TEFL Glossary

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false friends

These are cognates whose meaning has diverged, so they no longer mean the same thing. Learners often assume that a word in L2 which looks and sounds similar to one in their L1 would have the same meaning.


First Certificate in English - a Cambridge English examination for students at B2 level.


General term for giving a response or assessment. After a small group discussion, students might 'give feedback' to the whole class, which would be a short report on what they have said.

After students have done a task, the teacher may 'give feedback' - comments and corrections.

At the end of a course, students are often asked to 'give feedback,' which means a judgement on the classes they have had.

final stage

The final stage of a lesson is sometimes called the plenary. Its purpose is to bring together and summarise what has been done in that day's lesson. 

find someone who

A 'find someone who' is an activity which involves students milling round the class speaking to everyone.  They need to complete a worksheet that requires them to 'find someone who' fits a series of statements, such as 'Find someone who....likes eating fish/...comes to school on the bus/...wears jeans every day, etc.

This is often used as a 'getting-to-know-you' activity, but it is also very useful as a way of practising specific language items.

First Certificate in English

See FCE.

first language acquisition

See acquisition.


Fluency in language is the ability to communicate freely and confidently. A fluent speaker is not necessarily accurate.

See accuracy.

fluency-based activities

Classroom (or homework) activities whose main focus is on using the language to communicate effectively and confidently.  Compare with accuracy-based activities.

four skills

In language learning, the 'four skills' are reading, listening, speaking and writing.

Reading and listening are receptive skills.

Speaking and writing are productive skills.

free speaking activities

There are activities in which the focus is just on effective communication, for example, debates, discussions and role plays. Although the topic will mean that certain language is more likely to be used, the main aim of these activities is to practise fluency, not to practise particular language items.

It is different from freer practice activities which are designed to practise specific language.

freer practice

Freer practice is the 'production' part of a new language lesson when students practise using the target language (TL) in a semi-authentic way.  (See also controlled or restricted practice.)

frequency adverb

An adverb which indicates how frequently an event or action occurs. e.g. Sometimes, often, usually, always, never.


A consonant formed by partially restricting the flow of air, so there is a kind of friction. (e.g., /s/ and /v/)


Fricatives are also called continuants. They are consonants which are formed through friction (e.g, /f/ and /z/) - the flow of air is partially restricted, but not stopped completely. You can continue saying them until you run out of breath. The second line of consonants in the IPA chart are fricatives.


This word is annoyingly and confusingly used with different meanings in English language teaching.

1. Language functions (also called pragmatic functions) are the things we do with language, such as promising, inviting, giving advice, asking for permission, etc. Exponents are the actual pieces of language used to express that function.

2. When looking at a particular grammatical form which can be used in different ways with different meanings, these different meanings or uses are also called functions. It is very common for tenses to have multiple functions, for example:

a) He will get up early when I am trying to have a lie in.

b) He will get up early tomorrow because he has to catch a train at 7.30.

c) I expect he will get up early tomorrow because he's so excited.

In these examples, the future simple: He will get up serves the functions of expressing a) annoying habit/insistence b) future as fact c) prediction.

It is function in this second sense that is referred to when we talk about teaching the function of new language in a grammar or functional language lesson.

3. Grammatical function can refer to either the grammatical category a word in a sentence belongs to (See Unit 4, Part 1 Parts of speech):

Smoking is bad for you. - Smoking is a noun
They were smokingSmoking is a verb.

We had a party on the beach. On is a preposition.

or the role a word or phrase serves in the structure of a clause (see Unit 4, Part 2 Clause structure):

Smoking is bad for you. - Smoking is functioning as a subject.

We had a partyon the beach. - On the beach is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverbial.

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