The following is a glossary of ESL terms frequently used by educators and researchers when referring to ESL-related issues. This list provides educators with an introduction to basic terms as well as links to other on-line sources. For more extensive glossaries please scroll to the bottom of the page for a description of the sites and their addresses.
A ____ ____________________________
Acquisition: The picking up of a language through meaningful conversation. Similar to the way a child learns his or her first language. There is no formal study of forms and grammar. Acquisition is often contrasted to learning a language through conscious study of forms such as schooling. Acquisition will occur when a learner is exposed to meaningful, comprehensible input.
Assessment: The ongoing process of gathering information from a variety of sources in order to provide students with descriptive feedback and improve the classroom program. Assessment can involve the gathering of data related to students’ experiences as they work towards the curriculum. Formative assessment focuses on evaluating the process (i.e. evaluation of ability to work in groups) whereas summative assessment involves the gathering of information related to the end product of a learning process (i.e., test at the end of a chapter). Peer assessment, which involves the giving and receiving of feedback among students, is also an important part of the learning process.
B ____ ____________________________
C ____ ____________________________
Cloze passage: A passage of text with some words omitted (e.g., Canada’s mineral resources include nickel, copper, and _____). Students complete these passages to demonstrate reading comprehension, knowledge of the subject matter, and proficiency with specific items of grammar, vocabulary, or spelling.
Competence: When learners acquire a L2, they internalize rules which are then organized into a system. This constitutes their ‘competence’. The actual use of this system to comprehend and produce utterances is referred to as “performance’. Researchers (and linguists) disagree about the exact nature of ‘competence’. Some (e.g. Chomsky) view competence as entirely linguistic, while others (e.g. Hymes) view it as communicative (i.e. ‘communicative competence’ consists of both knowledge of linguistic rules and knowledge of how these rules are used to communicate meanings).
Cueing system: A group of signs (cues) that help readers to extract meaning from print. There are four major types of cues: semantic, syntactic, graphophonic, and pragmatic. Semantic cues are meaningful relations among words. A reader needs to know the meaning of words and have some knowledge of the subject matter in order to understand text. Syntactic cues are grammatical patterns such as word order or word endings. Graphophonic cues are the connections between sounds and the written symbols of language. Pragmatic cues are the characteristics of different types of text (e.g., when a reader recognizes the differences between a newspaper and a telephone directory and uses these resources differently).
D ____ ____________________________
E ____ ____________________________
Editing: In writing, the correcting of grammatical, usage, punctuation, and spelling errors to ensure that the writing is clear, coherent, and correct. ( See also proofreading; revising; writing process.)
EFL: English as a foreign language. Originally this term referred to non-native speakers who are learning English language in a non-native English speaking environment. For example, a non-native English speaker learning English in Taiwan.
ESL: English as a second language. Originally this term referred to non-native speakers who are learning English language in an English language environment. For example, a new immigrant learning English in Canada. Note: ESL can be used to refer to English when it is an individual's third or fourth language as well.
F ____ ____________________________
Forms of writing: Forms of writing include: narrative, dialogue, anecdote, poetry, dramatic script, description, set of instructions, announcement, advertisement, personal essay, descriptive essay, supported opinion, expository essay, persuasive or argumentative essay, research essay or report, summary, critique, proposal, résumé, editorial, speech, letter, brochure, manual, agenda and minutes of a meeting, set of notes, learning log, diary, journal, list, survey, and chart.
G ____ ____________________________
I ____ ____________________________
Intonation: The pitch of the voice in speaking. Variations in intonation convey information (e.g., a rising pitch at the end of a sentence indicates a question). Intonation is an important component of pronunciation. (See also Stress.)
L ____ ____________________________
Learner dictionary: A dictionary produced specifically for second-language learners, containing extra features such as illustrative sentences and information about the grammatical features and language styles associated with specific words.
Learning strategies: Planned methods or techniques for facilitating and enhancing learning (e.g., memorization techniques for assimilating materials; cognitive techniques for making purposeful associations among ideas; social techniques for interacting with peers).
M ____ ____________________________
Media works: Some examples are: documentary, situation comedy, television or radio drama, news report, sports program, nature program, editorial, newspaper, magazine, brochure, interview, film, video, travelogue, television commercial, newspaper advertisement, cartoon.
Multiple Intelligences: This is an educational theory developed by Howard Gardner that suggests that all people possess at least eight different intelligences that operate in varying degrees depending upon each individual. These intelligences include: bodily-kinesthetic, musical, linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.
N ____ ____________________________
P ____ ____________________________
Portfolio: A collection of various types of evidence that are used to track progress or assessment. Items which can be included are: assignments, projects, reports, writings and test results which are personal to the learner.
Proficiency: Proficiency consists of the learner’s knowledge of the target language; it can be considered synonymous with ‘competence’. ‘Proficiency’ can be viewed as linguistic competence or communicative competence. L2 proficiency is usually measured in relation to a native speaker's proficiency.
Proofreading: The careful reading of a final draft of written work to eliminate typographical errors and to correct errors in grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation. (See also Editing, Revising, Writing process.)
R ____ ____________________________
Reading strategies: Methods used in reading to determine the meaning of a text. Examples are: rereading; substituting an appropriate familiar word for an unfamiliar one; using root words to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words; using background knowledge to determine meaning; using information from the context to determine meaning; predicting the use of specific words or types of words from the context (e.g., in a simple statement, the verb often immediately follows the subject); making inferences; predicting content; confirming or revising predictions; adjusting speed in silent reading according to the purpose of reading or the difficulty of the text; using graphic organizers; skimming text for information or details; scanning text to determine the purpose of text or the type of material included; recording key points and organizing them in sequence; monitoring comprehension. (See also Cueing system.)
Register: style of language (e.g., formal, colloquial) appropriate to a specific audience, purpose, or situation. Register is determined by the level of formality on a particular social setting, the relationship among the individuals involved in the communication, and the purpose of the interaction.
Revising: The process of making changes to the content, structure, and wording of drafts to improve the organization of ideas, eliminate awkward phrasing, correct grammatical and spelling errors, and generally ensure that the writing is clear, coherent, and correct.
Rubric: A scoring tool that lists criteria for evaluating a piece of work and defines gradations or levels of quality from poor to excellent. It is used to evaluate students’ work or to guide students to desired performance levels.
S ____ ____________________________
Scaffolding: Reducing the linguistic demand of instructional and assessment materials so that students can show what they know. This is done with the assistance of a teacher who gradually withdraws support until the students become more independent in the classroom.
Social and cultural competence: The ability to function appropriately in a particular social or cultural context according to the rules and expectations for behavior held by members of that social or cultural group.
Standard Canadian English: Oral and written English that follows accepted rules and practices of grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation and that is used across a broad spectrum of Canadian society (e.g., in government, educational, medical, legal, scientific, business, and media communications).
Syllabus: A syllabus in the content of a language program and how it is organized. This can be contrasted to a method, which is how a language program is taught. Structural syllabuses and functional syllabuses are two different ways of organizing language material.
T ____ ____________________________
Transfer: Transfer is the process of using knowledge of a first language to learn a second language. Transfer can be positive, when a first language pattern identical with a target-language pattern is transferred. It can be negative, when a first-language pattern different from the target-language pattern is transferred. In the latter case, L1-induced errors occur.
V ____ ____________________________
Varieties of English: Different forms of English used by particular groups of English speakers, including regional and social groups, and characterized by distinct vocabularies, pronunciation patterns, and grammatical features.
W ____ ____________________________
Writing process: The process involved in producing a polished piece of writing. The writing process comprises several stages, each of which focuses on specific tasks. The main stages of the writing process are: generating ideas; choosing a topic; developing a plan for writing; writing a first draft; reviewing and revising; editing and proofreading; and producing a final copy.
More ESL and General Education Terms on the Internet
Are you looking for more information? The following list provides and introduction and links to a host of helpful websites!
This website provides a glossary of abbreviations and acronyms related to teaching and learning English as a Second Language. Some abbreviations allow you link to their own websites.
It is a glossary for ESL students. The terms are related to school life and the explanations are very clear and reader friendly.
This is the Merriam-Webster online-dictionary.