ESL stands for English as a Second Language. It is one of many such acronyms that refer to the instruction in the English language for those whose first language is different. For example, a person whose first language is Arabic would be an ESL student if he or she came to the United States and enrolled in English classes.
ESL programs are available in public and private institutions across the United States. School children enroll in ESL programs if they are non-fluent English speakers. ESL programs for adults in community colleges, universities, and adult education programs are also available. Nonprofit organizations, informal groups and individuals also provide English lessons to both children and adults.
ESL programs are typically taught by certified, trained professionals. Training and certification may come from the institution providing the instruction, or it may come from one of several companies and schools providing ESL instruction. Public school teachers are required to take a standardized exam to teach ESL. Teachers at the college level often have master’s degrees in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, linguistics, or a similar field.
ESL differs from EFL (English as a Foreign Language) in that it focuses on individuals who are in an English-speaking country to learn to speak English fluently. EFL refers to individuals who want to learn English as a foreign language. Such students typically do not reside in an English-speaking country. Schools and institutions who hire EFL teachers outside an English-speaking country typically have less rigorous educational standards for their teachers.
Some hire or accept volunteer teachers whose first language is English, not caring about education. Others require a TEFL/TESL/TESOL certification (Teaching English as a Foreign/Second/to Speakers of Other Languages) of at least 40, 60, 100 or 120 hours. Others want a bachelor’s degree or higher in any subject and the ability to speak English, while others want bachelor’s or master’s in a linguistics, English or related subject.