If you’re doing your TEFL certification or a recent TEFL graduate, you may be wondering what this alphabet soup means. TTT? TESOL? CLT? Ahh! Here is a handy dictionary of all the important terms for our profession.
Is there one you’re looking for but don’t see? Think we got a definition wrong? Want to add something we missed? Leave us a comment below!
Teaching English as a foreign language/Teaching English as a second language/Teaching English to speakers of other languages
These are generally used interchangeably. If you see an ad for a TESL teacher and you have a TEFL certification, don’t be afraid to apply.
Student talk time/Teacher talk time
We want to maximize STT and minimize TTT.
Writing and speaking. Productive skills are when students produce language.
Reading and writing. Receptive skills are when students receive language.
These are things from the real world, not created for language learners. For example, a newspaper article. Students are usually excited to use these in the classroom because it shows them they can survive in an English world.
An activity where students practice a skill again and again until it is perfect. We typically use this for pronunciation practice.
This is when a teacher draws out information from students instead of giving them the answer. For example, “what do you call the building where you learn? It has a lot of classrooms.”
Activities when students have time to practice a skill within a certain set of parameters. Activities from the book or workbook are generally controlled practice.
Activities when students have time to practice a skill with little structure or input from the teacher. These are generally things like talking to a partner about a topic.
The term used when an error becomes permanent (e.g. advanced students who say “she talk”).
This means someone’s first language. You see “L1 interference” a lot. That just means someone’s first language is making acquisition hard. An example is speakers of Slavic languages who frequently forget to add articles to their nouns.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to choose one of these methods. It is acceptable to use all of them at different times when teaching different things. You can even use multiple styles in the same lesson. Don’t feel limited!
Communicative language teaching (CLT)
A style of teaching that emphasizes interaction and real-world communication.
Total Physical Response (TPR)
A style of teaching that emphasizes movement.
A style of teaching that encourages students to learn by doing real-life activities.
Grammar translation method
A style of teaching that involves memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary and translating texts.
A style of teaching that requires students discover language rules on their own after being given materials from the teacher.
A style of teaching where teachers give students the rules and examples, and then give them time to practice.
A style of teaching where students are given a task to work on in small groups.
Content and language integrated learning (CLIL)
A style of teaching where students learn English while learning other subjects (e.g. science).
Top down learning
A style of teaching that starts with a general task or presentation and gets more specific.
Bottom up learning
A style of teaching that starts with small pieces of information and builds to a larger task.
Words we use to talk about language.
These words describe something (e.g. big, green, loud).
These words describe actions (e.g. quickly, angrily).
These are connecting words (e.g. and, but, or).
These words help define nouns (e.g. a/an, the, these).
These words are people, places or things (e.g. mother, school, table).
These words replace a known noun (e.g. I, you, he, she).
These words show how nouns are connected to other words in the sentence (e.g. in, on, under).
These words are actions (e.g. walk, eat).
International exams given to test student proficiency. Which test you teach will depend on your location and where your students want to go.
This is when someone has trouble adapting to a new country.
Reverse culture shock
This is when someone experiences difficulty returning to their country after living abroad.
This is the person who supports teachers and likely creates curriculum.
The document or passport stamp that allows you to live and work in a country.
An authorization to use documents from your home country (e.g. a diploma), in your new country.
The time when a country does the bulk of their hiring. This will mostly depend on the school year in the country, but there is some variation.
A short lesson for your interviewer to show your skills in the classroom. You may be asked to do this for actual students, other teachers or only for your interviewer. They will typically assign you a topic.