ESL/LEP Module
SUNY Cortland


The world of second language acquisition has many acronyms.  Several of these are included below.  In addition, a number of key events and educational terms and that are used with ESL/LEP students and their academic development are important for you to know.  There will be a quiz on this later.  :-)

ESL = English as a Second Language; English learned in an environment where English is the predominant language of communication.

EFL = English as a Foreign Language; English learned in an environment where a language other than English is the predominant language of communication.

SLA = Second Language Acquisition; the study of how second and subsequent languages are learned.

NS = Native speaker.

NNS = Non-native speaker.

L1 = First Language, mother tongue; language used first and most often by a speaker.

L2 = Second Language; any language learned after the mother tongue; could become dominant language.

LEP = Limited English Proficient; term used denote English language learners where English is the L2
LEP: Limited English Proficient, A student who is not fully English proficient, speaks a language other than English at home, and does not demonstrate English language skills of comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing at a level that would place him/her in a mainstream, English only class setting.

FEP = Fluent English Proficient; educational/governmental term used to designate those English language learners that have reached a specific proficiency in the L2.

IEP = Individualized Education Program or Prescription; educational/governmental term used for description of services to be rendered and specified conditions thereof for students with learning disabilities and special needs.

Bilingual Education (BE): An educational program in which two languages are used during instruction in order to 1) continue primary language (Ll) development, 2) provide instruction in content in both Ll and L2, and 3) English acquisition.

BICS: Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills: Skills necessary for functioning in every day life, face-to-face interactions. These skills usually take about two years to develop in most second language learners.

CALP: Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency: The aspects of language linked to literacy and academic achievement. These skills usually take five to seven years to fully develop in second language learners.

Comprehensible Input (CI): Language that is understood by the learner. Focuses on meaning first and uses simplified speech.

Foreigner Talk: The simplified speech native speakers use when talking to foreigners.

Caretaker Talk (formerly known as Motherese; this term is now terribly un-PC):  The simplified speech that adults use when talking to children just learning to speak.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) The basis for educating students with disabilities in classrooms comes from the concept of least restrictive environment (LRE), a provision in the federal laws that have governed special education since 1975 with the passage of PL 94-142.  LRE is a student's right to be educated in the setting most like the educational setting for nondisabled peers in which the student can be successful, with appropriate supports provided. Mainstreaming and Inclusion are interpretations of LRE.

Mainstreaming: Mainstreaming is the term for placing students with disabilities or special needs in general education setting only when they can meet traditional academic expectations with minimal assistance, or when those expectations are not relevant, for example, participation in school assemblies, art, music, health, and physical education  in order to have social interactions with the other students. There is no separation of students based on need or ability. All students are placed in classrooms designed for native English speakers that function at the perceived "normal" level.

Inclusion: Inclusion represents the belief that students with disabilities should be integrated into general education classrooms, community activities and resources, and home settings as students who do not have disabilities. Within classrooms, students work toward their IEP goals. The term inclusion has been broadened in order to create what is known as inclusive learning communities where all children belong, those with and without disabilities and those with linguistic, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic differences, such as ESL/LEP students.

Code Switching: The alternate use of two languages. Speaking one language and using words from another, their native language.

Pull Out: Classes in which students are withdrawn from the mainstream regular subject classes for one or more periods a week, for English language instruction classes in smaller groups.

Silent Period: A time during which ESL students observe, gather and absorb information without speaking while developing listening comprehension skills and sorting out structures in the language such as the sound system (phonetics) and vocabulary. Students also take in aspects of deep culture that are not taught such as the "common sense" aspects of everyday functioning. This period varies in length depending on the student.

Affective Filter:  The psychological barrier that allows input to be filtered through to a language processing mechanism. A high filter is full of anxiety and stress while a low filter has little anxiety increasing comprehension and attention.

Lau vs. Nichols: (1974) The United States Supreme Court decision which found the San Francisco Board of Education failing in the duty of providing equal access to education of Chinese speaking students who were enrolled in mainstream, English only classes. Providing ESL students with the same materials as native speakers does not satisfy the requirement of equal access to education.

Sheltered English: Also referred to as transition or bridge classes, students cover the same content areas as mainstream, English only classes but they do so in a manner that adapts the language components of the classes to meet the needs of the language minority students' English proficiency levels. Adaptations include simplified speech, contextualization, task-function orientation, and interactional activities.

Transitional Bilingual Program: Content based instruction is given in L1 while students continue to receive ESL instruction. These classes are used until students are able to shift to a complete and proficient use of L2 in content areas.

ESP: English for Special Purposes, Classes are designed to give students instruction in specific content areas.

TESOL: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. This is a national and professional association.

Is your head spinning yet?  That just scratches the surface, but at least you will be conversant with other professionals in the field.

Return to the ESL/LEP home page (at least now you know what it stands for!)
Return to the ESL-Activities page

Jean W. LeLoup
Modern Languages Department
Copyright © 2000, 2014 Jean W. LeLoup; technical modifications Bob Ponterio