English As an Additional Language (EAL)

English as a second language
powerofforever/Getty Images

English as an additional language (EAL) is a contemporary term (particularly in the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union) for English as a second language (ESL): the use or study of the English language by non-native speakers in an English-speaking environment.

The term English as an additional language acknowledges that students are already competent speakers of at least one home language. In the US, the term English language learner (ELL) is roughly equivalent to EAL.

In the UK, "around one in eight children are regarded as having English as an additional language" (Colin Baker, Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 2011).

Examples and Observations

  • "Sometimes the same terms have different connotations across national contexts (Edwards & Redfern, 1992: 4). In Britain, the term 'bilingual' is used to describe students learning and using English as an additional language (EAL): 'thereby stressing children's accomplishments rather than their lack of fluency in English' (Levine, 1990: 5). The definition does not make 'any judgement of range or quality of linguistic skills, but stands for the alternate use of two languages in the same individual' (Bourne, 1989: 1-2). In the United States, 'English as a secondary language' (ESL) is the term probably most in use to describe children learning English while going through the education system (Adamson, 1993), although 'bilingual' is also used as well as a plethora of other terms ('limited English proficient,' etc.)." (Angela Creese, Teacher Collaboration And Talk In Multilingual Classrooms. Multilingual Matters, 2005)
  • "It is encouraging ... that more and more educators today are challenging the native speaker fallacy and pointing out the many strengths of competent teachers of English who share a first language with their students and have gone through the process of learning English as an additional language." (Sandra Lee McKay, Teaching English as an International Language. Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • "Children learning English as an additional language are not a homogeneous group; they come from diverse regions and backgrounds... Children learning English as an additional language (EAL) are likely to have a range of experience and fluency in learning English. Some may have recently arrived and be new to the English language and British culture; some children may have been born in Britain but have been brought up with languages other than English; while yet others may have had years of learning in English." (Kathy MacLean, "Children for Whom English Is an Additional Language." Supporting Inclusive Practice, 2nd ed., edited by Gianna Knowles. Routledge, 2011)
  • "Children learning English as an additional language learn best when they:
    - are encouraged to participate in a wide range of activities that stimulate communication in an environment which reflects their own cultural and linguistic background. Games are especially helpful because they can participate fully by using words and body language...
    - are exposed to language which is appropriate to their level of development, which is meaningful, based on concrete experiences and supported by visual and concrete experiences. They make most progress when the focus is on meaning and not on words and grammar...
    - are involved in practical activities because young children learn best from hands on experiences.
    - feel secure and esteemed in a supportive environment...
    - are encouraged and not continually corrected. Mistakes are part of the process of learning to speak a language...
    - have educators who quickly learn the names that are unfamiliar to them and pronounce them the way the parents do and have learned some words in the children's home languages. The languages children speak, their sense of identity and their self-esteem are all closely bound together." (Babette Brown, Unlearning Discrimination in the Early Years. Trentham Books, 1998)
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "English As an Additional Language (EAL)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/english-as-an-additional-language-eal-1690600. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). English As an Additional Language (EAL). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/english-as-an-additional-language-eal-1690600 Nordquist, Richard. "English As an Additional Language (EAL)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/english-as-an-additional-language-eal-1690600 (accessed March 24, 2023).