English language learners are individuals who are learning English, usually students who are acquiring it as a second language. A significant number of students in the US are learning English as a second language, and many schools are starting to rethink their training and curricula to address the issue.
Teachers all over the United States are dealing with English language learners, who can come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are recent immigrants, and they may be older and extremely proficient in their native languages. Others are young immigrants who have not had a chance to learn English, or children who have grown up in households where English is not spoken. Because the primary language of instruction in most American schools is English, schools try to catch these students early, so that their reading, writing, and comprehension skills can be improved before they get frustrated with school.
Schools in areas with large numbers of people who do not have English as their native language may have English Language Development (ELD) programs to address their special needs students. A strong ELD program empowers students to communicate more effectively in English while also improving their comprehension and listening skills so that they can understand what is going on around them. Most programs build on native language skills to help the student bridge the gap into English, and many teachers are starting to receive special training so that they can help their students more effectively.
By the time they enter kindergarten, most English-only students have a basic grasp of the language. For them, school is an opportunity to hone their skills, improve their vocabulary, and learn more about the complex grammar rules that govern the language. For English language learners, school can be an intimidating experience, and it can also be humiliating in a poorly managed classroom. Some learners have the advantage of a basic grasp of English, because they are being raised in bilingual households. Others, however, have no English skills, and teachers must start from scratch with them, helping them to quickly learn so that they can function in the classroom.
The growing number of English language learners in the American school system has led to efforts to reform American education to address their needs. Most school programs now recognize their already existing native language skills, rather than trying to suppress them, for example. Some schools also provide special intensive programs, or a classroom environment that is particularly conducive to learning English skills as well as providing general education. While education may be only provided in English, it is often offered in a way that promotes learning rather than merely frustrating students who are new to the language. Some schools also offer bilingual education, which also encourages students to help each other learn new language skills.