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A helpful guide to TEFL and CELTA acronyms.

Updated: Jan 18


A helpful guide to TEFL and CELTA acronyms
There are lots and lots of acronyms in the English teaching world - it can get confusing!

The EFL world is littered with acronyms (there’s one in this sentence already). These can sometimes get confusing. This blog hopes to help shed light on some of the most common acronyms you’ll come across when researching teaching English as a foreign language and also some useful ones to be aware of during your CELTA course;


TEFL, TESL & TESOL: Interchangeable umbrella terms used to describe the industry as a whole.


TEFLTeaching English as a Foreign Language

Usually describes teaching English to non-native speakers in countries where English is not an official language (Saudi Arabia, Japan, Colombia, Italy etc). Often abbreviated to EFL.


TESLTeaching English as a Second Language

Describes teaching English to non-native speakers in countries where English is an official language (UK, USA, Australia, South Africa etc)


TESOLTeaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Describes the industry as a whole and is used interchangeably with TEFL and TESL. Often abbreviated to ESOL.


Other acronyms used to describe parts of the industry.


CEFRCommon European Framework of Reference for languages

An internationally standardised scale or language ability with a 6 point scale, starting with beginner levels at A1 up to the most proficient level of C2. This useful page on Cambridge English’s website visualise the CEFR scale nicely.


DoS & ADoSDirector of Studies & Assistant Director of Studies

The DoS is the academic manager of a language school and is usually in charge of teacher recruitment, scheduling and coordinating of classes, teacher development, curriculum and course development, liaising with clients, marketing teams and other managers in the school. They’ll often delegate some duties to their Assistant Director of Studies to help manage the teaching team as well.


ELT English Language Teaching

Nothing more, nothing less.


GEGeneral English

Lots of language school around the world will advertise their General English courses. Lessons will cover reading, writing, speaking, listening, vocabulary and grammar in a general sense, without focusing on specific areas of English such as Business English or English for Exams.


EAPEnglish for Academic Purposes

EAP courses often have a specific academic focus and are common in universities in an English-speaking country and usually follows are more formal curriculum than GE courses.


English Language exam and course acronyms.


IELTSInternational English Language Testing System

Described by Cambridge English as ‘the world’s most popular English test for higher education and global migration’ and is designed to test the English level of people wanting to study degree courses at English speaking universities and colleges. The test includes 4 papers and scores are given from bands 1-9. Students can sometimes rely on test scores for visa purposes and the test is operated under very strict conditions.


TOEFL Test of English as a Foreign Language

Another popular test, developed in the USA, designed to test students’ language capabilities. Students will often rely on a TOEFL score for a successful application into a university in an English-speaking country.


FCEFirst Certificate in English

A Cambridge English exam, often referred to as B2 First. Accepted by many world businesses and educational institutes as proof that the holder has Upper Intermediate (B2) level English and can work independently in an English-speaking country or study on a course taught in English.


CAECertificate of Advanced English

A Cambridge English exam, often referred to as C1 Advanced. A qualification that shows universities and employers that the holder has a high level and in depth knowledge of English and can work well in an English-speaking country or on a course taught in English.


CPECertificate of Proficiency in English

A Cambridge English exam, often referred to as C2 Proficiency. The highest level of qualification administered by Cambridge for English level. Demonstrates that the holder can work at a senior level in a work of academic setting, for example of a post-graduate or PhD course.


CELTA – defined by Cambridge as a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Okay this one’s not really an acronym (although some have decided Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults is a nice fit).

The CELTA qualification is an entry level teaching English as a foreign language course which Cambridge English research shows is the most sought after English teaching qualification in the world in an EFL context. Courses can be done online or in face-to-face settings and focuses on developing practical teaching skills in. Courses can be done in as little as 4 weeks. More information about DC Teacher Training CELTA courses can be found here.


Acronyms you’ll come across on your CELTA course.


TPTeaching Practice

This is the central pillar of a CELTA course, where you practise teaching real students. On a CELTA course, each trainee teacher teaches for a total of 6 hours, usually divided into 8 or 9 lessons, each lasting about 40 minutes.


TL Target Language

Target Language is the language you aim to teach in a lesson, and no, it doesn’t just mean the English language. When we say ‘target language’, we mean the specific words, phrases or grammatical structures you’re aiming to convey to students during your lesson.


TTT Teacher Talking Time

Teacher Talking Time is quite simply the amount of time a teacher spends talking. Some teachers switch to “lecture mode” and this means that the students aren’t speaking or practising the language, and so many CELTA trainees are advised to cut down on their TTT.


STTStudent Talking Time

STT is Student Talking Time, the amount of time students spend speaking. We may not be very concerned about this in some lessons, for example if students are practising writing, or an exam task, but in most lessons, students should be speaking quite a lot so that they are practising the new language that they are learning. If students don’t speak English, they will never truly learn it!


S-SStudents to Student interaction

S-S interaction is when students work or talk in pairs or groups to each other. A communicative classroom should ideally have lots of S-S interaction.


T-STeacher to Student interaction

Teacher to Student interaction is when the teacher addresses the students in open class, maybe while clarifying a new grammar point or dealing with new vocabulary at the board. This is an interaction pattern that can be useful, but some teachers overuse it.


S-TStudent to Teacher interaction

This is when the teacher is working in open class, but the students are dominating – maybe having an open-class discussion or participating in a debate.


L1 Language 1

A student’s first or native language. A person from Brazil’s L1 is Portuguese, A person from Japan’s L1 is Japanese etc


L2Language 2

A student’s second language or a language that they are learning. Students in an EFL classroom will likely have English as their L2



Danny Wilkins graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2009 with a degree in English and Drama Studies and went on to get his CELTA qualification in Manchester in 2012.  Since then he has taught English in over 10 countries including Taiwan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Austria, before settling in the UK. Danny has previously managed one of the largest CELTA centres in the UK and is thrilled to bring CELTA courses to Birmingham, having lived and graduated in the city

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