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Skidmore College
The Philip Boshoff Writing Center

Terms: ELL? ESL? EAL? ... for Your Reference

Terms for English language learning and teaching remain in flux, and Skidmore uses several terms concurrently. In order to help you search for and recognize resources on campus, you should know that all the terms below are used on campus, and they all refer to essentially the same thing.

ESL/EFL: These older terms refer to the distinction of learning English as a Second or Foreign language (usually relating to whether the learner will be using the language in authentic contexts, or if English is more of a classroom exercise). Technically, the Writing Center employs "ESL" specialists, simply because that was the term du jour when those hires were made. Signage and job titles will reflect this. 

EAL: What if you know more than two languages? English as an Additional Language, a newer term, reflects this possibility.

ELL: Nice and broad, ELL can refer to English language learning or the learners themselves. You will notice this term being used on newer Writing Center documents and web pages. 

TESOL: This refers to the sub-field of linguistics that explores Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. If you are interested in learning how to support your students, you may try looking for TESOL resources rather than simply ELL/ESL resources.