English Language Learner a Term That Warrants Scrutiny

  • Caroline Linse


ELL is the most common term used in the United States to describe learners whose home language is not English, possess limited proficiency in English and are in the process of adding English to their linguistic knowledge base. Over 10% of the total US school age learner population of 50 million students has been identified as possessing limited English proficiency and are designated as ELLs.1 I contend that the term ELL is problematic and should be retired because it promotes a nativist, anti-immigrant and anti-bilingual or multilingual agenda. This article begins with the historical contexts that have contributed to the widespread adoption of the term ELL. I offer several alternative terms that may more accurately reflect a philosophical orientation that celebrates both diversity and multilingualism with EAL being the recommended choice.