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English Language Learner (ELL): Anyone who is in the process of activitely acquiring English and whose primary language is other than English


English Learner (EL): Alternative term for English Language Learner, can be used interchangeably. 


EFL: English as a foreign language


ESL: English as a second language


Interlanguage: The type of language used by language learners who are in the process of learning a target language.


L1: First language


L2: Second language, not the speaker's native language.


Limited English Proficiency Student: (1) any student identified by the Home Language Survey and who has not attained a Composite Score Level 6 on the ACCESS for ELLs annual assessment, or (2) any newly-enrolled student who has been administered the ACCESS for ELLS by another Maine SAU and who has not attained a Composite Level 6 score.


TESOL: Teaching English to speakers of other languages


Stages of Second Language Acquisition

1. Pre-Production Also known as the "silent period;" learner takes in the new language. Learners may have up to 500 words in their vocabulary, but are not yet speaking. The school day is exhausting for these new learners as they take in a new language.
2. Early Production Learners show improved comprehension and begin to speak using shorts words or simple sentences. The emphasis at this stage is still on absorbing the new language, and learners will produce many errors as they try out the new language.
3. Speech Emergent Learners produce simple sentences, while still relying on context clues and familiar topics. Learners use common nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and will make some pronunciation and language use errors.
4. Beginning Fluency Learners are fairly fluent in social situations with fewer errors. Learners still struggle with new contexts and academic situations, and may have difficulty expressing themselves due to vocabulary gaps.
5. Intermediate Fluency Learners have a more extensive vocabulary and use more complex sentences in writing and speaking. Learners can express themselves in new situations and academic contexts, but there may still be some gaps in vocabulary and phrases. 
6. Advanced Fluency Learners communicate fluently in all contexts, in new situations and academic settings. At this stage, learners may still have an accent and use idiomatic expressions incorrectly at times, but have exited ESL programs and are essentially fluent.

Conversational Language vs. Academic Language

Conversational English

  • Necessary for daily life, social situations, making friends, understanding common slang and idioms, and enjoying American entertainment.
  • Takes one to two years to learn how to speak and understand a normal conversation.
  • Young learners may pick up conversational English quickly through immersion and interactions with peers.


Academic English

  • Necessary for success in school and college, as well as job-seeking and formal situations.
  • Takes four to 10 years to use English in grade-appropriate reading and writing, problem-solving and critical thinking activities (this includes the one to two years learning conversational English).
  • Students who studied English in their home country may be poised for success in academic English, but have low confidence in conversational English.


Both Conversational English and Academic English are necessary for success.