Difference Between EFL and ESL


EFL and ESL are terms that are commonly used for teaching or learning of English as a language by people whose first language is not English. The terms are confusing somewhat as F stands for foreign and S stands for second, but for those who are interested in teaching English to speakers of other languages, understanding the subtle differences between EFL and ESL might be crucial. This article attempts to highlight the differences between EFL and ESL, to make it easier for someone aspiring to be an English teacher to students from diverse backgrounds and locations.


EFL is an acronym that stands for English as a Foreign Language and is applicable for English teaching in countries where the majority does not speak English as a means of communication. These are countries where students are desirous of learning English because of the career prospects and also because of their desire to migrate and work in foreign countries where English is spoken. At present, South Korea, Philippines, Japan, China, Thailand etc. can be considered as hot spots to work as EFL teacher. In such places, students learn English as a subject for years and often have a good grasp of the vocabulary and the grammar but do not get enough exposure to conditions where people converse only in English. If you want to work as EFL teacher, there are countless opportunities for you in these Asian countries.


This is a term that stands for English as a Second Language and requires teaching English to students in countries where English is the basic language for communication. Canada, UK, US, Australia etc. are the countries that come under this category where English is being spoken everywhere but the students learning English are those who come from diverse backgrounds. These students need to acquire proficiency in English to cope with the requirements in education and employment circles. There are far less opportunities as ESL teacher as the number of students residing in English speaking countries having no knowledge of English is naturally low.

What is the difference between ESL and EFL?

• EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language whereas ESL is an acronym that stands for English as a Second Language.

• ESL is a term used for teaching English to non-natives in an English speaking country such as UK, US, Australia, or Canada whereas EFL is a term used for teaching English to non-natives in a non-English speaking country such as Asian countries.

• An American teaching English to Chinese students in China is an EFL teacher whereas an American teaching English to Chinese students living in US is an ESL teacher.

• The differences in EFL and ESL teaching pertain to lessons and approaches taken by the teachers.