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TEFL or TESL? What do TEFL and TESL mean? TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. TEFL is used when people teach English in a non-English speaking country. TESL is used when people teach English in an English speaking country. Is this important? Not very, for students. But there are some important technical considerations for teachers. See TEFL FAQ.