What Are the Different Types of English as a Second Language Courses?

Amanda Barnhart
Amanda Barnhart

English as a second language courses help children and adults whose native languages are ones other than English learn the language in a helpful and easy way. These courses teach English in different ways to accommodate all types of learners. Some courses are designed for individuals who require only a basic understanding of English in order to travel abroad or only need to use English in a business setting. Other courses focus on all aspects of the language for students who need or want to be able to speak, read, and write English fluently. Public schools, universities, private tutors, and community classes and programs are the main sources of English as a second language courses.

Vocabulary cards can be used for learning English.
Vocabulary cards can be used for learning English.

Courses that teach English as a second language may consist entirely of English-speaking teachers and students or may be an optional element of a broader class. Structured immersion programs focus on teaching English in an environment where most of the instruction is in English, while other types of English as a second language courses teach the language in short bursts that may fall outside normal classroom activities. Some programs are considered bilingual, and the teachers or instructors work both in the students' native language and English to help students make the connection between languages and also retain their native language skills and fluency while learning English. These types of programs are often found in elementary and primary schools.

An interactive English program might be useful for a foreign student studying English as a second language (ESL).
An interactive English program might be useful for a foreign student studying English as a second language (ESL).

Many English as a second language courses are built around helping students develop specific language skills. For example, a student taking a course to learn English for traveling purposes or simply for pleasure may not require instruction in complex topics and words primarily used in a business setting. A student learning English for work purposes may receive instruction that is almost completely opposite, focusing on business and technical terms with less or no instruction given on other language skills, such as ordering from a restaurant or communicating with tour guides.

More advanced English language courses often focus on reading and writing.
More advanced English language courses often focus on reading and writing.

Some tutors and universities offer English as a second language courses specifically designed for students who are progressing to higher education levels. Others help students prepare for exams and tests written or given in English. These courses typically focus on technically and grammatically correct language to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in a post-secondary English-speaking school, and often focus heavily on reading and writing instead of speaking.

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    • Vocabulary cards can be used for learning English.
      Vocabulary cards can be used for learning English.
    • An interactive English program might be useful for a foreign student studying English as a second language (ESL).
      An interactive English program might be useful for a foreign student studying English as a second language (ESL).
    • More advanced English language courses often focus on reading and writing.
      More advanced English language courses often focus on reading and writing.