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Students learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D)

Many students in Australian schools are learning English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D).* EAL/D learners are students whose first language is a language other than Standard Australian English and who require additional support to assist them to develop English language proficiency.

EAL/D students come from diverse backgrounds and may include:

  • overseas- and Australian-born children whose first language is a language other than English
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students whose first language is an Indigenous language, including traditional languages
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students whose first language is Aboriginal English, including creoles and related varieties.

EAL/D learners enter Australian schools at different ages and stages of schooling and at different stages of English language learning. They have diverse talents and capabilities and a range of prior learning experiences and levels of literacy in their first language and in English. EAL/D students represent a significant and growing percentage of learners in NSW schools. For some, school is the only place they use English.

EAL/D learners are simultaneously learning a new language and the knowledge, understanding and skills of the English syllabus through that new language. They require additional time and support, along with informed teaching that explicitly addresses their language needs, and assessments that take into account their developing language proficiency.

Using the ESL scales with EAL learners

The ESL scales provide a detailed description of English language progression for EAL learners. In the NSW English K–10 Syllabus, the subject content has been mapped to the ESL scales to support teachers of EAL learners. Teachers should use the ESL scales in conjunction with the syllabus to address the needs of EAL students and to assist them to access English curriculum outcomes and content.

The ESL scales provide a description of English language learning progression typical of EAL learners. This progression is organised into strands of Oral Interaction, Reading and Responding, and Writing. Each of these strands is organised into level statements. The level statements range from levels 1 to 7 for Reading and Responding and Writing and from levels 1 to 8 for Oral Interaction. There are also beginner levels in Reading and Responding and Writing for students who are not literate in any language when they begin learning English.

EAL learners may be at any stage in the development of their English language skills and therefore any level on the ESL scales. Teachers can address the needs of EAL learners by determining their level of language on the ESL scales and then considering the ESL scales outcomes mapped to the English content.

The ESL scales outcomes mapped to the content have been selected to show the level of English EAL learners need in order to achieve the English outcomes. Teachers can use the outcomes, and the relevant performance indicators in the ESL scales, to plan and program for the language needs of EAL students. This should be done in conjunction with development of the knowledge, understanding and skills of the English syllabus content.

* EAL/D is the term adopted by all Australian schools as part of the national education reform agenda of developing a K–12 Australian curriculum. The term English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) may be used interchangeably with the following terms: English as a second language (ESL), English language learners (ELL), English as an additional language (EAL) or English as an additional dialect (EAD).

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