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Thread: EFL vs ESL

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    Default EFL vs ESL

    I've only taught ESL/ELD in CA. Can anyone comment/ give insights into main pedagogical differences I should keep in mind teaching now EFL in Israel? One thing i'm noticing so far is a focus on reading and writing, but not on the verbal skills - the system is very academic focused, very "pass the test!" which is new for me. I'm in a high school and they're teaching to the test, whereas I've only taught where that concept is nearly taboo. Keep in mind, our students typically did pretty poorly on profiency exams, so perhaps I've got some learning to do myself...

    Ordinarily, I'd want to group them heterogeneously and get them using and personalizing the language, whereas I'm seeing that's not done in the two schools i've been in (admittedly limited experience). Does anyone know of a reason I might not want to do that? They tend to read a text, perhaps topical news or business related, then answer comprehension questions independently. Their verbal skills are quite significantly behind their reading and listening skills. They rarely use i like, I have, do you...?

    Any suggestions, and reasons why I should stick with their program would be appreciated. One teacher told me the difference is that it's taught as a foreign language, and ssshhhh, I didn't really grasp the significance. I mean, I do, but what does that mean in my approach to teaching?
    thx!

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    Default Re: EFL vs ESL

    Hello rbiton

    ESL is known as English for survival, whereas EFL is known as English for fun, which, of course, isn't really the case at all, but that's the view held by some.

    What you will be teaching is called EAP: English for academic purposes, or rather for academic survival. The focus is on reading and writing because students will need to read in English and write papers in English. That the other major skills, oral (speaking) and aural (listening), are not in primary focus has to do with the reality that most, if not all students, will attend a university in their native language, say, Hebrew: the professors will speak Hebrew, so the students needn't--it's believed--learn to converse in English, or for that matter learn to comprehend spoken English because the the lectures will be in Hebrew, not English, and any materials they come across such as books, essays, and so on, will be--it's assumed--in the standard dialect, which is why the standard, or "textbook English" is taught. So you see, getting the students to personalize the language, would defeat the purpose of EAP--again, it's assumed. It wouldn't actually, but then again, the whole point of teaching English in school is to focus on the academic side. It's similar to studying a language in university. You're taught how to read and write it so that you can read and write in that language at a master's and/or PhD level. In the case of high school, passing the English test is paramount to getting into many universities. Whether a student goes on to study English is neither here nor there.

    In teaching "EFL", remind yourself that you are teaching EAP. Help the students navigate their way around the language so they can pass the tests, and do it in a way that has both you and your students enjoying your time together. Find out what they need to know to pass the tests and, above all, teach it! That's your goal.

    In closing, one of the major hurdles, if not the major hurdle in teaching English in the school system is that most of the students don't care and don't want to be there, which has the teachers feeling that way too. My advice to you is this. Teach your curriculum but do it in a way that has your students interested: find a way to invest them. For example, why should they learn English? To pass a test? Certainly not, but that's your objective nonetheless. What about, say, "Today, we're going to practice the past tense by translating a Hebrew song into English." Would that invest them a little?

    The bottom-line is know your audience. Find out what interests them. It'll make your job teaching EAP in the school system that much more worth your efforts.

    All the best.

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    Default Re: EFL vs ESL

    Quote Originally Posted by rbiton View Post
    I've only taught ESL/ELD in CA. Can anyone comment/ give insights into main pedagogical differences I should keep in mind teaching now EFL in Israel? One thing i'm noticing so far is a focus on reading and writing, but not on the verbal skills - the system is very academic focused, very "pass the test!" which is new for me. I'm in a high school and they're teaching to the test, whereas I've only taught where that concept is nearly taboo. Keep in mind, our students typically did pretty poorly on profiency exams, so perhaps I've got some learning to do myself...

    Ordinarily, I'd want to group them heterogeneously and get them using and personalizing the language, whereas I'm seeing that's not done in the two schools i've been in (admittedly limited experience). Does anyone know of a reason I might not want to do that? They tend to read a text, perhaps topical news or business related, then answer comprehension questions independently. Their verbal skills are quite significantly behind their reading and listening skills. They rarely use i like, I have, do you...?

    Any suggestions, and reasons why I should stick with their program would be appreciated. One teacher told me the difference is that it's taught as a foreign language, and ssshhhh, I didn't really grasp the significance. I mean, I do, but what does that mean in my approach to teaching?
    thx!
    I agree with your suspicion that their programme is inferior to your own previous approaches. Focussing on reading and writing is a failed approach (used in Japan and Korea for decades -- thank goodness China has abandoned it). It's used where teachers lack the confidence to speak.

    Take advantage of your Californian upbringing, and get them using the language!

    That's the only real way fluency. It's like the Yamaha approach to music. Could you imagine learning music theory for three years before you tickled the ivories even once? Yuck!

    Written English is not a language, it's just a code. Spoken English is the language, and learning it is the point. After this, reading and writing will have a purpose and will become what they should be -- a pale reflection of the spoken word.

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    Default Re: EFL vs ESL

    Dear Konungursvia,

    I like every thing you write.

    I hear on this site a lot of comments from people who use language in such a way that makes me think they've forgotten the purpose of communication at all - and it ISN'T to be right, linguistically. Many here sound like quite unpleasant people with some real issues - reminscent of the "Soup Nazi" on Seinfeld. Is the purpose to order the soup in the proper manner or is it to please your customers with delicious soup so that they'll come back for more and you'll stay in business?

    In the interview for this job I mentioned how I am surprised that so few speak the language in class and they don't use that as a tool for learning, and one of the men in the interview, native Israeli, commented that yeah, the teachers are embarrassed to speak it. And I was surprised. Naively, no doubt. That made perfect sense, and you seem to second that. Once they leave the country and LIVE English, they blossom in their verbal skills, but I suppose as Soup points out above, the practical goals of the program are to appear proficient in English for academic purposes. I suppose I'll have to balance the two approaches, somehow.

    thanks!

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    Default Re: EFL vs ESL

    Thanks for your comments. Indeed, many of us find the soup-nazi's comments and indictations tiresome.

    I taught EAP as well (for the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension), but high school English is not really that, unless you're in a country like the UK or Germany that separates its pre-university flock from the masses of non-academic kids.

    EAP is all about academic papers. I wouldn't inflict that on the average fifteen year old.

    Good academic preparation is important for university, but the main purpose of foreign language learning is merely to broaden the mind of the pupil in ways only language acquisition can.

    Their brains are raw iron, and the foreign language is the anvil. You're the hammer. Pound some intelligence into them.

    I find that as long as they are enjoying themselves, and are actually producing English constantly with their own mouths, you've done your job (at the secondary level).

    If they aren't having fun, and it doesn't relate to their personal experience, they will forget you and your lessons within six months.

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    Default Re: EFL vs ESL

    A nice intelligent thread with helpful comments - thank you contributors!
    Yes as someone said here - get your students talking, rather than talking yourself.

    Here's an article on some differences between EFL and ESL and there may be some useful ideas in it for your classes. It's interesting, though it does generalise quite a bit about the two types of learners, and really each learner is an individual with his or her own requirements.

    EFL_And_ESL_Learners.htm

    Kind regards
    Shelley

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    Default Re: EFL vs ESL

    Hi Soup,

    I've been stewing (haha) about your reply to my question about teaching ESL vs EAL and find my time in the classroom has added to your insights. Teaching English the way you suggest, seems to be the best - both for the purposes of fulfilling the objectives of the ministry of ed. and my own in keeping my boss happy. However, it's frankly, hard! And boring!

    Reading out of a text while they read along, or rather skim forward and hurriedly answer the comprehension questions, feels like misery. They don't like it and neither do I. Unfortunately, as good as your idea is about translating the lyrics, my Hebrew isn't good enough to deal with whatever they produce.

    I'm thinking of breaking them up into groups, doing the jigsaw approach to the questions and answers, exercises etc, and have the share in small or large group - thereby satsifying my need to have them speaking at least somewhat. I figure this will move things along faster and then maybe we can get to something more interesting like having them at least write on their own. Maybe do research and write, summaries, compare and contrast, etc. What do you think? You seem much more able to do what you're expected to than I, but I really know I must be like that, too. I do need this job and another one it may lead to. I'm only a maternity-leave replacement so you can imagine my desire to do a good job. Like I said, it's so foreign to my previous way of teaching, and unfun for us all. If you have other ideas to at least get em going, and not do passive learning, i welcome your suggestions.

    best,
    rut

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    Default Re: EFL vs ESL

    Quote Originally Posted by barbarajohnson View Post
    Hey, thanks to all you people for updating my knowledge.
    This subforum is for discussing teaching English, not for posting links to your favorite website.


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    Talking Re: EFL vs ESL

    That's actually an interesting thread..
    When everyone is asked for their inputs I would like to give my two cents:
    1.) EFL: English as a Foreign Language - Is used when a teacher is teaching English in a non English Speaking country to students for whom English is a Foreign Language.
    2.) ESL: English as a Second Language - Is used when a teacher is teaching English in a English Speaking country to students for whom English is a Second Language.

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