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TEFL Glossary

You may come across some of these terms during your TEFL career, or you may not, but either way, knowledge is power, so take a peek at this informative piece sourced from (a fun site full of awesomeness).

academic coordinator

person who maintains and develops academic courses and programs; supports teachers

academic year

the start and end date of the school year; ESL/EFL often has continuous enrollment even throughout the summer


a particular way of pronouncing a language, especially when associated with a given country, region or social class


has official approval from a reliable body; some TEFL courses/certificates are accredited


student (or teacher) adaptation to a new culture; many believe this is necessary in order for learning to occur in a foreign country


the act of gaining skills and understanding

active listening

structured listening in which the listener confirms (in own words) what has been understood

active voice

a direct form of expression where the subject acts or performs the verb

e.g. “The cat licked the child’s hand.” (see “passive voice”)

additive model

theory that language proficiency relies on the acquisition of the first and second language


one of the nine parts of speech that describes or “modifies” a noun or pronoun, for example:

· Mary has black hair.

· He is handsome.

adjective clause

(also called “adjectival or relative clause”)

a clause that contains a subject, verb and relative pronoun (or adverb) and acts like an adjective

e.g. “whose blue eyes were watching”


(also called “modifier”)

a word, clause, or phrase that modifies or qualifies a verb or noun; when removed the sentence is still grammatically correct (see “complement”)


one of the highest levels for English learners


one of the nine parts of speech that describes or “modifies” a verb, adjective or another adverb, for example:

· They ran quickly.

· She is very rich.

· John works really slowly.

adverbial clause

a dependent clause that acts as an adverb and indicates such things as time, place, or reason

e.g. “Although we are getting older, we grow more beautiful each day.”


the sense of being part of a community within the classroom


an addition to the base form or stem of a word that modifies its meaning or creates a new word:

· prefixes occur at the beginning (eg pre– in preheat)

· suffixes occur at the end (eg -ation in exploration)


a speech sound characterized by a “stop” (no air flow) followed immediately by a “fricative” (slow release of air that creates friction)

e.g. “ch” from “chair”


(also known as “concord”)

logical (in a grammatical sense) links between tense, case, or number

e.g. “subject verb agreement”


sound formed by touching the tip of the tongue to the spot where the gum line meets the upper teeth (as in “t” or “d”)


a word, phrase, or clause that is replaced by a pronoun (or other substitute) when mentioned subsequently (in the same sentence or later)

e.g. “Emily is nice because she brings me flowers.”


a word that means the opposite of another word, for example: bad/good, up/down. See synonym


a noun or noun phrase that re-identifies or describes its neighbouring noun, eg “Canada, a multicultural country, is recognized by its maple leaf flag.”


the teaching method used

aptitude test

a standardized test that measures a learner’s ability to acquire knowledge and skills


a determiner used to indicate a noun. The “indefinite articles” are a and an; while the “definite article” is the. For example:

· I brought an apple to eat.

· The apple I brought has gone bad.


pronunciation that involves a release of breath


evaluation based on a learner’s achievements


where learners of different backgrounds (or levels) identify themselves as one group


type of learning where explanations and concepts are most important

audio lingual

teaching related to listening and speaking

auditory learners

people who learn best by having discussions and listening to lectures

authentic task

task where language is practised in a way that is similar to the real world (role playing)

authentic text or material

texts taken from the real world, not adapted for learning purposes (newspapers)


completed (often refers to speaking) unconsciously or without effort

auxiliary verb

(also called “helping verbs”)

a verb used with the main verb to help indicate something such as tense or voice

e.g. “have, be, do”

base form

the basic form of a verb before conjugation into tenses

e.g. “be”


the lowest level of English learner; learner may have had little or no previous exposure to the language


descriptors or reference points for measuring learning


consonant sounds formed using both lips

bottom up learning/processing

starts with small or detailed learning (such as grammar) and progresses to large or more important concepts (such as reading a piece of text)


gathering up many thoughts and ideas based on one subject

British/American English

British English and American English are two varieties of the same language, and the (actually comparatively few) differences between them are mostly within the areas of:

· pronunciation (eg labORatory/LABoratory)

· vocabulary (eg lift/elevator)

· spelling (eg practise/practice)

· grammar (eg Have you eaten yet?/Did you eat yet?)


a grammatical category of pronouns and nouns that identifies a relationship to other words in the sentence; the three functions of case (the first two of which do not apply to nouns) are “subjective, objective and possessive” (also known more rarely as “nominative, accusative and genitive”), as in: he / him / his, boy’s, boys’


Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

chain schools

language learning schools that have many locations in one country or around the world (under the same business name) e.g. GEOS, Berlitz, ECC


repetitive lines of rhythmic text that learners say out loud in a group; language learning technique related to using music in the classroom

choral reading

group reading aloud where the pace is set by the teacher


words that are often understood or learned together as in fixed phrases; “chunking” means to organize learning into manageable amounts


moving around a room to observe and assist learners

classroom climate

the physical and emotional atmosphere or feeling in a classroom

classroom language

words and expressions used by the teacher (and that need to be understood by the students) to run lessons, such as: open your books, please turn to page 9, work with a partner. Classroom language varies according to class needs, but is usually based around areas like supplies (desk, paper, pencil); rules (don’t, should, must, can); people (student, teacher, classmates); classroom (whiteboard, computer, poster); requests (forming questions, bathroom, health); politeness: (please, thank you). Sometimes classed as a form of metalanguage.


a grammatical unit just below sentence in rank and containing a subject and predicate. If the clause expresses a complete thought it may itself form a sentence, as in the first example below:

· people need water (People need water.)

· since she works at home

· who lives next door

· when the postman knocks

· because she married him


an expression that has been overused and is thus considered weak in writing

cloze test

a text from which words have been removed at regular intervals (eg every fifth or sixth word) and replaced with blank spaces which students have to fill in. Compare gap-fill exercise where the removal of words is not so random.


a word that has the same linguistic derivation as another word, for example:

· father (English)

· vater (German)

· pater (Latin)

cognate (adjective)

Of a word that shares its linguistic derivation with (ie, is related to) another: The English word “father” is cognate with the German “vater”.


either the tendency for certain words to appear together or an instance of it, for example:

· bad temper, flat battery, place an order, watch your weight


(of language, words, expressions) used in everyday conversation but not appropriate for formal speech or writing. (“Don’t use colloquial language in your essays.”)

communicative approach

an approach to language teaching in which the learner’s main goal is to be able to communicate in the real world, and the teacher’s role is as a facilitator

comparative (adjective)

words used to compare two things (not three or more)


part of a sentence that is required to complete or provide meaning to a sentence

compound noun

a noun that is made up of more than one word; can be one word, hyphenated, or separated by a space

e.g. “toothbrush,” “Christmas Day”, “mother-in-law”

compound sentence

a sentence with at least two independent clauses; usually joined by a conjunction

e.g. “You can have something healthy, but you can’t have more junk.”

comprehensible input

theory that language learners only acquire a language if they basically understand what the teacher is saying or presenting

comprehensible output

theory that language learning occurs when people attempt and fail to communicate and are forced to try again


achieving full understanding; “written comprehension” refers to an understanding of what has been read

computer assisted language learning (CALL) (also called “e-learning”)

using the computer for learning

computer-based test (CBT)

an alternative to paper-based testing; test that is administered and taken on the computer


structure in English where one action depends on another (“if-then” structure); most common are first, second and third conditional


one of the nine parts of speech that joins words and clauses, for example:

· bread and butter

· I like dogs but I don’t like cats.

describes or “modifies” words that join or connect parts of a sentence

e.g. “and, but, or”

consonant cluster

a group of consonants without a vowel that form more than one sound

e.g. “spl”

content words

words that have meaning such as nouns (opposite of “function words” such as pronouns and auxiliary verbs)

(in) context

parts of a piece of text (such as paragraphs) that precede and follow a certain detail


the shortening of two words into one

e.g. “is not=isn’t”


tendency to change the sound of your own voice to make it similar to someone you are talking to

cooperative learning

a teaching method in which learners are placed into small groups of different levels and given a task

coping strategies

efforts learners make to reduce stress while learning


the main text book that learners use for a specific class

critical period

a hypothesis that suggests there is a certain time in a learner’s life (before age 12) when language acquisition can fully occur; the theory suggests that after this period the learning capacity is weakened and native-like pronunciation is unlikely


description of courses and/or content in a program

dangling modifier

an illogical structure that occurs in a sentence when a writer intends to modify one word but the reader attaches it to another word

e.g. “Running to the bus, the flowers were blooming.” (In the example sentence it seems the flowers were running.)

declarative sentence

a statement (as opposed to a question or command)

deductive approach

a traditional method of teaching grammar in which the rules are dictated to the learner first (see “inductive approach”)

deep learning

where the learner analyses new information and ideas and links these to previous knowledge with the goal of long term retention and understanding (see “surface learning”)

demo lesson

part of the interview process in which the applicant teaches a real class (usually a mini-lesson) in front of an interviewer or panel

demonstrative pronoun

a pronoun that represents a thing or things near in distance or time (this, these) or far in distance or time (that, those), as in Who’s are these?

dependent clause

(also called “subordinate clause”)

part of a sentence that contains a subject and a verb but does not form a complete thought and cannot stand on its own

e.g. “When the water came out of the tap…”

descriptive grammar

a set of rules about language that attempt to describe how it is actually used. Compare with

prescriptive grammar, which is a set of rules about language that attempt to prescribe how it should be used.


one of the nine parts of speech that limits or “determines” a noun, such as: a/an, the, three, some, many. For example:

· I have two dogs and some rabbits.

· He booked these first three seats.

dictation practice

where learners attempt to reproduce what they hear in the form of text (graded dictations)


a combination of two vowel sounds within the same syllable, with the first gliding into the second. For example, the word car is usually pronounced as a monophthong (one vowel sound only) but the word boy is usually pronounced as a diphthong with the first vowel sound gliding into the second.

direct method

teaching method in which only the target language is used (learners are not permitted to use their native language)

direct object see object


the language system concerned with the way language works beyond the sentence level, including features such as coherence, linking, body language, conventions and turn-taking; any connected piece of speech or writing, which may mean a two-sentence dialogue or an entire essay


the differences between students in a classroom (culture, level, gender)


repetitive practice with the aim of perfecting a specific skill


English for Academic Purposes; preparation for learners who are entering English secondary and post secondary schools


often used interchangeably; English as a Second Language refers to teaching in countries such as the USA where English is the native language; English as a Foreign Language refers to teaching in countries such as Thailand where English is not the native language

electronic dictionary

a hand held dictionary that translates a word from the learner’s native language to the target language


a teaching technique for drawing out information from learners rather than simply providing all the information

embedded questions

questions that occur within another statement or question and generally follow statement structure

e.g. “I don’t know where he went.” OR “Can you tell me where it is?”


English Mother Tongue

error analysis

a study that looks at the patterns of errors of language learners

error recognition

a type of question in which the learner has to spot the language mistake


English for Speakers of other Languages


English for Specific Purposes

e.g. law, medicine, business


Educational Testing Service; a non profit organization that creates and administers standardized assessment tests such as TOEIC and TOEFL


mild or pleasant language used instead of language that is harsh or unpleasant, for example:

· pass away instead of die

· let someone go instead of dismiss

· underpriviledged instead of poor

experiential learning

learning based on actual experience

external examiner

ensures that standards are consistent at higher education level (UK)


a person who assists or supports a learning group that is attempting to perform a task; remains neutral

false friend

a word that looks similar to a word in another language but in fact has a different meaning, for example:

· embarrassed (English)

· embarazada – meaning “pregnant” (Spanish)

· actually (English)

· actuellement – meaning “at the moment” (French)


learning activities and games similar to “warm ups” that fill time when a lesson ends before a class finishes or during a transition period

first conditional

the if-structure used for future events that could well happen, as in If it’s sunny, we will go to the beach.


a quick flick of the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth or alveolar ridge

e.g. the “t” in “daughter”


the ability to express oneself without effort

form focused task

a teaching method where learners are introduced to one learning item at a time with hopes that mastering each skill will eventually lead to learning a language

formal language

a style of language (often written, sometimes spoken) that reflects the seriousness of the occasion or topic, as in official documents, business letters or traditional speeches. Careful use of vocabulary and grammar is a hallmark of formal language, while a more relaxed approach may be taken in everyday or informal language.

formulaic speech

the use of words or phrases that a learner uses without really understanding the meaning


online discussion boards where learners and teachers can connect


the theory that certain grammatical errors are learned over time (such as the incorrect use of a certain tense) and become a permanent part of a learner’s second language (contributing to “interlanguage”)


a phrase that is incorrectly punctuated as a sentence but does not contain a complete thought

free practice

time set aside for learners to practise a skill with little direction from the teacher

functional language

typical expressions used for specific purposes such as making suggestions, giving directions, asking permission

gap-fill exercise

a text where some of the words have been replaced with blank spaces which students have to fill in. The missing words have usually been chosen for a particular reason, for example they are a specific part of speech such as verbs or nouns that the teacher wishes to test. Compare cloze test in which the removal of words is more random.


a verb form ending in -ing that works like a noun, as in Do you mind my asking you? (In ELT, -ing form is increasingly preferred over gerund.)


the main point or central meaning of a piece of text (or audio segment)

glottal stop

a speech sound made by momentarily closing the back of the throat (glottis) and then releasing the air

e.g. “Uh-oh”

graded reader

a text that has been adapted for language learners and targets a specific level of reader

grading rubric

a summary of criteria for assessment; includes various levels of achievement for each task or skill


the language system concerned with the way language is structured (mostly at the sentence level) to make meaning, including matters such as parts of speech, verb tenses, word agreement, clauses, and sentence formation

Grammar Translation (formerly called the “Classical Method”)

a traditional language teaching method that requires learners to memorize grammar rules and vocabulary and translate large amounts of text into English; still one of the widely used teaching methods

guided practice

section in a lesson that gives learners the chance to use what they have been taught

high-frequency words

words that appear most often in written English, such as: I, and, the


living with a local family while learning at a language school


words that sound the same but differ in meaning and/or spelling

e.g. “hare, hair”


a commonly-used expression with a meaning that cannot be understood simply from its individual words, for example:

· over the moon

· caught red-handed


International English Language Testing Service: A standardized exam that measures the four main language skills


verb that gives a command; formed with base verb only

e.g. “Brush your teeth.”

imperfect tense

(also called “past progressive or past continuous”)

verbs that describe action from the past that was ongoing

e.g. “I was walking…” OR “I used to walk” OR “I would walk…”

independent clause

(also called “main clause”)

a group of words that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence

indirect object see object

indirect question

a sentence that ends with a period but contains a question within

e.g. “She asked me what I wanted to eat.”

inductive approach

a modern theory of teaching grammar in which the rules are taught in context or in a practical situation


a slight change to a word form, as in adding “s” to form a plural

information gap activity

a type of activity where learners must communicate with their classmates to get information needed to complete a task

-ing form

a word ending in -ing (eg working, fishing) used

· to form continuous tenses (where it is also called a present participle) as in: I will be working.

· like a noun (where it is decreasingly called a gerund) as in: Fishing is fun.

instructional design

development and evaluation of instructional materials and activities

intensive course

a learning course that take place during a reduced period of time (each class is generally longer in length than an average class)

interactive writing

where learners practise writing skills in a creative and open ended way with other learners and/or the teacher

e.g. journal writing, chain stories


a language that is a mix between the target language and the mother tongue


one of the nine parts of speech that expresses emotion but has no grammatical value, for example:

· Ouch!

· Ah, that feels good.

· What do you think of that, eh?


language learning level between beginner and advanced; learners at this level typically have a working English vocabulary and can communicate in real situations with effort

international English

(also “Global or World English”)

used in reference to English being named a global language of communication

Internet-based test (iBT)

a test (often standardized such as TOEFL) that is taken online

interrogative, WH-word

a word that is used to form questions, for example: who, why, where, how


changes of pitch when speaking (sometimes called the “music” of speech) that can for example express attitude or emotion, signal the difference between statements and questions, and emphasize important words or phrases

intransitive verb

an action verb that does not take a direct object (receiver of action)

e.g. “The kids always eat while they watch TV.” (see “transitive”)

jargon (also called or “lingo”)

expression or word typical of a certain group of speakers, but not considered Standard English


Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme; an opportunity for young teachers who want to visit and teach in Japan


a notebook where learners can practise free writing and receive regular feedback from teachers

kinaesthetic learners

people who learn best though physical response; these learners have difficulty sitting for long periods of time


First (primary or native) language


Second language

lesson plan

a teacher’s description of an individual lesson; usually includes title, language target and level, materials required, and a summary of the activities and practice that will take place (seasoned teachers often reduce to point form notes)

language lab

a school room with computers and/or audio equipment where learners can practise skills they have learned in the classroom on their own, especially listening to English

language skills

the four ways in which people use language: listening, speaking, reading, writing. These may be viewed as receptive (“input”) / productive (“output”), and spoken / written:

                    receptive       productive

spoken        listening         speaking

written        reading           writing

language systems

the integrated components of language, the principal ones being:

· pronunciation (the phonological system)

· vocabulary (the semantic system)

· grammar (the syntactic system)

· discourse (the pragmatic system)


any of various systems to measure (however inexactly) a learner’s competency in English, from basic and unofficial scales such as beginner/elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper-intermediate, advanced to the EU-backed Common European Framework (CEF).


all of the words and word forms in a language with meaning or function

linking verb

verbs that connect the subject to more information (but do not indicate action), such as “be” or “seem”


one of the four language skills, listening is t

he “input” or receptive skill associated with spoken language

materials, ELT materials

educational resources for teachers and/or learners, including things such as books, tests, websites, handouts and audiovisual materials


“language used to talk about language”, more specifically the terminology that teachers and learners may use when discussing the target language, for instance noun, phrasal verb, tense, past simple, clause, sentence, reported speech, collocation, punctuation, word stress, schwa. Basic metalanguage is present in most coursebooks.

minimal pair

two words shose pronunciation differs only by one sound; often used in pronunciation practice. eg cat/bat, fine/vine

m-learning, mobile learning

any kind of learning using portable electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and laptops, usually through the Internet and coupled with mobile learning software and apps, and sometimes interacting with teachers and other learners in real time.

modal, modal verb

an auxiliary verb such as can/could, will/would, shall/should, must; paired with the bare infinitive of a verb as in: You should go for a jog.


describing words or phrases, such as adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases


an educational unit which is usually studied over a set amount of time (sometimes independently)

monophthong see diphthong


verb form that depicts the attitude of the writer or speaker

e.g. subjunctive, indicative, imperative, conditional


a unit of language with meaning that cannot be further divided. eg in, come, -ing forming incoming

Mother tongue (also called “native language”)

the dominant language a person hears and learns in childhood


the drive to learn and improve

multi sensory activities

activities that require learners to use many of the senses, including listening, seeing and touching


proficient in more than two languages

native language (also called “Mother tongue”)

the dominant language a person hears and learns in childhood

native speaker

a person whose first language is the target language of the learner (English)

Natural Approach

the theory that learners should acquire a language as babies do, beginning with silent listening

needs assessment

a process in which teachers determine the needs and abilities of the learners in their class in order to plan a program appropriately; usually takes place at the beginning of a course


forms where not is placed after the auxiliary verb (often contracted with an apostrophe), as in I do not like school.

nominative case

a term used to explain that the noun or pronoun is the “subject” rather than the “object” in an example sentence or clause

non-restrictive clause (also called “non-defining”)

a relative clause that adds information but is not completely necessary; set off from the sentence with a comma

e.g. “The boy, who had a chocolate bar in his hand, was still hungry.” (see “restrictive clause”)


one of the nine parts of speech that that identifies a person, place, thing, such as: teacher, sister, John, forest, town, Bangkok, table, car, dog. For example:

· You should see the doctor.

· Did he go to school?

· I left my keys on the table.

noun clause

a clause that takes the place of a noun and cannot stand on its own; often introduced with words such as that, who, whoever, as in What the president said was surprising.


the thing or person affected by the verb. May be:

· direct object as in He drank tea.

· indirect object as in She showed me her books.

objective case

a term used to explain that the noun is the “direct object” of the verb

observed teaching practice

(also called “practicum”)

part of a teacher training program that involves getting practice in a real classroom and receiving feedback from an experienced teacher; usually a required number of hours


the formation of a word based on the sound associated with what it represents, for example bang, buzz, cuckoo, sizzle, splash.

open ended question

a question that requires more than a yes/no answer (or multiple choice selection) and requires the learner to use his/her own words

e.g. “How do you feel about the class?”

open learning

a teaching method where the learner decides what he or she needs and wants to study and practise


a tendency of some teachers to correct every error without giving learners any opportunity to recognize their own mistakes


a distinct section of a piece of writing dealing with a particular idea, usually indicated by a new line and consisting of one or more sentences

part of speech

one of nine categories to which words are assigned depending on their function within a sentence. The nine parts of speech are: verb, noun, adjective, determiner, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction and interjection. (Some grammarian recognize only eight parts of speech.) Also called “word class”.


a verb form that can be used as an adjective or a noun

(see “past participle” and “present participle”)

passive voice

an indirect form of expression in which the subject receives the action

e.g. “The child’s hand was licked by the cat.” (see “active voice”)

past perfect

a tense that refers to the past in the past; formed with subject + “had” + past participle, as in We had stopped the car.

past participle

refers to past or completed action and is used in passive sentences and as adjectives; usually formed by adding “ed” to the base verb

e.g. “The shoes were polished.” OR “I see a torn page.”

pedagogic task

classroom tasks that learners would unlikely need to do in the real world

peer evaluation

learners providing feedback (or assigning marks) to other learners


a property of pronouns that differentiates participants in a conversation and has three values:

· first person (I/we): refers to the speaker

· second person (you): refers to the hearer

· third person (he/she/it/they): refers to all other people or things

personal pronoun

a pronoun (subject or object) that refers to a specific person or thing, as in: Anthony is my brother. He lives abroad so I never see him.


the smallest unit of sound; carries no meaning on its own


a teaching method where learners are taught how to read by associating certain letters and letter groupings with certain sounds


the study of language sounds and sound patterns

phrasal verb

(also called “multi-word verb”) verbs formed with a verb plus an adverb; (see “transitive” and “intransitive”)

e.g. “break up”, “turn off” Phrasal Verbs Reference


two or more words that have a single function and form part of a sentence; phrases can be noun, adjective, adverbial, verb, or prepositional

placement test

a test that helps teachers or administrators determine a learner’s language level; used for creating classes with distinct levels


a sound characterized by a sudden burst of air


form that refers to more than one


a regularly updated audio segment that can be played back on a computer or downloaded to a listening device such as an MP3 player for future listening

positive degree

the state of an adjective or adverb when it shows quality but doesn’t show any comparison

e.g. “nice, kind, quickly” (see “superlative” and “comparative”)


stands for “presentation, practice, production”; the main components to a lesson

practicum (also called “observed teaching”)

part of a teacher training program that involves getting practice in a real classroom and receiving feedback from an experienced teacher; usually a required number of hours


the study of language and how people speak in a certain context or situation


one of the two main parts of a sentence explaining what is said of the subject (the subject is the other main part)

prefix see affix

preparation time

the time a teacher spends getting ready for a class; can be paid or unpaid

e.g. photocopying, writing lesson plans, choosing supplementary materials, marking


one of the nine parts of speech that usually comes before a noun phrase and connects it to another part of the sentence. Common prepositions are: at, by, for, from, in, of, on, to, with. For example:

· She went to work at eight o’clock.

· Keep walking for two kilometres.

· Where do you come from?

prepositional verb

verbs that are formed with a verb + a preposition

e.g. “believe in”, “think about”

prescriptive grammar

the rules and examples of language usage used to teach a language

prescriptive grammar

a set of rules about language that attempt to describe how it should be used. Compare with

descriptive grammar, which is a set of rules about language that attempt to prescribe how it is actually used.

present participle

the -ing form of a verb in continuous tenses, as in: She was sleeping.

present perfect

a verb tense that connects the past and the present and is used to express experience, change, or a continuing situation; formed with subject + “have/has” + past participle, as in I have never been to Africa.

private lesson

a one-on-one teaching session between a learner and a teacher/tutor

process approach

a method for teaching writing that walks learners through the strategies of pre-writing, writing and revision stages

product approach

a method for teaching writing in which learners are given a model and then asked to create something similar

proficiency test

a test that measures a learner’s language background and skills (often used as a placement test)


a verb form that expresses ongoing action, as in We are studying penguins.


the language system concerned with the way the sounds of a language are spoken, including matters such as word stress, sentence stress, linking and intonation


one of the nine parts of speech that stands in place of a noun, such as: she, him, yours, this, who, myself. For example:

· Tara is Trinidadian. She is beautiful.

· My car is red. What colour is yours?

· I wonder who is knocking at the door.

proper noun

a noun that is capitalized at all times, such as the name of a person, place, or brand

pull-out ESL

a program where students are removed from a regular classroom for part of the day to receive English language instruction


a standard system (such as commas, periods, question marks) for marking written texts to clarify their meaning. A capital letter to mark the beginning of a sentence, proper noun or the pronoun I is also sometimes regarded as punctuation. The main punctuation marks are:

· [.] full stop (BrE) or period (AmE): used at the end of a sentence or abbreviation

· [,] comma: marks a pause between parts of a sentence, or between words in a list

· [?] question mark: marks the end of a question

· [!] exclamation mark (BrE) or exclamation point (BrE): marks surprise, anger, command, loudness etc

· [;] semicolon: stronger than a comma, marks a pause, typically between two main clauses

· [:] colon: precedes an example, an explanation, a list of items or a quotation

· [‘] apostrophe: marks, with s, the possessive form of nouns; also replaces missing letters in a contraction

· [-] hyphen: joins words or parts of words

· [—] dash: marks a pause or break in sense; sometimes used like the colon

· [” “] quotation marks or speech marks: enclose direct speech, a quoted passage, titles of books etc

· [( )] brackets: enclose additional or subordinate information

rate of acquisition

how quickly the learner acquires the second language


one of the four language skills, reading is the “input” or receptive skill associated with written language


objects from the real world that learners can use while practising the language to make a classroom feel more like a real life setting

recruiting agency (also called “placement agency”)

a business that acts as a middle man between the teacher and the school; schools pay recruiters to find teachers


a teaching method in which teachers (or materials) review vocabulary or skills that have already been taught by including them in subsequent lessons

reduced clause

a shortened relative clause (omit relative pronoun and “be” verb) or adverbial clause (omit subject and “be” verb) which is allowed under certain conditions

e.g. “The woman who is sitting on the bench is my sister.” Relative clause reduced to: “The woman sitting on the bench is my sister.”


refers to the place in a lesson where learners get to practise what they’ve learned (in a variety of ways)

relative clause

a dependent clause that is usually introduced with a relative pronoun such as who, what, where or that (see “reduced clause”); information can be required for understanding (defining/restrictive with no commas) or unnecessary but interesting (non-defining/non-restrictive with commas)

e.g. “The person who finishes first can leave early.” (defining) OR “My brother, who lives in Texas, is coming to visit.” (non-defining)

restrictive clause (also called “defining clause”)

a type of relative clause that contains information that is required for the understanding of the sentence; not set off with commas

e.g. “The boy who was wearing a blue shirt was the winner.” (see non-restrictive clause)


a form of speaking practice where the learners pretend to be people they are not


offering strong instructional support when introducing a new concept or idea; including a discussion based on prior knowledge of a subject and offering images or other visual aids


a type of reading that involves searching for something specific (such as an answer) in a piece of text

schema theory

a process where learners draw from their own background knowledge to understand a reading


the most common unstressed vowel sound in English, transcribed as /ə/. eg the a in account, the last o in doctor

second conditional

the if-structure used to talk about an unreal dream or unlikely possibility in the future, as in If we got rich, we would travel the world.

self access materials/centres(SAC)

resources or resource rooms where learners can choose their own books, handouts and audio visual programs to supplement their learning


the study of language meaning, including connotative meaning

semi private lesson

a tutoring style session in which two or three learners share one teacher; learners generally pay slightly less than private lessons


a grammatical term referring to a list of items in a sentence

e.g. “The children ate popsicles, popcorn and chips.”

sight vocabulary

words that are commonly used in text and are the first ones that learners spot and recognize when developing reading skills

silent period

a period of time in the initial phase of learning a language where a learner should not be required to respond but rather encouraged to understand what is being taught (according to some theorists)


a figure of speech that likens one thing to another different thing. Similes can make descriptions more emphatic or vivid, as in: as light as a feather, drink like a fish

simple past

the tense used to talk about an action, event, or situation that occurred and was completed in the past

e.g. “We ate cookies for breakfast.”

simple present

the tense that is used to show something general, habitual, or always true

e.g. “I like tea.” OR “We go to the movies on Fridays.”


related to “one” and can be a noun, subject, or verb; a singular subject takes a singular verb (in grammar “number” refers to whether something is singular or plural)

skills see language skills


materials or lessons that are centred around certain types of skills such as reading, listening, pronunciation etc.


to glance over a piece of text without reading fully


very informal language, usually spoken rather than written, and typically restricted to a particular context or group of people, for example:

· hang out, junkie, limo, on the blink, pack heat, sicko


a minor language mistake in spoken English (by a native speaker or advanced learner)

sociolinguistic competence

the ability to use and understand the appropriate language in different social situations


one of the four language skills, speaking is the “output” or productive skill associated with spoken language

Standard English (S.E.)

the “normal” spelling, pronunciation and grammar that is used by educated native speakers


the extra time given to certain syllables or spoken words of importance

e.g. “We don’t want to worsen the problem.” OR “The pho-to-grapher is late.”


Student Talking Time; the amount of time during class when learners get to do the talking (see TTT)

student centred learning

method of teaching where the needs and interests of the students receive priority and the teacher’s role is “facilitator”

student feedback

reaction or evaluation from learners (directed towards other learners or the teacher)


a noun or pronoun that does the action (or “is” the state)

e.g. “The rain came down in buckets.” OR “Mary is beautiful.” (see “predicate”)


a rare verb formed with the bare infinitive (except past of “be”) usually used to express importance or urgency; common verbs or expressions include “recommend/ask/suggest + that” or expressions like “it is important/necessary that”

e.g. “The teacher requests that you be at the school before the bell rings.”


(also called “sink or swim”)

approach in which L2 are placed in the same class as L1 in the hope that they will learn as much as possible

subordinate clause

(also called “dependent clause”)

an adverb or adjective clause that contains a subject and a verb but does not form a complete sentence

e.g. “When I’m tired, I have to take a nap.” (see “independent clause”)

suffix see affix


an adjective or adverb that describes the extreme degree of something

e.g. “happiest” OR “most joyfully”

supplementary materials

extra worksheets, games, books etc. that a teacher uses for teaching materials in addition to a core text (often based on the same theme or skill set)

surface learning

when a learner memorizes facts and accepts information for the purpose of an exam; long-term retention and understanding is unlikely (see “deep learning”)


a single beat or sound in a spoken word

e.g. “diff-i-cult” has three syllables


an outline of the subjects in a course or program


a word that means the same as, or nearly the same as, another word, for example: close/shut, impromptu/spontaneous. See antonym


the study of rules related to proper sentence formation

systems see language systems

tape script/transcript

the text version of an audio segment or lesson

target language

the language being taught (English); also sometimes refers to the language goal or aim to be presented in a lesson

teachable moment

an educational opportunity that comes up often unexpectedly and is taught as an aside

teacher burnout

a condition caused by depersonalization, prolonged stress and a diminished sense of accomplishment

teacher centred

a teaching method (outdated in the EFL industry) where the instructor does most of the talking

teaching aids

equipment, supplies, or materials that a teacher uses in the classroom

e.g. tapes, videos, white board

TEFL/TESL certificate

a training certificate for teachers who want to teach English to learners of different native language ; certificates range in length, intensity and credibility (see ESL vs EFL)


Teach English as a Foreign Language vs. Teach English as a Second Language (see EFL vs. ESL)


the forms in a language that indicate the time and completion of an action or state

e.g. simple tenses include past, present, future


a whole language program or curriculum that is organized by themes or topics rather than skills

e.g. animals; family; seasons

third conditional

the if-structure used to talk about events in the past that did not happen, as in If it had rained yesterday, we would have cancelled the game.


Test of English as a Foreign Language; a standardized exam that tests the four main language skills and may be used as an entrance prerequisite for tertiary education in the USA.


Test of English for International Communication; a standardized exam that tests a person’s ability to use English in business and everyday situations

top down learning/processing

begins with general overview of a learning skill and proceeds to more specific aspects

Total physical response

part of the Communicative Approach; learners are encouraged to respond with actions before words

transferable skills

acquired skills that a person learns in one job and can be used later in a different job or career

transitive verb

an action verb that has a direct object (receiver of action)

e.g. “The kids always eat a snack while they watch TV.” The “snack” is the direct object. (see “intransitive”)


Teacher Talking Time; the amount of time a teacher talks and the learner listens


a person who assists a learner privately; teaching session usually focuses on learner difficulties and specific goals

two way

bilingual environment in which L1 learners are taught L2 and vice versa at the same time


Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading: a reading strategy where learners are required to read silently for a certain period of time


the way language is used, especially in a certain country or region


a consonant sound that is pronounced by touching the back of the tongue to the soft palate, as in /k/ in keep


one of the nine parts of speech that describes action or state, such as work, fight, be, can, seem. For example:

· They walked to school.

· Matt is Australian.

· That sounds interesting.

vernacular style

everyday language that is characteristic of a specific country or group

virtual classroom

an online classroom that allows teacher and learners to see, hear and interact with each other in real time, share and view videos and presentations, and engage with learning resources individually or in groups.

virtual field trip

a collection of images, text and/or video from the World Wide Web that is gathered and packaged into a presentation on a certain topic

visual learner

people who learn best when teachers use body language, facial expression and pictures


1. the language system concerned with knowledge of words (“Vocabulary is at least as important as grammar.”) 2. the total stock of words known to a particular learner (“You should read more; it will improve your vocabulary.”)

voiced sound

a sound produced while the vocal chords are vibrating as in /z/. With an unvoiced or non-voiced or voiceless sound there is no vocal chord vibration as in /s/. The phenomenon is called voicing.


Voluntary Service Overseas


a short, fun activity that brings energy into the classroom and usually precedes a lesson

whole language

a language learning theory that stresses the importance of integrating reading, writing, speaking and listening

word class (see part of speech)


one of the four language skills, writing is the “output” or productive skill associated with written language

zero conditional

the if-structure used when the result of a condition is always true, as in If you heat ice it melts.

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