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Why Learning English is difficult?

The roots of education are bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

                                                                                                     - Aristotle

Is it really difficult to learn English? You may say, “My oh my! BIG YES!” with your eyes rolling.

Although we cannot deny the fact that many of us are required to learn English. Most people communicate through this language and we can not simply stay inside our own box and ignore the great opportunities that we may acquire when we become fluent in communicating using this language.

According to Startupr Hong Kong Limited, in its article posted on, “English is the most influential language of academia and the business world, occupying the top in the field of languages and spoken by over three-quarters of the world’s population. It is used in 94 countries by 339 million native speakers, and it is the de facto language of the United States and an official language of Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and several other countries, making it an essential language for business owners. Along with this, the English language also retains the number one spot as the most commonly used language by 53% of websites and internet users with 949 million users. Hence, there is no denying the fact that English is the language of globalization, and crucial for those entrepreneurs who want to thrive on the global stage.”



It is quite essential that one who aims to achieve higher in global environment should strive to learn this language. With all these information, though, learning English has been such a pressure to the speakers of other languages. In order to address this issue, it is better to know why this language is difficult to learn. Thus, this article from Day Translations is hereby shared not to rub salt into the wound, but to enlighten and somehow to bring awareness regarding these peculiarities in the English language.

Why Learning English is Difficult?


English language speakers sometimes take for granted the structure and requirements of the language. English is part of the Indo European language family and many of its words derive from Ancient Greek and Latin, which are also common in other languages spoken in Europe. However, for learners of the language, English is very difficult to learn.

What is more surprising is the fact that other countries made English their second language. In many parts of the world, English is spoken more fluently compared to natural American and British English speakers.

In document translation, English as a source or target language is very much in demand. According to the British Council, there are more than one billion English language learners all over the world.

However, there is still the question of why it is difficult to learn English.

Some contradictions

Many students find that the contradictions in the English language are reasons why it becomes difficult to learn it. Maybe they are just finding that the language is like a riddle. Some of the things that they question:

  • Hamburger has no ham.
  • There is no pine or even apple in pineapple.
  • Taught is the past tense of teach however, the past tense of preach is preached and not ”praught.”
  • Vegetables are the main food of vegetarians, but do humanitarians eat something else?
  • The English words see and look mean the same thing, but oversee and overlook have different meanings.


Native English speakers seldom think about the reasons why some of things in the language are illogical. It could be because native speakers are used to these things. Someone who speaks English since birth would not find these inconsistencies weird. But for English language learners, who are taught every facet of the language, these are glaring points that bring them confusion.

Rules and exceptions

Another thing that confuses English learners is that there are too many rules to follow. On the other hand, there are too many exceptions to the rules as well.

One rule that can confuse: Use ”I” before “E” except when either letter is positioned after the letter “C,” thus you write believe or relieve but write receipt differently. You spell seize or weird with “E” before ”I” yet science is spelled with ”I” after ”C,” which contradicts the first rule.

Likewise, English has plenty of irregular verbs. Overall, learners should remember 370 irregular verbs, such as:

Present Tense SimplePast Tense
fight fought
light lit
seek sought
grind ground
bid bid
blow blew
bear bore

When learning English, the student may be learning several rules, but also has to learn more exceptions to those rules. These are just some of the things that hamper the progress of students.

Word order

If you speak English naturally, you immediately know the order in which words are placed. This is another thing that learners find difficult to understand. Explaining why there is a logical order in the positioning of words can be difficult to grasp. It is not easy to explain that the order of word makes it sound right.

You can say “an interesting small cup” but it does not sound right if you say ”a small interesting cup.” It could be grammatically correct but it’s how it sounds that makes a subtle difference in the execution. Understanding the nuances of the language for example, is what native speakers innately know.



Spelling is only one area that makes learning English difficult. The student also has to contend with pronunciation. There are languages, such as Spanish, where you pronounce the words as they are written. In English, there are several ways to pronounce words that have almost the same letter combinations, such as throughboughrough and trough. Silent letters are also present in the beginning, middle and end of some words as well. Examples include:

knife, write, daughter, aisle, gnome, psychology, knee, lamb, knock, half, wrist, plumber

The problem is compounded by words that have more consonants than vowels and vice versa. You’ll find them in these examples:

Photosynthesis, Crystal, Scythe, Symphony, Rhythm, Gypsy, Chlorophyll, Lightly

Emphasis on certain words

The way a speaker puts stress or emphasis on a certain word or words makes the meaning different in a subtle way. Each time the emphasis is put on a different word in one sentence completely changes its meaning. Sometimes the emphasis it quite clear so it is easier to pick up the intended meaning. However, there are times when the emphasis is not very distinct, which could lead to misinterpretation. Putting emphasis on a specific word is often used to express how someone feels.

A number of homophones

Aside from the above, homophones abound in the English language. These are words that are written in the same way but difference in pronunciation effectively makes the meaning different as well. This factor is very difficult for English language learners to grasp. For example:

Alternate – when pronounced as ALternit = succeeding choice

Alternate – pronounced as ALternait = switching from one to another

Attribute – to associate ownership to (something or someone) when pronounced as ahTRIByoot (emphasis on the second syllable)

Attribute – someone’s characteristic when the emphasis is on the first syllable, as in AHtribyoot

Bass is pronounced as written when you want to indicate a specific fish species.

Bass is pronounced as base when you want to describe a musical instrument.

Bow, when used to indicate lowering one’s head it’s pronounced as bau or baw.

When talking about a hunting implement, such as bow and arrow, it is pronounced as boh.

Putting stress on the lasts syllable of Contest indicates that you are arguing whereas putting the emphasis on the first syllable and pronouncing it with more of an ”a” than ”o” sound indicates that there is competition.

Close with more of a ”z” than an ”s” sound means to shut a door, window or any opening. When the word is pronounced with an ”s” sound and silent ”e,” its means near.

When you pronounce the word Wound as woond, it means an injury. But if you say wownd, you mean that you coil or wrap up something, such as a rope or a bandage.

Some English words have several dissimilar meanings. For example, the word Course could be a series of meetings or lessons, series of developments, actions or events, line of orientation or flow, mode of action, a route, and a part of a meal or a masonry layer.

Raise is another word with multiple meanings. It could mean to increase the level or amount of something, upward movement (such as hands or eyes), cause to be heard or known. It can also mean to collect funds, grow or cultivate, call into action, provide and care for (children, family), build or construct, call out emotions, create a disturbance, improve quality, wealth or condition, make something better, and more.

Synonyms cannot be interchanged

Many words in English mean the same thing, such as see and watch. However, it is not always possible to swap them. It is all right to say, ”watch or see a film” or ”watch TV” but you should never say, ”see television” as the phrase does not sound right.

To make it more complicated, you are not called a ”watcher” when you watch TV or movie, but rather a ”viewer” but the latter’s use is altogether different. You cannot say view television but you can say television viewer.

Synonyms of the word elegant include graceful, chic, refined and classic. While you can say that a swan’s or a ballerina’s neck is elegant or graceful, you cannot associate chic or classic to a swan’s neck because those two terms are associated with fashion.

So many things make learning English difficult and confusing. Its grammar structure, its spelling, meanings and rules that contradict existing rules are difficult to master. But remember that the situation is the same for English speakers trying to learn a foreign language.

What is important is your willingness to learn and putting more effort to learning the basic rules. Learning English is definitely challenging but the fact is several languages are more difficult to learn than English. Furthermore, the benefits that one will enjoy once enough proficiency is achieved are far greater than its challenges.






Young children are natural language acquirers; they are self-motivated to pick up language without conscious learning, unlike adolescents and adults. They have the ability to imitate pronunciation and work out the rules for themselves. Any idea that learning to talk in English is difficult does not occur to them unless it’s suggested by adults, who themselves probably learned English academically at a later age through grammar-based text books.

Advantages of beginning early

At a young age, children are still using their individual, innate language-learning strategies to acquire their home language and soon find they can use these strategies to pick up English.

Children  learn through play-like activities. Students who have the opportunity to pick up a second language while they are still young appear to use the same innate language-learning strategies throughout life when learning other languages. Acquiring third, fourth, or even more languages then becomes easier .

Stages in picking up English

Spoken language comes naturally before reading and writing.

1.  Silent period

The ‘silent period’, is when babies look and listen and communicate through facial expression or gestures before they begin to speak.  During this time, parents should not force children to take part in spoken dialogue by making them repeat words. Spoken dialogues should be one-sided, the adult’s talk providing useful opportunities for the child to pick up language.

2.  Beginning to talk

Depending on the frequency of English sessions and interaction with English speakers, each child  begins to say single words or ready-made short phrases.  The child has memorized them and has learned to imitate the pronunciations.  This stage continues for some time as they child picks up more language, using it as a short cut  before they are ready to create their own phrases.

3.  Building up English language

Gradually, children build phrases consisting of a single memorized word to which they add words from their vocabulary and create their own phrases.



Understanding is always greater than speaking and young children’s ability to comprehend should not be underestimated, as they are used to understanding their home language from a variety of context clues. Though they may not understand everything they hear in their home language, children grasp the meaning.  They are able to  understand a few important words and decipher the rest using different clues. With encouragement they soon transfer their  understanding skills to interpret meaning in English.


Children should not be told they have made a mistake because any correction immediately demotivates. Mistakes may be part of the process of working out grammar rules of English.  When children have an opportunity to hear the adult repeat the same conversations and sentences correctly, they will self-correct in their own time.

Parental support

Parent child

Children need to feel that they are making progress. They need continual encouragement as well as praise for good performance, as any success motivates. Parents are in an ideal position to motivate and  help their children learn.

Make learning fun!!!

Tips to Support Your Child’s English Language Skills

” Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.”    -  Flora Lewis


The aim of English as an Additional Language (EAL) is to build English confidence, fluency, and accuracy so that our students can fully and independently access their learning, both in and out of the classroom. Therefore parents play a crucial role in ensuring that there are plenty of engaging learning opportunities for them to develop their skills.

Here are some ways parents can do to support their child’s learning at home:

1. Use the home language
Encourage your child to talk about their school day, lessons, and activities using the home language. Parents can also use the home language to help their child complete tasks in English such as discussing the story first in home language and then in English. Discussion in your first language will help your child to understand the ideas more thoroughly. Research shows that, generally, children who have strong concept development and literacy skills in their first language are better able to learn a second language.


first language


2. Harness entertainment for learning

Parents may use the form of entertainment that their child is currently engaged in to be rich sources of communication. There are technology tools which can help students practice their English language skills. Parents can subscribe to English teaching channels on YouTube. They are free and cover the core topics of the English language. Check out Rachel’s English and English With Jennifer to name just a few.


youtube channels that educate


3. Listen to audio stories

Listening to audio activities can be a valuable way of engaging children in texts. Focusing on listening activities allows children to absorb as much as possible and gradually increase their confidence. Many children won’t be ready to speak yet, and letting them absorb as much as possible will be much more helpful than pushing them to speak before they are ready. Audio stories can also help parents learn English and can be something the parent and child do together. A listening corner where the children can independently play different audio samples can help.


audio stories

4. Provide real-life situations for learning opportunities

Parents can provide learning opportunities while carrying out day to day activities.

  • math – counting money during shopping e.g. working out totals or change for purchases, working out specials (2 for 1 etc)
  • math – calculating measurements – recipes, measuring for home renovations or repairs e.g. the length of material needed for the new curtains.
  • science – changes during cooking – melting, reversible and irreversible changes, mixing and combining
  • reading – reading together in any language – stories, letters, newspapers, pamphlets, road signs etc
  • writing – for real purposes e.g. letters to relatives and friends in other places, writing notes to other members of the family, creating treasure hunts with clues
  • investigating the roots of some words in the English language and acknowledging the contributions made from different language groups.


cooking together


shopping together

The Importance of the English Language in Today’s World


English is the International Common Tongue

There are several factors that make the English language essential to communication in our current time. First of all, it is the most common foreign language. This means that two people who come from different countries (for example, a Mexican and a Swede) usually use English as a common language to communicate. That’s why everyone needs to learn the language in order to get in touch on an international level. Speaking it will help you communicate with people from countries all over the world, not just English-speaking ones.



English is also essential to the field of education. In many countries, children are taught and encouraged to learn English as a second language. Even in countries where it is not an official language, such as the Netherlands or Sweden, we will find many syllabi in science and engineering are written in English. Because it is the dominant language in the sciences, most of the research and studies you find in any given scientific field will be written in it as well. At the university level, students in many countries study almost all their subjects in English in order to make the material more accessible to international students.

List of Countries by English Speaking Population

% English Speakers  
Total English Speakers  
United States 94.2 298,444,149
India 10.35 125,226,449
Pakistan 49 92,316,049
Nigeria 53 82,941,000
United Kingdom 97.74 63,962,000
Philippines 56.63 57,292,884
Germany 64 51,584,000
Bangladesh 18 29,398,158
Canada 85.63 28,360,240
Egypt 35 28,101,325
France 39 25,500,000
Italy 34 20,300,000
Ghana 66.67 18,000,000
Australia 97.03 17,357,833
Thailand 27.16 17,121,187
South Africa 31 16,424,417


Travel and Business

With good understanding and communication in English, you can travel around the globe. Because it is the international language for foreigners, it’s easy to get assistance and help in every part of world. You can test it by online travel. Any travel booking site you can find will have English as a booking option.

English skills will also help you in any business venture you choose to follow. If you visit some offices, companies, governmental organizations, or even math or engineering companies, you will see the importance of English. Any big company will hire their professional staff after getting to know whether the people they are hiring are good at English or not. Companies who want to function at an international level only consider their staff well educated if they are good English speakers, writers, and readers.



Summer Activities for EAL Students

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”         —      Jeannette Walls


With the summer holidays approaching, students may use the following summer topics activities. These activities will give students opportunities to practice English language skills.


Summer Word Search

  • Create a list of “summer” words appropriate for the ESL level of the students with blank columns beside each word.
  • Ask the students to identify words that are new to them. Discuss the meanings.
  • Have the students use the words in a conversation where they share their past summer activities.
  • Ask the students to write a short (one page) essay on summer using as many of the vocabulary words as they can, underlining the words.

ESL Summer Archaeology

  • Have the students find one artifact of summer that they can bring to discuss.
  • Ask them to tell the history of the item, why it is meaningful, where did it come from, and how long they have had it.
  • Have the students to create a fictional story about it.
  • Ask them to present their stories.

ESL Scavenger Hunts

  • Instead of writing out a list of items for students to find, try writing item descriptions instead. You can write simple descriptions (i.e. This piece of metal holds papers together. = paperclip), write your clues more in riddle form (i.e. Inside this box is gold for the taking, but there are no locks or keys to open it. = an egg) or do a combination. The point is that students get some reading comprehension practice when they figure out what you are describing by your clue.

Caption That

  • Print or cut out some pictures and post them on a bulletin or illustration board. Then put some sticky notes nearby for students to use when writing funny captions to go with each photo. You and your family may also write funny captions for each photo.
  • Students will love both writing their own captions and reading captions that their family members have written. At the end of the break, compile your photos and captions into a photo book with your favorite desktop publishing program. Then make copies to remember what a great time they had.

Puppet Plays

  • If your kids like arts and crafts, take some time to make puppets. You can use a simple paper finger puppets or one of your own. (
  • After the puppets are complete, come up with a puppet show for your family. You can have them write out the script or improvise. Either way, they will get in some language practice while entertaining their audience.

Postcard Prompts

  • Prepare pairs of postcards from your home town, if you can or e cards from the Internet . Postcards can be marked A and B.
  • Give each student a postcard to read and explain that their friend has sent it to them. Ask comprehension questions about the card: ‘Where is the sender?’ ‘What’s the weather like?’ ‘What is he/she doing?’
  • Review the language needed to ask about holiday places and impressions. ‘How was the weather?’ ‘What did you think of the food?’
  • Put As and Bs together and ask them to telephone their partner and thank them for their postcard. They can also find out more about the holiday.
  • Variation: get students to write postcards from weird or wacky holiday places. Use the postcards to role play (as above)

10 ESL Games for English Learners

Games and fun activities are a vital part of teaching English. Below are some ESL games that you can play with your child at home.

Simon Says
This is an excellent game for young learners. Whether you’re waking them up on a Monday morning or sending them home on a Friday afternoon, this one is bound to get them excited and wanting more.

  • Why use it? Listening comprehension; Vocabulary;
  • Who it’s best for: Young learners

How to Play:
Stand in front of the class (you are Simon for the duration of this game).
Do an action and say Simon Says [action]. The students must copy what you do.

Repeat this process choosing different actions – you can be as silly as you like and the sillier you are the more the children will love you for it.

Then do an action but this time say only the action and omit ‘Simon Says’. Whoever does the action this time is out and must sit down.

Word Jumble Race
This game works wonders with all age groups. It is perfect for practicing tenses, word order, reading & writing skills and grammar.

  • Why use it? Grammar; Word Order; Spelling; Writing Skills
  • Who it’s best for: Adaptable to all levels/ages

How to play:

Write out a number of sentences, using different colors for each sentence

Cut up the sentences so you have a handful of words.
Put each sentence into hats, cups or any objects you can find, keeping each separate.

Take turns with your child to put the sentences in the correct order.


  • Why use it? Warming up / winding down class
  • Who it’s best for: Young learners

How to play:

Think of a word and write the number of letters on the board using dashes to show many letters there are.
Ask your child to suggest a letter. If it appears in the word, write it in all of the correct spaces. If the letter does not appear in the word, write it off to the side and begin drawing the image of a hanging man.
Continue until your child guesses the word correctly


This is another game that works well with any age group; children love it because they can get creative

Pictionary can help students practice their vocabulary and it tests to see if they’re remembering the words you’ve been teaching.

  • Why use it? Vocabulary
  • Who it’s best for: All ages; best with young learners

How to play:

  • prepare a bunch of words and put them in a bag.
  • ask your child to choose a word from the bag and draw the word as a picture on the board.
  • try to guess the word


“Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” – Rita Mae Brown


Teaching Culture and English

Language and culture are inseparable, and teachers with English as an Additional language (EAL) students need to be aware of the cultural similarities and differences among the students themselves. When students learn English, or any other language for that matter, they also learn the target culture.


Why we need to value student’s languages and cultures

Language is a verbal expression of culture. It conveys our experience as people. Learning a language opens a window into the culture and customs of people.


relationship bet language and culture


Students’ native languages provide a link to their families, their history and ultimately, their identities. They use their own cultural lens to view and interpret the world.


language culture and identity


The language and culture of students shape their identities and experiences. They can also help to build engagement and relevance in student learning. When we activate students’ languages and cultures in the classroom, information becomes more relevant and meaningful, making learning more comprehensible.


How teachers can support students’ cultures and languages in the school and classroom


nurture language and culture


Students really appreciate when their teacher exhibits interest in their customs and cultural practices. For students, it means that not only is the teacher concerned with teaching English, but he is also considerate of and interested in learning about their way of life. Here are some ways to engage students’ cultures for more meaningful and interesting learning:

1. Enable students to use their mother-tongue languages in the school and classroom. Students can benefit from brainstorming and reading important background information about class topics in their mother-tongue. This can help them keep up and understand what is going on in the classroom. Similarly, teachers can also allow EAL students and their classmates who speak the same languages to discuss class concepts in their mother-tongue. This can make the learning much more meaningful for them.

2. When planning lessons, build in opportunities to engage students’ prior knowledge through their own cultural perspectives. Incorporating literature into cultural literacy instruction can model language structures, connect lessons to students’ prior knowledge, develop cultural awareness by comparing their own culture with the second culture, and motivate students in their learning and using of the second language. Thus, whenever there is an opportunity to try to connect lesson content with the students’ lives, I do my best to incorporate things that I know are important to them as well as things that they are very familiar with.

For example, we are studying “The Joy Luck Club” in our class and one of the main themes is cultural differences between the mothers and daughters. The mothers grew up in China while the daughters were born and raised in America. Their mixed cultural heritage confuses their ideologies taught in the society they reside in. Our EAL students consider their own culture by individually thinking about the defining features of their culture. They are asked to share their thoughts by identifying what they think is happening and how they would handle that situation. We also demonstrate how culture can interfere with communication. They are asked to work on strategies for recognizing and handling cultural misunderstandings. These kinds of rich discussions need to be delivered in a nurturing environment where all students’ opinions and perspectives are valued by teachers who set the tone for an open and accepting classroom community.

Linking lesson content to students’ lives and culture goes a long way in building rapport as they grow to appreciate you taking an interest in learning about their culture, it breaks down cultural barriers, and it helps students stay motivated to learn.



Importance of Reading (ESL Reading Comprehension)


Reading is the most basic skill to learn when trying to master English. Once you can read, you can read more and learn more, and therefore continue to learn more.

Once you can read you can see how English is written, see the structure and see the grammar that is used, so by learning to read you will open up many areas of English to learn in the future.

What is Needed for ESL Reading Comprehension


To become successful at ESL reading comprehension you need to practice. You need to learn vocabulary and remember it so that when you see the word in a passage you know what it means.

There are two ways to do this. The first is to start reading and then look up each word that you do not know in a dictionary. When doing this you should write the words down in a list with a definition so that you can revise them and make sure you remember them.

The other way is to learn vocabulary from vocabulary lists or flashcards. Then when you see the word in a reading comprehension you will know it already. Both methods are good and will help you become better at understanding English during reading exercises or activities.


Reading Comprehension Tips

  • As with learning anything, the best way to get better is to practice. This means that you should read and understand as much as possible.
  • Read about topics that interest you. Any reading practice will be beneficial.
  • However, also read about a wide range of topics as this will mean you improve your vocabulary more.
  • Read often, if possible everyday.
  • Make lists of new words and spend time learning all this new vocabulary.
  • Chose reading passages that are just right. This means that if it is too easy you will not be learning anything new and if it is too hard you will find it difficult and also not learn as well as you could.
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How Parents Can Help Their ESL Children Learn English

Parents helping their ESL children learn English is a multi-faceted process. Small steps combine to create an eager and capable student.

Understand the Importance of English
Parents must first understand and believe in the importance of English language skills. Children are adept at picking up on parental attitudes. If children realize the adults in their lives don’t think learning English is important, they will be less likely to approach the subject with a positive attitude.



Prepare Children for School
In many ways, parents can help their children learn English by ensuring they’re well-prepared for school in general. This can include:

Setting aside a time and place for homework
Having resources available such as pens, paper, and dictionaries
Being willing to answer questions about homework when possible
Asking about their school day and listening to concerns
Ensuring they eat a healthy breakfast before school
Encouraging them to get a good night’s sleep

Communicate with Teachers
Talking to teachers and other school personnel can be intimidating for parents of ESL students, especially if they aren’t comfortable with their own English skills. However, teachers can be invaluable partners in helping children reach their full potential. In addition to reporting on a student’s overall progress, teachers may be able to suggest the best methods for practicing English at home and point parents to helpful resources.

Parents who are unable to speak to a teacher in English should investigate whether the district or a community program offers translators or ask a fluent friend or family member for assistance.


Model Learning
One of the greatest ways for parents to help their children learn English is by attempting to learn English themselves. When parents are able to use English at home, more opportunities will arise for children to practice speaking and listening. Parents and children practicing their new skills together can be a great motivator.

Even parents who are fluent in English can demonstrate the importance of learning by focusing on an area of improvement, such as studying a difficult novel to learn complex vocabulary or bettering their writing skills.

Portrait of teacher with elementary school girl at her desk

Read Regularly
Reading is an invaluable skill that only improves with practice. Parents can help by providing access to books and reading aloud to their children.

While it’s important to practice reading in the target language, not every book must be in English. Reading in their native language can help students preserve their culture while also improving their overall reading fluency. Students who read well in another language are more likely to experience success in English literacy.

No matter what their background or personal English abilities, by making a dedicated effort to promote English language learning, parents of ESL students can be the key to a child’s success.



Why Accommodate?

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”      -   Ignacio Estrada


One of the greatest challenges for teachers is to be able to address the wide range of learning needs of all students and at the same time move them toward high levels of achievement. It can be challenging to educators to ensure that all students, including English Language Learners, have equal access to grade-level academic content. Accommodations provided during instruction and assessment promotes equal access to grade-level content for these students.


Who are English Language Learners or English as an Additional Language students?

English Language Learners (ELL) or English as an Additional Language (EAL) students are students whose first language is other than English. Even though these students are classified as a general group, it does not mean that each student can be understood in the same way. Each ELL student is different and requires different accommodations and cultural awareness. Therefore it is important as a teacher to discover these backgrounds as best as possible in order to better understand each learner.


What are accommodations?

Accommodations are practices and procedures that provide equitable access to grade-level content. Accommodations are intended to reduce or eliminate the effects of a student’s disability or a student’s limited English proficiency. They do not reduce learning expectations. They do not change the content or the required skill level of an activity, lesson, or test.


Why Accommodate?

English language learners must receive accommodations:

1. to help them understand the content

2. to help them complete assignments

3. to help them improve their English

4. to help them feel included and comfortable

The key to helping the student understand the content and engage is by using teaching strategies and learning resources that make content comprehensible.


What types of accommodations should I use for ELL students in my classroom?



Generally speaking, accommodations that are helpful for ELL students are usually helpful for all students.  With this in mind it is important to remember that many of the accommodations that can be made for ELL students can be applied when differentiating for student needs on a regular basis.  Below are just a few examples of classroom accommodations for ELL students.

General classroom accommodations

  • Use a variety of instruction and assessment strategies
  • Use cooperative group learning- reciprocal teaching, learning circles
  • Use visuals during instruction and accompany print material with visuals for clarification and explanation
  • Allow partner work
  • Explicitly instruct different types of learning strategies
  • Follow predictable routines in order to create an environment of security and stability especially for students new to the language and culture
  • Involve students’ culture and family in school events and projects
  • Create a sense of belonging for EVERY student in the class

Specific classroom accommodations

  • Find alternate ways for students to respond. To demonstrate knowledge, students can draw pictures with captions or speak their  responses instead of writing.
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  • Prepare and distribute advance notes. This gives students opportunity to preview what will be taught and, in turn, aids in comprehension of the material.
  • Give extended time. Students may require more time to process and communicate information. Giving them extra time will help lessen anxiety, which often has a significant impact on performance.


  • Provide a model or demonstration of required/expected written or oral responses. Modelling and using gestures to aid in understanding can be a very effective accommodation for students.
  • Simplify written and verbal instructions. This can be easily done by taking out extra words or turning complex sentences into simple ones. Consider these directions:

                 Carefully read each sentence below and determine its subject and predicate.                         Then, underline the subject once and the predicate twice.

                 These directions can be easily changed to this simpler version:

                Read each sentence. Put one line under the subject. Put two lines under the                             predicate.

               These simple changes require minimal effort and time, but actually do make a                       huge difference for students.

  • Provide frequent breaks. Learning can be hard work for students learning a new language. They need more frequent breaks than others so that they can perform at their best.


Are there any specific management strategies I should consider for ELL students?

There is no “one-size-fits all” magic formula for classroom management—every classroom situation is different, just as each student is relatively unique. Teachers really need to become aware and sensitive to cultural differences. The following is a short list of strategies toward better classroom management processes when teaching ELL students:

Strategy #1:  Learn your students’ names as fast as possible.

Not only will students quickly respond to hearing their names, but they will also recognize that you acknowledge them. In some cases it may be very difficult to quickly get to know all your students’ names. You need to familiarize yourself with the subtlety of pronunciation and intonation sometimes.  You need to make some effort to increase your effectiveness as a classroom teacher and manager.

Strategy #2:  Get to know your students as individuals

Build rapport with your students by making a brief, personal conversation every now and then in and out of the class. Generally, if students like you, they may be more inclined to follow directions, participate and behave.

Strategy #3: Gauge your language according to a student’s level. 

It is really important that teachers learn to communicate with a level of English their students can understand. You will need to constantly simplify the vocabulary, avoid complex sentences, cut out idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs (replacing them with more direct forms of expression) and, most importantly, speak clearly and slowly.

Students will quickly lose interest in classes when they don’t understand what the teacher is talking about.  They will lose focus and become a distraction; which makes it so vital to maintain a comprehensible level of language and to develop a sense for when others don’t understand you. Don’t assume they understand something just because it seems simple to you. Simplify it.

Strategy #4:  Provide clear directions and transparent assessment criteria

Students should always comprehend directions, explanations, or assessments. It’s always best to keep things as clear and simple as possible when relaying important information about grade criteria, directions, rules, and so forth. Problems may later stem from confusion—which is difficult to anticipate or control—but can be avoided.

Strategy #5:  Construct lessons plans that are active, diverse, engaging and relatable.

When students aren’t engaged and interested in the lessons or don’t understand the relevance of a task, they will become restless. Aim to create lesson plans that have clear learning objectives but that are fun, fresh and dynamic.  Students prefer active rather than passive learning, where students are up on their feet and talking with each other.

Strategy #6:  Be consistent with rules and processes

Students do appreciate routine and structure to classes. Students like to know what is expected of them and they respond well to activities and lines of questioning and inquiry that they’ve had some familiarity with in the past. It’s really essential to create an environment where students have a clear path to success.