The English teaching world is well known for its love of acronyms and TESOL and TEFL are the two most common you will come across. These two can sometimes cause confusion among trainees as it is assumed they are more different than they actually are. Firstly, let's clear up what they both stand for:
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TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
The above two acronyms are typically used interchangeably when talking about English language teaching or when referring to teacher training courses, so neither one would be considered better than the other. A TESOL course and a TEFL course are exactly the same thing as the only difference is which one you choose to put on your teaching certificate. This decision is generally down to where you are from and/or where you plan to teach. TESOL is usually more preferred as a title in the USA and Australia, while TEFL is more often used in the UK. Ultimately it is not a big decision to make as both versions will be acceptable to international employers, no matter where they are based.
Despite the fact that a TESOL course and a TEFL course are identical in content and that the acronyms can be used interchangeably, there is a technical difference between the two. In general terms it is accepted that speakers of English as a foreign language live in a country where English is not an official or commonly spoken language. In this scenario English language students do not need to speak English in every avenue of their daily lives. They have usually chosen to learn the language for their work, in order to travel, or simply as a hobby. However, speakers of English as a second language are seen to be those who do live in an English speaking country and because of this they do need to speak English to get by in their daily lives.