*** This website is currently archived (some links may be broken/missing) – to visit our new website please go to https://naldic.org.uk ***
Skip navigation |
  • Print this page
  • ?guid=%7bca442458-3530-4b76-9459-8adfdec97890%7d&site=62513ba1-8231-4f00-a102-89be4e17cc7e" accesskey="" title="Email to a friend: Send an email message containing a link to this page." class="thickboxIframe" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackPageview', '/postingactions/EmailToAFriend/eal-teaching-and-learning/eal-glossary']);">Email to a friend
  • ?guid=%7bca442458-3530-4b76-9459-8adfdec97890%7d&site=62513ba1-8231-4f00-a102-89be4e17cc7e" accesskey="" title="Link to this page: Generate the HTML you need to add a link to this page to your site." class="thickboxIframe" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackPageview', '/postingactions/LinkToPage/eal-teaching-and-learning/eal-glossary']);">Link to this page

EAL glossary

Are you ever confused by the acronyms used to talk about learning and living in more than one language?

making circuits

Across our site we use a number of terms regularly which are explained here

Skip A-Z |
... 0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Academic English See: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency


Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS)
Everyday communication or conversational fluency in a language. It refers to the types of communication associated with routine social interactions. In school settings this is sometimes referred to as 'playground' English. This term arises from the early work of Cummins in Bilingualism and Special Education. (1984) Not all informal language use is BICS. for example teachers often use everyday common expressions to explain very complex concepts.
This term is used to describe a learner who uses two or more languages to communicate and has access to more than one language at home and at school. The term does not necessarily imply that the pupil is fully fluent in both or all of their languages. There are various interpretations with regard to attitude, proficiency and use
Reading and writing in two languages


Code mixing See: Code switching
Code switching
Using more than one language or language variety at the same time. For example when a multilingual person shifts between one language (or language variety) and another in a sentence.
Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP)
The level of language needed to understand decontextualised academic situations. In education this 'academic' English is usually contrasted with BICS or 'playground' English. This term arises from the early work of Cummins (1984) in Bilingualism and special education.
Common Underlying Proficiency
Refers to the interdependence of concepts, skills and linguistic knowledge found in a central processing system. Cummins states that cognitive and literacy skills established in the mother tongue or first language will transfer across languages. This is often presented visually as two icebergs representing the two languages which overlap and share, underneath the water line, a common underlying proficiency or operating system. The languages are outwardly distinct but are supported by shared concepts and knowledge derived from learning and experience and the cognitive and linguistic abilities of the learner.
Community language
Both terms describe the languages spoken and used, other than English, in a local community. For example, one might refer to Bengali as the most widely used community language in Tower Hamlets, or Punjabi as the predominant community language in Leicester. In some contexts, the term heritage language is used interchangeably. Heritage language may also indicate a language that is no longer widely spoken but is the language of an earlier generation of settlers, such as Ukrainian in parts of Canada, which continues to be taught and supported through language teaching and cultural and religious activities.
Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)
Bilingual or multilingual education programmes or approaches in which an additional or second language is used for learning subjects so that both language learning and content learning occur simultaneously


ELL See: Limited English Proficiency
English as a foreign language (EFL)
Refers to the learning and teaching of English in a non-English context, such as learning English in Hungary or Thailand.
English as a second language (ESL) See: English as an additional language
English as an additional language (EAL)
These terms are used to describe the learning of English in addition to the learner’s first language. The two terms are interchangeable. However, in England the term 'English as an additional language' or 'EAL' is generally used to refer to learning English in an English speaking environment, such as a school. This was deemed a more neutral term and it also recognises that, for some learners, English may be their third or fourth language.
English Language Learner (ELL)
This term is mostly used in the U.S. to describe pupils and students learning English as an additional or second language.
English to speakers of other languages (ESOL)
English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) is generally used in the UK to describe adult learning of English as an additional language
Ethnic minority
All ethnicities other than white British. Until recently, only a small percentage of EAL learners were white, although with the enlargement of the EU and greater globalization, this percentage is rising. Issues of race, ethnicity and culture are not the same as the EAL issues, but there are links between them.
Ethnic minority achievement grant (EMAG)
The Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) was developed in 1999 to fund schools and local authorities to meet the needs of minority ethnic pupils including those learning EAL. Although the discrete grant was discontinued in 2011, the term EMA has come to be used to describe ethnic minority pupils, and the roles of specialist teachers and departments.


First language
This term is used to describe the first language to which the learner is exposed. This may be different from the home language.


Heritage language See: Community language
Home language
This term is used to describe the language used most frequently in the home.


Interdependence hypothesis See: Common Underlying Proficiency


Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
Term used by the U.S. Department of Education to refer to pupils and students who lack sufficient mastery of English to meet state standards and excel in an English-medium classroom. English Language Learner (ELL) is the preferred U.S. term because it highlights learning needs, rather than a deficit view of bilingual students


Minority ethnic See: Ethnic minority
Mother tongue See: First language
This term is used to describe contexts, such as urban schools, where there are speakers of many different languages. It is sometimes used to describe a person who speaks several languages but is increasingly being replaced with plurilingual.


Native speaker
This term is used to describe a person who speaks the designated language as their first language.


This term is used to describe a speaker of more than two languages. Multilingual is still used to refer to entities such as society, cities or schools.


Sequential bilingualism
Becoming bilingual by learning a second or additional language sometime after learning your first language. Many EAL learners in UK schools are sequential bilinguals, learning English through schooling, after their first language
Simultaneous bilingualism
Growing up learning and using two languages from birth. This compares to sequential bilingualism where you learn a first language and then an additional or second language