A Rose by Many Names

Those of us who have taught English to non-native speakers over the years have seen many transitions in the terminology used to describe us. I am just starting to facilitate a course where two instructors from New York have introduced themselves as  "English as a New Language" teachers. Is that the new kid on the block? Leecy


Hi Leecy, Like you, 0ver the years, I've heard a bunch of different terms and acronyms for the learners we serve. I have heard English as a new language" as well as "English as an additional language." I think people just want to be sensitive to the reality that many learners already speak two or more languages, so English is literally not their "second" language. These learners are now adding English to their linguistic repertoire.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP


Indeed, Susan, the original term, ESL, doesn't include a lot of people who do not need it as a second language. For quite awhile, the term English Language Learners (ELLs) was widespread in schools, but I guess that doesn't distinguish the instruction from native speakers who are learning English academically. Then TOEFL addressed only those who taught English as a foreign language, and so forth. Certainly, methodologies change considerably, depending on the population. Maybe the new term, English as a New Language (ENL) is more inclusive. Perhaps EAL: English as Another Language or, as you mentioned, English as an Additional Language is the broadest umbrella for the type of instruction offered. 

Funny or Sad Story: I attended a banquet some time ago, and the gentleman sitting next to me asked, "What do you teach at the college?" I answered, "English as a Second Language." The fellow winced, frowned, drew back, and replied, "Since when is English considered a second language?" Sigh.