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English as a Second Language (ESL)

What is ESL?

English as a Second Language refers to programs that teach the English language to students whose primary language is not English.  ESL programs help students develop their speaking, writing, reading, and understanding of the English language.
In addition to English as a Second Language, several other terms are also used to describe such programs.  These terms include English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), English language teaching (ELT), teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
Dave's ESL Cafe: This is one of the pioneer websites for students and teachers of English as a second language.
ESL as a Second Language: Dozens of ESL resources in one place.
The Purdue OWL: This website has several ESL resources including an online writing lab, handouts and exercises.
Many things: Lots of word puzzles, quizzes, word games and other language learning activities.
TESL Journal: A great resource for teachers with articles, lessons plans, handouts and links for ESL teacherss.

How does it Work?

  • The students are placed in different levels (beginning, intermediate, advanced) based on their knowledge of the English language;
  • The coursework comprises of listening, speaking, reading and writing based on the proficiency of the students;
  • ESL program works along with the regular classes and helps students understand what they are studying, while reinforcing the English language skills;
  • ESL teachers work in collaboration with the classroom teachers for planning course-work, grading and progress monitoring;

ESL activities: Very useful collection of activities like quizzes, tests, exercises and puzzles.
ESL Blues: This website is aimed at beginning to intermediate level ESL students.
English for All: A multimedia resource for adult ESL students.
ESL Partyland: Several exercises for writing and reading practice.
Breaking News English: This website uses recent news and current events to teach English.

ESL Program Features

The ESL programs generally focus on the following language areas: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and grammar.
Reading: This component works with reading comprehension and vocabulary.  Students are encouraged to read a variety of material, relate this information with their own life experiences and then share with the group/class orally or in writing.
Writing: This part of the program focuses on writing by covering basic to advanced skills including sentence structure and construction, short passages, academic essays, etc.
Speaking and Listening: One of the most important aspects of speaking and listening is pronunciation.  The students are encouraged to have conversations with their class mates as well as people in their everyday lives.  They have to give oral presentations to practice the skills learned.
Grammar: This is a very important and vigorously used aspect of any language.  Students are made to take a lot of practice tests and quizzes to get a good grasp of grammar
ESL Podcast: A site dedicated to teaching English through podcasts.
Learn English Anywhere: Another great site with dozens of podcast lessons.
5-Minute English: A quick way to learn English with a variety of lessons and exercises.

Games for ESL Teachers: A variety of games such as phonics games, spelling games and pattern games for teachers to use in their classes.

Common Phases of the ESL Program

The students in ESL programs go through several phases and each phase works on a set of activities appropriate for that level.  The phases include:

  • Share personal information
  • Practice listening skills
  • Phonics are introduced, which includes recognizing letters and sounds of the letters
  • Objects, numbers, colors, shapes, body parts, food, family members, money, etc. are introduced


  • Conversation and comprehension skills
  • Reading
  • Phonics
  • Pronunciation
  • General vocabulary
  • Vocabulary of the things in the students’ environment
  • Beginning writing


  • Taking listening, speaking, and reading skills to the next level
  • Reading and comprehension of paragraphs/short stories
  • Improvement of writing skills
  • Grammar


  • Focus on speaking skills
  • Advanced grammar with a focus on writing
  • Advanced vocabulary
  • Advanced reading including longer passages

Free English Lessons from the ESL Resource Center: Tons of spelling exercises with and without audios.
20-Minute ESL Lessons: Quick vocabulary lessons based on everyday scenarios.
A Word a Day: This website gives you a steady dose of new words for as long as you wish.
Vocabulary Is Fun: This site makes learning vocabulary easy with a variety of interactive games.
Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English: This resource is for advanced ESL students to learn Business English.

Benefits of learning English as a Second Language

Improved communication skills: The ESL program teaches people whose native language is not English, the skills to communicate with the people around them.  Whether you are a student, visitor or an immigrant in an English speaking country, you need to know the language to succeed. 
Better employment prospects: One of the primary reasons for people to move from one place to another is employment.  In order to perform well at work, you need to know the language spoken there.  ESL classes prepare students to not only communicate well but also teach them the basic skills of applying for jobs.
Better interaction with community: When you are moving into a new country, a new community, one of the things that really help is to know their language.  ESL classes help students learn the basics of the English language including the necessary skills to effectively communicate verbally and in-writing.
Education opportunities: Having a good grasp of the language is extremely important for students pursuing studies in another country.  If you already have a good grasp of the language, your chances of acceptance at a good school significantly improve.
Bob Wilson's Auto-English: A rich site maintained by an individual to help ESL students of all levels.
Zozanga: A great online resource for ESL students.
ESL-Lounge: A comprehensive ESL resource with hundreds of exercises. A great place to test your English language proficiency.
2,000+ ESL/EFL Conversations on Different Topics: Here you can practice conversation on hundreds of topics.



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