Teaching English as a Second Language
English as a Second Language (ESL) is defined as the formal instruction of English to those (usually immigrants, international students, or refugees) whose native language is not English but who live in an English speaking country. Through instruction in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, ESL provides the necessary communication skills to help nonnative speakers enroll in school, obtain employment, and function effectively in the host country. Common instructional methods are the silent way technique, total physical response, scaffolding, the direct approach, the whole language approach, and the interactive student centered approach. Among the unresolved issues in the ESL community are inclusion, mainstreaming, and separation.
Keywords Bilingual Act of 1968 (Title VII); Bilingualism; English as a Foreign Language (EFL); English as a Second Language (ESL); Immersion; Inclusion; L1 Learners; L2 Learners; Lau v. Nichols; Limited English Proficient (LEP); Mainstreaming; Non-English Speaking (NES); Scaffolding; Separation; Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL); Teaching Methods; Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Recent patterns of economic globalization and significant demographic shifts in the United States have created a pressing need for viable English proficiency programs. The current trends suggest that one of the largest growing groups in this country is people who speak English as a second language. The ESL population among students K–12 in the United States grew 138 percent between 1979–1999, and in the early years of the twenty-first century, one out of every five students spoke a language other than English at home (Coppola, 2005). The US Census Bureau reported in 2011 that 58 percent of US residents five years and over spoke a language other than English at home (US Census Bureau, 2013). By the year 2020 it is predicted that 50 percent of school-aged children will be of non-Euro-American background (Harper & de Jong, 2004).
In response to this growing cultural and linguistic incongruity, several different English instructional programs were implemented in public and private academic institutions in the United States and abroad. One of the most effective and widely used methods of English fluency is known as ESL or English as a Second Language. Since the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, public schools in the United States have been required to offer ESL programs in any school that has LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students. As if 2013, there were over 5.5 million school-age children in the United States who required some form of ESL instruction (Galvez, 2013, p. 1).
English as a Second Language (ESL) is defined as the formal instruction of English to those (usually immigrants, international students or refugees) whose native language is not English but who live in an English speaking country. Through instruction in reading, writing, speaking, and listening, ESL provides the necessary communication skills to help nonnative speakers enroll in school, obtain employment, and function effectively in the host country. During ESL training, English is the target language and medium of communication.
ESL is just one of the many English instructional methods used around the world. Other systems include EFL (English as a Foreign Language), ESP (English for Special Purposes), EIL (English as an International Language), EAP (English for Academic Purposes), ENL (English as a New Language), and ELL (English Language Learners). The term ESL is mainly used in the United States, Canada, and Australia. New Zealand, England, and Ireland refer to the practice as ESOL or English for Speakers of Other Languages.
Although the genesis of non-native English instruction can be traced back to the early 1700s, ESL was not formally recognized as a credible pedagogy until the middle of the twentieth century. The landmark Brown v. Board of Education (1954) paved the way for several legislative and judicial actions that bolstered the legitimacy and application of ESL such as the National Defense Education Act of 1958, the Bilingual Act of 1968 (Title VII), the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, Lau v. Nichols (1974), Castaneda v. Pichard (1981), Doe v. Plyler (1982), and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
The development of ESL in the twentieth century was also greatly influenced by the creation of TESOL in 1966. TESOL, or Teachers of English to Speakers Other Than English, is a professional organization with thousands of members from countries around the world who are dedicated to ensuring excellence in English instruction to speakers of other languages. One of TESOL's fundamental goals is to address "the need for a professional organization that would be permanently devoted to the problems of teaching English to speakers of other languages at all levels" (TESOL, 2006).
In order to obtain a position as an ESL instructor in the United States, students are required to complete an undergraduate program in a related linguistic field and an achieve a master’s degree in teaching of English to speakers other than English. Moreover, all students must obtain individual state licensing by completing mandatory field work through student teaching. The TESOL degree qualifies individuals to teach both ESL and EFL courses abroad.
The student population of ESL can be divided into two groups based on linguistic needs: LEP, or Limited English Proficient, refers to non-native English speakers who have difficulty writing, speaking, and reading English. NES, or Non-English Speaking, students do not speak or understand English and may even lack literacy skills in their native language (which further complicates the quest for English fluency).
At the college and university level, students are tested for English language fluency prior to admission. The TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, measures linguistic competence of non-native speakers of English by measuring reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Due to the growing demand for the test, TOEFL is now accessible via the Internet as an online exam. Student who fail the TOEFL are advised to complete specific ESL programs based on individual need.
Although ESL has advanced as an academic discipline, many public and private schools lack the resources and programs to adequately respond to the growing population of LEP and NES students. In fact many schools don't even have ESL programs to offer. The dearth of viable ESL curricula can also be attributed to the recent increase of anti-immigrant attitudes and resentment toward preferential treatment for minority groups (Hafernik, Messerschmitt & Vandrick, 1996).
Most ESL curricula in the United States offer various levels of study in five fundamental areas: reading, writing, grammar, speaking/conversation, and listening. ESL models differ from other English developmental programs by using only the L2 (the target language) in the classroom. The goal is to provide students the fundamental skills needed to complete the traditional all-English curriculum without relying on the L1 (the primary or native language). Some criticize this pedagogy as exclusive and argue that L1 development and fluency is necessary in order to acquire the L2, as is practiced in bilingual education.
Due to the diverse nature of the ESL population, the instructor must consider several factors about the students in the group before considering a methodology.
• Age: Linguists argue that older students have more difficulty assuming a second language and children under twelve learn languages faster than older students.
• Native Language: The instructor must consider the fluency level of the original language and the L1's phonological and syntactical proximity to English.
• L1 Literacy Level of Parents: Research suggests that if a parent is illiterate in their L1 there is a greater chance that the student will have a more difficult time learning the L2.
• Reason for Immigrating: Understanding the various motives for immigrating helps to address personal issues that may arise in the classroom.
Common strategies that have developed in K–12 and college ESL instruction include previewing (instructor reads the sections aloud before the students read), shared and paired reading, books with tapes, multicultural literature, interactive writing, theme-based instruction, reading aloud, and storytelling. All of these methods allow students to hear and apply the appropriate phonological and syntactic representations of the language.
Other ESL teaching methods include, but are not limited to:
The Silent Way Technique
This method rests...
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