TESL Short for Teaching English as a Second Language. Also ESL alone. The teaching of English to non-native learners in countries where it has an established role, such as India, Nigeria, and Singapore, and to immigrants to English-speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US. The terms (T)EFL, (T)ESL, TESOL emerged after the Second World War, and in Britain, no distinction was made between (T)ESL and (T)EFL before 1950, both being subsumed under ELT (English Language Teaching). ESL and TESL are usually pronounced ‘ee-ess-ell’ and ‘tessel’. The terms apply in particular to two types of teaching that overlap but are in many ways distinct: Commonwealth ESL and Immigrant ESL.
Commonwealth ESLIn this sense, ESL is a major activity in many non-white countries of the Commonwealth, especially where English is official and/or a language of higher education and professional opportunity. It has been largely confined to school-age pupils, often in English-medium schools, and methods have been influenced by developments in language education and methodology generally, especially since the Second World War. It relates in the main to work undertaken not in Britain itself (apart from courses for teacher trainers), but in such countries as India, Nigeria, and Singapore. It assumes that the learners will encounter English outside the classroom and expects to achieve adequate levels of ability. By and large, emphasis on the acquisition of BrE Received Pronunciation has declined and an educated local accent and pronunciation are often the acknowledged target. An English-language examination is usually part of the school-leaving qualifications and teacher training is usually the responsibility of departments and colleges of education. Most teachers have a degree, and the emphasis in their training is on classroom techniques rather than linguistic theory. British EFL and Commonwealth ESL have much in common.
Immigrant ESL in North AmericaThe teaching of ESL for immigrants to the US and Canada has a different tradition. It is concerned principally with adults and the need for learners to be integrated into local life. Waves of immigrants since 1945, especially from Asia and Latin America, have created a great demand. Local communities, particularly in the larger cities, offer adult courses and make provision for non-English-speaking children in schools. Many universities have instituted MA courses in related subjects and created centres for teaching and for research and development. In addition, many countries have looked to the US and Canada for assistance with teacher training. Some universities have therefore set up links with centres in other countries, and a number of in-country projects in English-language training and teacher education have been undertaken in such countries as Peru, the Philippines, and Thailand, with help from such bodies as the Ford Foundation or with government sponsorship. Because many US immigrants are refugees, their ESL teacher may be the only representative of society they can relate to without arousing their fears of authority. This gives a quality of social service to much North American ESL, especially in larger cities, and has led to characteristics not found elsewhere: (1) A sense among teachers that their students need special care because of past or present experiences, resulting in efforts to establish warm relationships in the classroom. (2) The promotion by some teachers of holistic methods that link a concern for the student as a whole person to the teaching of ESL. Such teachers typically have an MA degree in which linguistics and research figure prominently. While practical training is included, classroom methodology is usually secondary to academic content.
Immigrant ESL in BritainImmigrants to the UK are in the main from Commonwealth countries, principally the West Indies and West Africa (where English and English-based creoles are spoken), Uganda (mainly South Asian traders), South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), and Hong Kong, where English is widely used in the community. ESL work includes both school-age children and adults, including literacy for women. ESL teachers are mainly teachers of the mother tongue who have received special in-service training. How much and how effective this training is depends on where they work; the London and Birmingham areas currently provide the most thorough training. Because many people of West Indian background speak standard West Indian English in addition to English-based creoles, they have been classified as speakers of English rather than as second-language learners, a factor that can lead to the disregarding of language issues in schools where standard English is the expected norm. Until the mid-1980s, ESL was often taught in separate classes or language centres (where the numbers justified such provision). However, this procedure came to be widely regarded as divisive, even racist, as it cut ESL learners off from the rest of the curriculum. After a court case by the Commission for Racial Equality in 1986, integrated classes became the norm, requiring ESL to become an element in the training of all teachers rather than the concern of only a few. ESL classes are also provided for adults in further education colleges, and by a range of voluntary groups providing individual home-based teaching. Increasingly, ESL teachers have concerned themselves with political issues arising from the status of many learners. In the 1980s, activists from minority groups became increasingly involved, determined to associate LANGUAGE LEARNING more strongly with minority rights. The successive renamings of one association from Association for Teaching of English to People of Overseas Origin (ATEPO) to National Association for Multiracial Education to National Anti-Racist Movement in Education (both NAME) illustrate this shift. See ENGLISH TEACHING, LANGUAGE TEACHING, TEIL, TESD.
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