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English as a second language

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English as a second language is a common phrase which has related acronyms, including

  • ESL, which means "English as a Second Language".

This is most often used in a country where English is the primary language

  • EFL, which means "English as a Foreign Language".

This is most often used in a country where English is not the primary language

  • EAL, which means "English as an Additional Language".

This is seldom used.

  • ESOL, which means "English for Speakers of Other Languages".

This is rare. Each of these acronyms means roughly the same thing. In each, the learners already have another native or "mother" language, and they want to learn English as well.


The teaching of English as a second language has a long history. For example, the official introduction of English into India's education system began in 1835.[1]


English as a second language is the single most popular subject in the world, after mathematics. English is a very important language in business. Many people study English as a foreign language, because they want a better job. English is also very important in education. Many pages on the internet are in English.

Many people who can not go to English language classes study on the internet, using websites like BBC Learning English.

Many people study English in a country where the people speak English. This way, many students learn listening and speaking English better.


There are many English exams. These English exams are important for learners. They may show how well a person can use English. It is very difficult to compare different English exams. Every exam is a little different. Read Testing English as a foreign language for more information.

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