodox but light difference with
    the Russian Church.
    When Franco was here in Spain, we were teached that in Russia there was not Religion, that all people were comunist, that they do not have any Religion ¿can you imagine that silly thing?. There are so many lies all over the world. And politics do think that people are so stupid as to belive what they wanted to be belived.
    You are a very busy father, 5 children, I can’t imagine. I had 3 daughters and I was very happy with them, just when they were children. Are your children blonded? blue eyes?
    or brown like spaniards?
    Yes, I think like you that is so difficult to tell things that are inside just in our own lenguage, so in other different lenguage quite impossible sometimes.
    We do need to improve our English with Jeff and Lucy. Thank you Igor, you are lucky with so big family, my best wishes to all of you.

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