A Glossary of Terms Related to English Language Acquisition and Learning adapted from the ESL PSA Glossary(for complete list, visit http://bctf.ca/eslpsa/
Adapting spoken or written language to make it more understandable to second language learners.
academic English:
Academic English is the ability to read, write, and engage in substantive conversations about math, science, history, and other school subjects.
active vocabulary:
Vocabulary words that a student will use when speaking or writing.
additive bilingualism:
Additive bilingualism occurs in an environment in which the addition of a second language and culture does not replace the first language and culture; instead, the first language/culture continues to be promoted and developed.
affective filter:
The affective filter describes negative motivational factors that act like a screen of emotion that can block language acquisition. Optimal input occurs when the affective filter is low (Krashen 1982) and learners feel comfortable enough to take risks during communicative exchanges.
An Annual Instructional Plan (AIP) is a documented plan developed for an ESL student that describes the instructional goals, adaptations, schedule of the ESL services to be provided, and a record of the ESL assessment(s).
authentic assessment:
"Multiple forms of assessment that reflect student learning, achievement, motivation, and attitudes on instructionally-relevant classroom activities. Examples of authentic assessment include performance assessment, portfolios, and student self-assessment" (O’ Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.4).
baseline data:
Data (test scores, etc.) that are collected before a program begins, or at the beginning of a program.
Acronym for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, part of a theory of language proficiency developed by Jim Cummins (1984). BICS is often referred to as social language and include the aspects of communication that are used daily in routine communicative exchanges. Students are typically able to develop BICS within 2 to 3 years.
Identifying with the cultures of two different language groups.
bilingual education:
An educational program in which two languages are used to provide content matter instruction.
Bilingualism is the ability to communicate in two languages.
The ability to effectively communicate or understand thoughts and ideas through two languages' grammatical systems and vocabulary, using their written symbols (Hargett, 1998).
Blended model:
A program of support for both ESL and other needs
Acronym for Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is the language ability required for literacy obtainment and academic achievement. CALP enables students to have academic, analytical conversation and to independently acquire factual information. Cummins (1984) found it could take from 5 to 7 years to develop academic proficiency. Other researchers say that it can take up to 10 years for English Language Learners to acquire CALP.
Sometimes used to describe the mixing of two languages at the word level (e.g. using the elements or structures from two languages in the same utterance.)
The term used to describe any switch among languages in the course of a conversation, whether at the level of words, sentences or blocks of speech. Code-switching most often occurs when bilinguals are in the presence of other bilinguals who speak the same languages (Baker & Jones, 1998).
Common Underlying Proficiency (CUP):
Cummins' theory that two languages work in an integrated manner in one underlying, central thinking system. Skills that are not directly connected to a particular language, such as subtraction, using a computer, or reading may be transferred from one language to another once the concept is understood since they exist as part of the common proficiency.
communicative competence:
The ability to interact appropriately with others both orally and in writing.
comprehensible input:
An explanation of language learning, proposed by Krashen, that maintains that language acquisition is a result of learners being exposed to language constructs and vocabulary that are slightly beyond the level that they can easily understand. Visual aids: pictures, photos, charts, advance organizers, webs, maps, teacher sketches and rebus charts can be used to support oral presentations. Also see context embedded language.
cooperative learning:
Students from a variety of backgrounds and abilities work together in small groups sharing responsibilities.
content area:
Refers to academic subjects in school; e.g., math, science, English/language arts, reading, and social sciences.
content-based ESL:
This approach to teaching English as a second language makes use of instructional materials, learning tasks, and classroom techniques from academic content areas to teach language, content, cognitive and study skills. The language may be simplified but the goal is not to water-down the concepts.
context-embedded language:
Communication occurring in a context that offers help to comprehension (e.g. visual aids, gestures, expressions, specific location). Context-embedded language occurs where there are plenty of shared understandings and where meaning is relatively obvious due to help from the physical or social nature of the conversation.
context-reduced language:
Language where there are few clues as to the meaning of the communication apart from the words themselves. The language is likely to be abstract (e.g., textbook reading, classroom lecture with no visual support).
cram school:
An after-school tutoring service that emphasises skill building and rote-learning.
dialogue journal:
"A type of writing in which students make entries in a notebook on topics of their choice, to which the teacher responds, modeling effective language but not overtly correcting the student’s language" (O’Malley & Valdez-Pierce, 1996, p.238).
dominant language:
The language with which the speaker has greater proficiency and/or uses more often (Baker, 2001).
dual language program/dual immersion:
Two language groups are put together and instruction is delivered through both languages. For example, in the US, native English-speakers might learn Spanish as a foreign language while continuing to develop their English literacy skills and Spanish-speaking ELLs learn English while developing literacy in Spanish. The goals of the program are for both groups to become bi-literate.
English as a Foreign Language (EFL) refers to situations where English is taught to students in a non-English speaking environment. (e.g., teaching English in Japan.)
English Language Development (ELD) means instruction designed specifically for English language learners to develop their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in English.
English Language Learners (ELLs) are students whose first language is not English and who are in the process of learning English.
entry criteria:
A set of criteria for designation of students as English language learners and placement in ESL, or other language support services. Criteria usually include a different home language and performance on an English language proficiency test.
English as a second dialect. This term is applied most often to regional speech patterns that differ from standard English.
English as a Second Language is a program of English language instruction for non-English speakers and is sometimes called ESOL.
English for Speakers of Other Languages is a program of English language instruction for non-English speakers.
English for specific purposes (ESP) refers to situations where technical English is taught for use in the professions, science, or for vocational needs (Strevens, 1977).
exit criteria:
A set of criteria for ending special services for English language learners and placing them in mainstream English only classes as fluent English speakers. This is usually based on a combination of performance on an English language proficiency test and grades, standardized test scores, or teacher recommendations.
false cognates
Words in different languages that sound alike and have similar form, but unrelated meanings, like embarrassed (English) and embarazada (Spanish, meaning "pregnant").
Fluent English Speaking (FES) describes an English Language Learner whose skills are fluent/proficient.
form 1701
Form 1701 includes information that is collected and returned to the British Columbia Ministry of Education by schools. Included in it is a definition of an ESL/D student for the purposes of receiving supplemental funding.
Occurs when an error becomes a part of the English Language Learners speech pattern.
grammar-translation approach:
The historically dominant method of second language teaching in school. This is a non-communicative approach that relies heavily on memorizing vocabulary and verb forms, mastery of grammatical rules, taking dictation, and translating written passages.
graphic organizer:
A visual form of organizing information and ideas (e.g., a venn diagram).
heritage language:
The language a person regards as their native, home, and/or ancestral language.
home language:
The language a student speaks at home, with family.
An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a documented plan developed for a student with special needs that describes individualized goals, adaptations, modifications, the services to be provided, and includes measures for tracking achievement.
Approach to teaching language in which the target language is used exclusively to provide all instruction.
First language or primary language.
A student’s second language. For a newcomer to Canada this language would be English or French.
language acquisition:
The process of acquiring a first or second language through meaningful conversation and use. There is no formal study of grammar or forms.
language experience approach:
An approach to reading instruction based on the idea that students can learn to read and write by dictating information or stories which is written down by the teacher. The students' first reading materials come from their own repertoire of language.
language proficiency:
To be proficient in a second language means to effectively communicate or understand thoughts or ideas through the language's grammatical system and its vocabulary, using its sounds or written symbols. Language proficiency is composed of oral (listening and speaking) and written (reading and writing) components as well as academic and non-academic language (Hargett, 1998).
Learning styles:
The manner in which a given student learns or processes information regardless of cultural background.
Limited English Speaking (LES) describes an English Language Learner whose skills are limited.
Classes designed for native or fluent speakers of English. The accommodations made for English Language Learners; if any, will vary from class to class.
meta-linguistic skills:
The ability to talk about language, analyze it, think about it, separate it from context, and judge it. Meta-linguistic skills, such as phonemic awareness and sound-to-symbol correspondence are regarded as key factors in the development of reading in young children and they may be prerequisite to later language acquisition in reading and writing.
Use of three or more languages.
native language:
The language a person acquires first in life or the language used by a student in the home with family members.
Non-English Speaking (NES) describes an English Language Learner whose English language skills are at a beginning level.
primary language:
The language in which bilingual/multilingual speakers are most fluent, or which they prefer to use.
pull-out ESL:
A program in which English Language learners are "pulled out" of regular, mainstream classrooms for special instruction in English as a second language. Their instruction typically involves little or no use of the native language. For the rest of the school day, students may be placed in mainstream classrooms.
push-in ESL:
In contrast with pull-out instruction, in push-in ESL, the ESL teacher provides instruction by going into the regular classroom. In Richmond, we also call this in-class support.
Physical items that are used to teach English.
receptive vocabulary:
Vocabulary words that students understand when used by others.
second language:
This term is used in several ways and can refer to 1) the second language learned chronologically, 2) a language other than the native language, 3) the weaker language, or 4) the less frequently used language. Second language may also be used to refer to third and further learned languages (Harris & Hodges, 1995).
social English:
Social English is the language of everyday communication in oral and written forms.
subtractive bilingualism:
Occurs in an environment in which the second language and culture is intended to replace the first language/culture. This is linked to lower self-esteem and loss of cultural or ethnic identity.
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is a professional association of teachers, administrators, researchers and others concerned with promoting scholarship, the dissemination of information, and strengthening of instruction and research in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages and dialects.
Teaching English as a Second Language.
Total Physical Response (TPR) is a language-learning approach which emphasizes the use of physical activity for increasing meaningful learning opportunities and language retention. A TPR lesson involves a detailed series of consecutive actions accompanied by a series of commands or instructions given by the teacher. Students respond by listening and performing the appropriate actions (Asher, 1981).

Compiled by Karen Beatty, ESL PSA Vice-President