The Vocabulary of Language Teaching

Language teaching has a vocabulary all unto itself: Foreign language, world language, modern language, second language, etc. Because there have been language teachers and language students since the dawn of communication, there are usually valid historic explanations for all of these terms, but for those who are new to the subject, the nuances may be a bit murky. So, with that thought in mind, let’s have a little review of the vocabulary of language teaching from MFL-labs to ESL-labs.

Language Teaching, MFL labs ESL-labs


Native language Domestic language First language
Second language Foreign language World language
Modern language Classical language Romance language

Native Language:
This is the language that a person has spoken from earliest childhood. It is also known as his or her mother tongue. For example, in France this might be French. In Canada, it is common for many children to have two native languages – most typically English and French.

Domestic Language: This is essentially a synonym for native language, but is commonly used to describe the native language for a given region, and to differentiate between local languages and foreign languages.

First Language (L1): This is the language that a person learns to speak first – usually the language you learned and spoke at home. For example, in the United States, most people speak English as a first language.

Second Language (L2): This is a language learned by a person after his or her native language – especially as a resident of an area where that language is generally spoken. For example, if a person from Chile, (whose native language is Spanish), moves to the United States, that person might study English as a second language.

Foreign Language: A foreign language is the opposite of the local domestic language for a given region. For example, people in the United States might study German as a foreign language, while people in Germany might study English as a foreign language.

World Language: This is a language that is spoken internationally and is learned and spoken by a large number of people as a second language. For example, Spanish is a world language as it is the official language of more than a dozen countries, (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela).

Modern Language: This is defined as any of the languages spoken in present-day Europe, with the exception of English. In some areas, this is also known as Modern Foreign Language.

Classical Language: This is a prestigious, often ancient language, such as Latin or Sanskrit. There is a widespread view that to be truly “classical”, a language should be “dead”; that is, not passed on from parent to child within a community. However this is not a universal feature of such languages.

Romance Language: This term describes a group of languages that originated from a language spoken by the Romans. The better-known Romance languages are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and Catalan.

Acronyms and Initialisms MFL Labs ESL Labs


Expressions that are abbreviated using the first letter of each word can be an initialism, (where each letter is pronounced independently – such as DVD), or an acronym, (where the entire term is pronounced as a single word – such as LASER).


MFL:  Modern Foreign Language

ELT:  English Language Teaching

EFL:  English as a Foreign Language

ESL:  English as a Second Language

TESL:  Teachers of English as a Second Language

TESOL:  Teachers of English to Students of Other Languages

LOTE:  Languages Other Than English

AP®:  Advanced Placement (Registered trademark of The College Board)

CALL:  Computer-Aided Language Learning



The SmartClass+ language lab platform is essentially transparent to the target languages being taught.  The software operates independently of most reading, writing, listening, and speaking lesson materials.

So, depending on the target languages being taught, the same systems might be considered as:World Of Languages Multi Lingual MFL Labs ESL Labs

  • Language labs or language laboratories
  • Digital language labs or digital language laboratories
  • Foreign language labs or foreign language laboratories
  • Modern language labs or modern language laboratories
  • World language labs or world language laboratories
  • English language labs or English language laboratories
  • ESL-labs or ESL-laboratories
  • MFL-labs or MFL-laboratories
  • EFL-labs or EFL-laboratories


While transparency to language lesson material is a given, there are a couple of specific aspects of a language lab platform where language is a consideration:


The language of the user interface for the language lab platform is normally configured to match the native language of the region in which the system is being used.   The SmartClass+ platform fully supports the following graphical user interface (GUI) languages:

Arabic Bahasa – Indonesia Bahasa – Malaysia
Chinese – Simplified Chinese – Traditional Czech
English French German
Italian Japanese Korean
Lithuanian Portuguese Russian
Spanish Thai Vietnamese

*Note that some language lab systems do not support languages like Chinese and Arabic, which have far more characters than our A-Z Roman alphabet.  SmartClass+ fully supports these extended character sets.


The SmartClass+ TALK family of pronunciation exercises uses speech recognition to evaluate student responses.  For best accuracy, the speech recognition engine must support the target language being spoken.  The SmartClass+ platform supports over 57 languages and regional dialects.

English Spanish French
German Italian Japanese
Korean Persian Polish
Portuguese Russian Arabic
Chinese – Simplified Chinese – Traditional