Pages - English as a Second Language (ESL)
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English as a Second Language (ESL)
English as a Second Language (ESL)

English Language Learners

Is your first language different from the English used in Ontario schools? We support English language learners to help them learn English and do well in school.

How are English Language Learners supported in school?

Teachers determine the level of English proficiency. 
The type of support a student will receive to promote their English language learning will depend on several factors, including the student’s English proficiency level.

There are two programs that support English language learners:
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) for students with age-appropriate literacy skills in their first language.
  • English Literacy Development (ELD) for students who have significant gaps in schooling along with their English language learning needs.
Students typically develop social language skills in English, within one to two years. Academic language however can take more than seven years. As a result, students will receive supports in their learning for many years.
Students who are English Language Learners should receive ESL/ELD program support until they have the level of English required to learn effectively in English with no ESL/ELD support. The decision to discontinue ESL/ELD support is made by the principal, in consultation with the student, parents/guardians, and ESL/ELD and classroom teachers.

Elementary School

All teachers support the English language learning of a student, as well as their subject learning, in the classroom. Students may also receive the following additional supports:
  • Support from an ESL/ELD teacher in the subject classroom.
  • Tutorials - provided several times a week to small groups by an ESL teacher.
  • Replacement language program provided by the ESL/ELD teacher  
In elementary school, a student’s English language level will not change what grade they are placed in.

Secondary School

Teachers can provide accommodations or modify curriculum expectations to support students. Additional supports may include:
  • ESL courses
  • ELD courses
  • individual help on a tutorial/resource basis
  • Some subject courses designated for English language learners
Students should speak with guidance counsellors about course selection and pathways, postsecondary and career goals.
When looking at graduation requirements, students may substitute up to three ESL or ELD courses for compulsory English credit requirements. The remaining English credit shall be chosen from one of the compulsory English courses offered in Grade 12.

How long does it take to learn English? 

It usually takes one to two years to develop social language skills in English. It can take more than seven years to develop academic language. As a result, students will receive supports in their learning for many years.
 
English language learners should receive ESL/ELD program support until they can learn effectively in English with no ESL/ELD support. The principal will decide when ESL or ELD support is no longer needed, in consultation with the student, parents/guardians, and ESL/ELD and classroom teachers.​

Supporting your Child’s Learning

Talk with your child’s teachers to discuss the development of English learning, and the help they are receiving. Share information about your child’s experiences within and outside of school, including interests, strengths and goals.
 
Questions parents may want to ask the principal or teacher:
  • What is my child’s English language level and how is it assessed?
  • How is their English learning being monitored?
  • How are you supporting their English language learning and academic success?

Adult Learning

The Board also offers Adult ESL Courses through Continuing Education.

Where can I learn more?

  • Ontario Ministry of Education resources provide more information about English Language Learner Programs and Services, the Ontario curriculum and Ontario’s education system.
  • Find out how the YRDSB Reception Centre helps families and students register for school and to become part of their school community.
  • Did you know that the Google Translate tool in the top right corner of our web page can help translate website content?
 
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