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IGCSE English As A First And Second Language – How To Make The Right Choice

Theoretically, both options have equal weightage. IGCSE states that English as a First Language (EFL) is designed for those students for whom English is their native tongue. English as a Second Language (ESL) is for those whose native language or mother tongue is not English but who want to improve their communication abilities in this language.

What Is The Difference?

If you are comfortable with English and it is your main language of communication, then EFL would be the better choice. The course is more advanced in terms of evaluating vocabulary, grammar, spelling abilities, punctuation, etc. It starts with the premise that you are already a fluent user of English – both in speaking and writing.

ESL is meant for those whose English skills are less advanced and who want to improve their language skills to increase their opportunities for further studies or for the sake of their planned career.

The best way to appreciate the difference is to read what the Cambridge Assessment Website says about the difference:

Cambridge IGCSE English - First Language (0500)

Cambridge IGCSE First Language English is designed for learners whose first language is English. The course enables learners to:

  • Develop the ability to communicate clearly, accurately, and effectively when speaking and writing
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary, and the correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Develop a personal style and an awareness of the audience being addressed.

Learners are also encouraged to read widely, both for their own enjoyment and to further their awareness of the ways in which English can be used. Cambridge IGCSE First Language English also develops more general analysis and communication skills such as inference, and the ability to order facts and present opinions effectively.

IGCSE English As A Second Language (Speaking Endorsement) (0510)

Cambridge IGCSE English as a Second Language is designed for learners who already have a working knowledge of the language and who want to consolidate their understanding in order to progress in their education or career. Through their studies, learners will improve their ability to understand and use English in a range of situations.

The aim is to achieve a level of practical communication ideal for everyday use, which can also form the basis for further, more in-depth language study. In Syllabus 0510, marks for the speaking component do not contribute to the overall grade candidates receive for the written components.

Which Is Right For You?

Making the right choice on which option is right for you depends on 2 main factors:

  • Your familiarity, fluency and comfort level in the English language
  • Your future academic or career ambitions

If you plan to study or work in a country where English is the primary language of communication, then you will find that college admissions departments and prospective employers will normally have a bias towards those who have studied EFL as it gives them a level of comfort that language will not be an impeding factor in your academic or career progress. While there is no formal acknowledgment of the fact, it is unofficially but widely accepted that a C in EFL is often preferred to an A in ESL.

If you plan to study or work in a region where English is not the primary language, and it is not your native tongue, then ESL would be the better option because you may be able to achieve better grades which will impact your overall performance and this higher grade may be more appealing to admission departments or employers.

To sum up, if you have a level of comfort with English that will enable you to get a good grade in EFL, you should go for it. If your level of comfort is lower, but you want o show that you are able to communicate effectively in English, then ESL may be the better option.

Self-evaluation of language skills is not easy and rarely accurate. The right way to get the inputs and guidance you need to make the correct choice and get the support and coaching you may need to score well is to enroll at an online tuition organization that is known for its excellence in IGCSE tuition and helping students improve their performance.

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