Teach better – What is ESOL?


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What’s the definition?

ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages. This is often used to refer to:

Adult refugees and migrants who are pre-literate learners or learners who have very low levels of English language and literacy. Pre-literate learners are those who need exposure to the purposes and uses of literacy.

Where does this definition come from?

This definition comes from:

Intensive Literacy and Numeracy – ESOL. (2017, January 31). Retrieved from http://www.tec.govt.nz/funding/funding-and-performance/funding/fund-finder/intensive-literacy-and-numeracy-esol/

What are some key features?

  • English is not their first language.
  • Pre-literate learners might have no concept of our alphabet and also have no literacy in their own language.
  • Learners who are refugees may suffer from trauma or stress.
  • Many will have difficulties with most forms of communication in English.

How is this definition relevant to my teaching context?

If your learners all speak English as their first language, then this definition is not so relevant. But you still need to know about it.

For a lot of tutors and trainers, many learners are also second language learners. And with some, English might be their third or fourth language. You might have people like this in your programme. If not now, then at some stage soon.

Some tutors have no control over the learners that get accepted into your programme. Or there is no way to check their language abilities beforehand. If that’s the case for you, you should expect all kinds of communication issues. And you should have some strategies in place to deal with these.

As a trades or vocational tutor, some ESOL needs might be beyond what you can deal with. However, knowing more about your ESOL learners and asking good questions can help you figure out what your options are. Sometimes this means more specialised help for these learners.

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