What do all these terms mean? Does it leave your head spinning? Here are some hints.

ESOL = English for Speakers of Other Languages

ESL = English as a Second Language

EFL = English as a Foreign Language

ELL = English Language Learners

LEP = Limited English Proficient

NEP = Non-English Proficient

TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

L1 = First Language

L2 = Second Language

W-APT = WIDA - Access Placement Test (English Language Proficiency Screener)

ACCESS for ELLs: WIDA's annual English language proficiency test

BICS = Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills - These are the language skills needed for everyday personal and social communication. Second language learners must have BICS in order to interact on the playground and in the classroom. It usually takes students from 1-3 years to completely develop this social language. BICS are not necessarily related to academic success.

CALP = Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency is the language associated with native language literacy and cognitive development. These are the language skills needed to undertake academic tasks in the mainstream classroom. It includes content-specific vocabulary. It may take students from 5 to 7 years to develop CALP skills. CALP developed in the first language contribute to the development of CALP in the second language.

Culture Shock = a normal stage in the acculturation process that all newcomers go through. Being in a strange place and losing the power to communicate can disrupt a person’s world view, self-identity, and systems of thinking, acting and feeling.
  • Students feel frustrated, angry, hostile, sad, lonely and homesick.
  • Students may develop physical ailments such as stomach aches and headaches. They are often devastated by the emotional upheaval caused by moving to a new culture. They may exhibit behavior such as depression or sleeplessness. They may become overly aggressive or withdrawn.

The Silent Period is a varying period of time during which a newcomer is unwilling to speak in the second language. Nearly all students go through a silent period. This stage could last for as long as one year. English language learners should not be forced to speak until they are ready to do so.

Comprehensible input means that the spoken or written message is delivered at the learner’s level of comprehension. The concepts being taught should not be simplified, but the language used to present the concepts must be made comprehensible. Basic concepts should be presented in a variety of ways.

Affective filter is a "wall" a learner puts up if his/her anxiety level is high. The lower the anxiety level, the lower the filter. ELLs must have a low affective filter in order to learn English. The more comfortable students are in their school environment, the more ready they will be to learn.

Limited Bilingualism: When a learner acquires conversational proficiency in both languages but does not attain native-like proficiency in either language.

Subtractive Bilingualism: When learning a second language interferes with the learning of a first language. The second language replaces the first language. This is commonly found in children who emigrate to a foreign country when they are young, especially in cases of orphans who are deprived of their first language input.

TPR, Total Physical Response: A teaching technique whereby a learner (usually young learner) responds to language input with body motions. This could be, for example, the acting out a chant. This technique was devised by James Asher who noted that children listen and respond with guestures before they speak. One benefit is that TPR allows for low anxiety learning since students don't have the stress of producing language. 'Robot' is an example of a TPR activity, where the teacher commands her robots to do some task in the classroom. Acting out stories and giving imperative commands are common TPR activities. Great for early stages but difficult to teach complex language.
Another benefit (and Asher's main justification for TPR as a technique) is that it stimulates right-brain motor skill activity. For more information see the TPR World homepage. For an example of a TPR lesson plan, read Judie Haynes article at everythingESL.net


Got a term you need defined? Let me know and I'll add it to the list.