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Compelling Conversations for English Teachers, Tutors, and Advanced English Language Learners

  1. The Crazy Alphabet Game of Teaching English Here, There, and Elsewhere

    December 22, 2009 by Eric Roth
    Eric Roth

    Confused by the long litany of acronyms in our fast-growing field? You’re not alone. English teachers, linguists, and school administrators must navigate an Amazon River of changing acronyms and cold, clinical terms to describe common classroom situations.

    Our field is called ESL, EFL, ELL, ELD, ESOL, and VESL. We are often known as ELT, TESOL, TEFL, and TESL, and our students prepare for standardized exams known as TOEFL, TOEIC, GRE, and SAT. This alphabet soup sometimes seems a tad absurd and more than a bit annoying. Partly inspired by the need to quickly summarize information, partly used to define insiders from outsiders, and partly mandated by government bureaucracies, education seems more prone than many other fields to creating overlapping, often puzzling acronyms. I prefer to consider myself an English teacher who helps fellow humans express their ideas and perceptions in English.

    Yet despite this sentiment, I also know that acronyms provide efficiency and often make clear important distinctions. The World Language Assessment website, a group of Wisconsin educational agencies devoted to effective language instruction, has created this useful glossary of emerging terms and even more acronyms. Do you know the Five Cs of World Language Education? Or what FLES stands for? What about the difference between a “portfolio” and “LinguaFolio”? As a longtime English teacher and ESL instructor, I found the list a useful glimpse into evolving goals, assessment language, and educational jargon.


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