Who Are Our EAL Learners and What Are Their Needs?

In today’s increasingly globalised world, classrooms are becoming more diverse than ever.  Among the various groups of students, EAL learners form a significant and vibrant part of our educational communities.  Understanding who these learners are and what their unique needs entail is crucial for fostering an inclusive and effective learning environment.

Who Are EAL Learners?

EAL learners are students whose first language is not English.  They come from a myriad of cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic backgrounds, each bringing their own experiences and perspectives into the classroom. These learners might be recent immigrants, refugees, or children from families where English is not spoken at home. They range in age, from young children to adults, and have varying levels of proficiency in English, from complete beginners to advanced learners.

What Are the Needs of EAL Learners?

  1. Language Development Support:
    • Targeted Language Instruction: EAL learners need structured language instruction that focuses on building proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  This often includes vocabulary development, grammar, and pronunciation practice.
    • Content Area Language Support: Alongside general English language instruction, EAL students benefit from support in understanding the specific language used in subjects like mathematics, science, and social studies.  This helps them grasp subject matter content while simultaneously improving their English skills.
  2. Cultural Integration and Support:
    • Cultural Sensitivity: Recognising and respecting the diverse cultural backgrounds of EAL learners is essential. This includes being aware of different cultural norms, traditions, and values.
    • Social Inclusion: EAL learners often face challenges in integrating into the social fabric of the school.  Encouraging peer interactions and creating inclusive activities can help them build friendships and feel a part of the school community.
  3. Emotional and Psychological Support:
    • Safe and Supportive Environment: Many EAL learners might have experienced trauma or significant life changes.  Providing a safe and supportive environment where they can express themselves and seek help when needed is crucial.
    • Encouragement and Confidence Building: Language learning can be daunting.  EAL students benefit from positive reinforcement and opportunities to build confidence through success and recognition in their efforts to learn English.
  4. Parental and Community Engagement:
    • Involving Families: Engaging the families of EAL learners in the educational process is vital.  This can be achieved through multilingual communication, involving parents in school activities, and providing resources to help them support their children’s learning at home.
    • Community Resources: Making use of community resources such as local EAL programs, language exchange groups, and cultural organisations can provide additional support and opportunities for EAL learners outside the classroom.
  5. Differentiated Instruction:
    • Tailored Learning Plans: Recognising that EAL learners have varying levels of English proficiency, differentiated instruction tailored to each student’s needs ensures that they can progress at their own pace.
    • Use of Technology: Utilising language learning apps, online resources, and interactive tools can enhance the learning experience and provide additional practice opportunities for EAL students.


EAL learners enrich our classrooms with their diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives. By understanding and addressing their specific needs, educators can create a more inclusive, supportive, and effective learning environment.  Through targeted language instruction, cultural sensitivity, emotional support, parental involvement, and differentiated teaching strategies, we can help EAL learners thrive and succeed both academically and socially.  In doing so, we not only support their individual growth but also foster a richer, more diverse educational community.