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THE UK: Subject Guides

English as a Foreign Language (EFL) courses

Learn all about English as a Foreign Language (EFL) courses including where you can study, which courses and levels you can take, and what you can do afterwards...

EFL English as a Foreign Language

For many international students, language proficiency is often the main concern. Learning English can open many doors, so take comfort from the fact that there are a range of helpful resources available to you and lots of options to suit your needs.


Many other students have to face the same challenges, including Hotcourses'  own team of international student editors. Two of the team - Tunde and Cansu - have put together some information here to help you get started... 


Why study English? 

English is spoken in about 84 countries worldwide. These countries range from the world's most developed nations, to emerging economies and markets. Learning English therefore provides an exceptional and versatile advantage to students. The English language is also one of the official languages in a large number of International agencies and organisations; it is the official language of the United Nations, the European Union, the OPEC, the International Criminal Court, and the International Court of Justice just to name a few. The study of English Language is an important tool for any individual who wants to operate effectively on the international stage.


What is an EFL course?

EFL stands for ‘English as a Foreign Language’. An EFL course is a course that helps a student over the age of 16 years old improve their English.


What EFL courses are there to choose from?

There are a number of EFL courses which a student can study. The course they study will depend on a range of factors such as: the student’s current English level; what that particular institution offers; what the student plans to do afterwards; and the intensity of their course. EFL courses include Cambridge Skills For Life, EFL Intensive, EFL Part Time and Preparation for IELTS which are studied across institutions and can prepare you for particular English proficiency tests.

Learn more about the IELTS and TOEFL tests.


What is the difference between an EFL course and other similar courses?

You may have heard of courses such as TESOL and TEFL. But what do they mean?

ESL = English as a Second Language
TESL = Teacher of English as a Second Language
TEFL = Teacher of English as a Foreign Language
TESOL = Teacher of English as a Second or Other Language
ESOL = English as a Second or Other Language

See our glossary for other useful terms.


Where can I study an EFL course?

EFL courses are taught at numerous universities and colleges around the world. Usually this will be taught in a particular study centre located on campus, such as the one at Harrow College.


Who can take an EFL course?

Anyone over 16 who wishes to improve their English can study an EFL course. You will have to apply to an institution as you would if you wanted to study a degree course. There are some less strict English requirements and you’ll have to prove that you have the finances to fund your studies and lifestyle in another country.


Types of EFL courses

This will depend on the level you are studying at. There are a number of different levels and the one you study at will depend on what you want to achieve. These include English for Specific Purposes (ESP): Academic English; and English for Business. This way you’ll acquire knowledge that you can apply and use to achieve what you want to.


General English Courses - these courses are designed to improve one's English abilities not for academic purposes but for the general usage of the language. The main focus would be on speaking and listening skills. Depending on the level of English you have in the enrollment exam, you would be placed in a class that suits your needs. Other than English, you are also allowed to have some elective courses.


Business English Courses - these courses are for professionals or recent graduates from universities who are seeking to improve their language skills before going into the business world. The aim of these courses is to improve the language skills quickly while boosting one's confidence in terms of his/her abilities to use the language. These courses are typically shorter and more intensive than general language courses.


Academic English – these courses are for those who wish to proceed onto study at a higher education level. The aim of this course is to acquire the necessary language skills to study requisite material and carry out assignments as part of a higher education course which is taught in English.


Teaching on an EFL course

Courses can last from a couple of weeks, to ten weeks, to even over 30 weeks. This will depend on your study level and the course. You can either study full-time or part-time too. Classes are usually between 10 and 22 students in size. Students learn through classroom exercises, assignments and personal study.


What can you do after an EFL course?

Upon completing an EFL course, you’ll receive an internationally renowned certificate. It’s always important to check what certificate you’ll receive before you apply. If you know where you want to continue your studies at, you should also consider this when deciding where to study.


Students experiences studying an EFL course

Cansu on English language:

‘Learning English in the US, I had difficulty understanding conversations when I first arrived in London for my master's. Many people seemed to talk too quickly and the emphasis on the syllables was quite different in the UK. Some of the words I've used such as restroom for the bathroom were not understood by many. I still get confused by the spelling differences on my essays; I tend to use -ze rather than -se; realize, recognize, organize rather than realise, recognise, organise.'


Tunde on the English language:

‘I come from a Commonwealth nation (Nigeria), and English is an official language in my country. However it was really difficult coming to terms with the accent and pronunciation of some words, Some notable examples are in pronunciations for places like 'Dulwich' and 'Woolwich' (the 'w' before the 'i' is silent so its pronounced - 'Dullich' and 'Woolich') . I got quite a few confused stares from native Londoners when I got on a bus and asked for directions to those places, and pronounced them as spelt.’

Search for an EFL course now


Read more:

‘Pathways to courses overseas’

‘Student experience: English as a Foreign Language in London w/ Alejandra’

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