You’ve heard of TEFL. You’ve heard of TESL. And maybe you’ve even gone so far as to hear of ESL, EFL, and TESOL. But we’ve got yet another awesome acronym to add to your bowl of Alphabet Soup for the English-teaching crowd. EAL.

Today, we’re diving deep into the world of EAL with the help of Dani Mundy, a leading EAL instructor.

Review: Dani was an excellent tutor that made the course fun!! The content was great and with plenty of ideas. My pupils will definitely benefit from me gaining this experience

Meet Dani Mundy, EAL instructor

Premier TEFL tutor Dani delivers around 20 academic hours of practical teacher training for the EAL classroom. As a Trinity CertTESOL and DELTA qualified teacher trainer, her wealth of expertise in ELT is simply unrivaled. Dani travels the world training English language teachers as well as developing corporate teaching materials for famous publishing houses such as Penguin Random House plus many online English teaching platforms.

What is EAL?

An EAL program is coursework designed to help students who are looking to learn English as an Additional Language. EAL programs hire teachers that are often bilingual who are there to help students to develop their English language speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills. This means that the student is fast-tracked in their ability to join other pupils in their normal classes and work independently.

EAL schools help students become more fluent in English by breaking down fundamental concepts and foundational language rules. Oftentimes, these programs are located in English-speaking countries to give EAL students a real immersion experience.

EAL students sitting around a table

As I’m sure anyone reading this who has traveled to a foreign country where their native language isn’t spoken can attest, many EAL students feel overwhelmed and frustrated by their immersion into a new language. It’s hard to juggle “fitting in” and “moving across continents” when you’re also struggling to understand and participate in not only class, but in the outside world around them. That’s what makes EAL programs great: They have support systems in place to help relieve some of these road bumps, leading to more student independence and quickly improved English language skills.

How does EAL differ from ESL and EFL?

Goooood question.

An English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom is one that is located in a country where English in the primary national language. The United States or United Kingdom is a great example of a destination offering ESL classes.

In contrast, English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes are held in countries where English is not the native language. For example, if there are English language courses being taught in Thailand, where Thai is the native language, not English.

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And now, EAL. EAL differs from ESL because ESL implies that English is the student’s second language—since this is not always the case, EAL is more generic and applicable across multiple students’ personal situations and relationships to the English language.

Who are EAL programs designed for? Who usually participates?

Though not as popular as its ESL program counterparts, many schools of all levels have EAL programs. This includes schools in the public and private sectors, ranging from primary schooling for students aged 5-18. You can also find EAL programs at some tertiary institutions like colleges and universities.

Remember: These programs are typically offered in native English speaking destinations, like the UK, Australia, Canada, the US, and Ireland.

EAL students practicing a movement exercise

EAL programs are designed for teaching English to school children whose first language is not English that are attending schools in countries where English is the native language. Oof, that’s a mouthful (or maybe just a run-on sentence?). Either way, let’s break that down one more time:

  • Student = non-native English speaker
  • Student = attending school in native English speaking country
  • EAL = program held in native English speaking country designed specifically to aid this student in their English language acquisition

The UK government defines EAL learners as… “anyone who has been exposed to a language other than English during early childhood and continues to be exposed to this language in the home or in the community.”

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The main groups

Refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers. Many young refugee and asylum-seeking children are admitted directly into EAL programs once they’ve migrated to their new, English-speaking home. Refugees differ from asylum seekers in that their claim for asylum has been accepted. Migrants do not always have the same access to state-provided EAL programs since they’ve moved with their own free will rather than due to traumatic experiences. Either way, these types of students often populate EAL classrooms.

New arrivals. International and economic migrants fall into this category, and can often be found participating in EAL programs.

Divided into literacy levels. There are some youths that are admitted to EAL programs across the proficiency spectrum of their first language. This includes those who are gifted and talented as well as those who have low-level literacy rates.

EAL students discussing around a table

Can I teach EAL?

You betcha! In fact, teaching EAL abroad not only adds a serious level of social justice and civic responsibility to your international education adventure, but it opens up job opportunities in destinations not often considered for teaching jobs abroad.

What’s more, Birmingham City Council and Dani Mundy, with support from Premier TEFL has devoted an entire course to helping UK-based teachers prepare for the unique challenges (and rewards) of the EAL classroom.

Funded by the Council, this program helps prepare teachers and teaching assistants for working with students short-term. It’s a worthwhile effort even for those currently supporting EAL learning—Premier TEFL knows an EAL instructor’s job is tough, and hopes this program can help provide additional support to EAL classroom assistants and teachers.

Props to help EAL students when they begin teaching

Dani shares: “Generic Primary and Secondary school teachers are qualified to teach, but generally have zero formal qualification in EAL teaching. The course gives tutors an opportunity to look at methodology, focus on lesson ideas and how to really help their learners.”

The EAL specialization course is essential to perform well in this role for your students.

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“The best part of the course is that students go away and use all the ideas straight away in the classroom, they always come back to the next session and say what a difference it has made!”

If you’ve been asked to run an EAL department but have no experience—or you want to teach “the little guys” abroad and have the most impact possible—this career path is for you.

EAL students pose with their certificates upon graduating from the course

Contact Sarah to talk about your school’s needs; join a scheduled course or host internally at your school campus.

Inspired? Read how TEFL superhero Audrey works with refugees as a volunteer English teacher.