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The Challenge & Triumph of Teaching Terms and the VGC International College TESL Certificate & Diploma Courses


The English language teaching profession has created a true ‘alphabet soup’ of terminology, acronyms and abbreviations. Here’s a quick sample:

a) Lesson approaches and frameworks:

PPP (Present-Practice-Produce)
ESAF (Engage-Study-Activate-Feedback)
TBL (Task-based Learning)
TTT (Test-teach-test)

b) Lesson planning

SWB(B)AT (Students will be [better] able to…)

c) Methodology/in the classroom

TTT (another TTT…this one is ‘Teacher Talking Time’)

d) Assessment and testing

CEFR (The Common European Framework of Reference)
IELTS (The International English Language Testing System)
TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language)
FCE (First Certificate in English)
CAE (Certificate in Advanced English)

(Students, please challenge your teachers with the above list. They should be able to identify most of them!).

In fact, the very profession faces a terminology conundrum. Colleges like VGC provide education, but which acronym suits us best?

Here are the top contenders:

1.) ESL (English as a Second Language)
2.) ELT (English Language Teaching, and/or Training)
3.) EFL (English as a Foreign Language)
4.) EAL (English as an Additional Language)

These can be fine-tuned to such items as:

5.) ESP (not that ESP)(English for Specific Purposes)
6.) EAP (English for Academic Purposes)

The term ESL is the most common one here in North America, but also the most misused. It originally referred to the special language instruction provided to immigrant children starting primary or high school after moving to an English-speaking country. In contrast, EFL was the preferred nomenclature in Europe for people learning English (and especially appealing for those who already knew two, three or more other languages and didn’t appreciate the word ‘Second’ in ESL assuming they only spoke their mother language before studying English).

However, the word ‘foreign’ has some negative connotation, so the term EAL was crafted to solve both problems. The word ‘Additional’ avoids the often false assumption that one only speaks one’s native language alongside English, and avoids the dodgy associations of the word ‘foreign’.

Everybody is happy.

Or are they?

Not really. Not yet.

We now come to the challenge of naming English-language teacher training courses. What do we call a pre-service course that trains people to become teachers who teach English to people who want to learn or improve their English?

This has traditionally been done just by sticking a letter ‘T’ in front of some, but not all of the above. Thus:

5.) TESL
6.) TELT (I’ve never heard this used)(I don’t think it exists)
7.) TEFL
8.) TEAL

So far, so good…except that #7 & #8 above are used to refer to the industry in general (‘Teaching English as a Foreign – or Additional – language, as with British Columbia’s English language teacher organization, BC TEAL) and not the training of teachers.

So we’re left with TESL. But what do the letters actually spell out? Training someone to become a teacher isn’t the same as teaching a language to someone, so TESL can’t spell “Teaching English as a Second Language”, so instead it can be rendered like so:

TESL – a course that will train you to…

Teach English to Speakers of other Languages.

As you can see, a great deal of extra information has to be added to round out the acronym – including a at the beginning, as well as the three little words ‘to’, ‘of’ and ‘other.’
whole phrase
Some colleges get rid of at least one of those ‘extra’ words by incorporating ‘O’ for ‘other’ in the acronym:


By extension, we could even add ‘to’ and ‘of’ while we’re at it to get:


Personally, I feel that ‘Tetsool’ is pretty cool, but it’s a bit of a mouthful. Even TESOL is pushing it at five letters. TESL is just four letters; streamlined and straightforward:

Therefore, we’ve arrived at two fine programs:

The VGC TESL Certificate Course and the VGC TESL Diploma Course

Sleek and classic.

In the end, the semantics of the title and the mechanics of the abbreviation are less important than the quality of training our candidates will receive on the course. They will learn all about PPP, TBL, TTT and the CEFR…but they will also move beyond the alphabet soup of the profession to reach their personal goals and inspire the next generation of learners.

Have ever asked yourself ‘How can I teach English….whether Abroad or in Canada? Look no further! If you are looking for a TESOL Certificate or a TESOL Diploma in Vancouver, our VGC TESL Diploma and TESL Certificate will give you everything you need….and more! Send us a message at for more information and find out how you can obtain an ESL teaching certificate in Vancouver. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!