EAL pupils can come from any first language background – and may even speak more than one first language – which is what gives them their English as an Additional Language status. What they have in common is that they are all receiving their education in a predominantly English-speaking country. Some children are absolute beginners and others are highly advanced in English and may even sound like native speakers.
Depending on their age and background, EAL learners might be literate in their mother tongue – which can give them an edge in developing English literacy skills - or they may not yet have learned to read and write.
Many educators enjoy teaching EAL learners as they often bring new perspectives and approaches to problem solving into the classroom. They can also be challenging, for example if you’re teaching a large class and they require a lot of individual attention, or if they are having trouble adjusting to the new school system.
Experienced educators know though that even with no knowledge of a student’s mother tongue and little experience teaching non-native learners, it’s still possible to give children and young adults access to the resources, strategies, and tools they need to be successful at school.