English as a Foreign Language (EFL)


Indian School, Rajasthan, India
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A traditional term for the use or study of the English language by non-native speakers in countries where English is generally not a local medium of communication.

English as a Foreign Language (EFL) corresponds roughly to the Expanding Circle described by linguist Braj Kachru in "Standards, Codification and Sociolinguistic Realism: The English Language in the Outer Circle" (1985).

See examples and observations below. Also see:

Example and Observations:

  • "ESL and EFL instructional approaches differ in significant ways. ESL is based on the premise that English is the language of the community and the school and that students have access to English models. EFL is usually learned in environments where the language of the community and the school is not English. EFL teachers have the difficult task of finding access to and providing English models for their students. . . . As the number of ESL students has increased in schools across North America, more classrooms and school have become more like EFL than ESL environments."
    (Lee Gunderson, ESL (ELL) Literacy Instruction: A Guidebook to Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2009)
  • Distinctions Between ESL and EFL
    "Although ESL (English as Second Language) and EFL (English as Foreign Language) are often used interchangeably, there are unique differences between the two. . . .
    "ESL countries are nations where the medium of instruction in education and government is in English, although English may not be the native language.
    "On the other hand, EFL countries do not use English as a medium of instruction but English is taught in schools. Malaysia was once considered an ESL country but now leans more towards EFL.
    "The methods and approaches of teaching English as a second language and foreign language do differ greatly."
    (Christopher Fernandez, "Of English Teachers Then and Now." The Star [Malaysia], November 11, 2012)
    "The distinction between second language and foreign language is not, however, a sharp one, and there are cases, like Indonesia, where classification is disputable. Moreover, there is a considerable amount of variation in the roles played by second languages, for example in education, in the fields of discourse used, and in the giving of prestige or power. In India, the medium of instruction in schools was changed from English to the regional languages after Independence, and subsequently there has been a gradual process of Indianization of the universities, which at one time were all English-medium."
    (Charles Barber, The English Language: A Historical Introduction. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000)
    "Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, used to emphasize the teaching of Dutch . . .. The movement towards English as a foreign language began at independence, and English is now the main foreign language being learned in Indonesia. English is taught for eight or nine years from primary school (from Grade 4 or 5) through high school (Renandya, 2000). The main objective is to provide reading skills to enable Indonesians to read science-related materials in English."
    (Maria Lourdes S. Bautista and Andrew B. Gonzalez, "Southeast Asian Englishes." The Handbook of World Englishes, ed. by Braj B. Kachru, Yamuna Kachru, and Cecil L. Nelson. Blackwell, 2006)