English as an Additional Language or Dialect Mandated Materials

English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) learners are those whose first language is a language or dialect other than Standard Australian English (SAE) which is the variety of spoken and written English used formally in Australian schools. While EAL/D learners bring with them a wealth of knowledge, understandings and values from their own culture to a classroom, they require additional support to assist them to develop proficiency in SAE.

EAL/D learners come from diverse cultural and multilingual backgrounds and may include:

  • permanent new arrival migrants from non-English speaking countries
  • refugees and humanitarian entrants who may have been born in one country but grown up in another and speak several languages and/or dialects
  • students living in Australia on temporary visas
  • overseas fee paying students
  • students born in Australia who arrive at school not speaking any English
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who speak one or more Aboriginal languages, a creole and/or Aboriginal English
  • additional dialect speakers who speak a variety of English other than Standard Australian English, marked by distinctive linguistic and cultural features, e.g. Aboriginal English or Liberian English
  • Cocos and Christmas Island students.

It is crucial for these students’ learning that educators recognise and acknowledge the prior learning, experiences and cultural conceptions that students bring with them to a classroom. This will allow the students to feel validation of their own identity and understandings, while enabling them to engage with the new cultural and linguistic concepts being learnt.

It is also important to acknowledge that EAL/D learners often have diverse educational backgrounds. They may have:

  • schooling equivalent to their same-age peers in Australia
  • limited or no previous education or experience of an academic environment
  • disrupted schooling
  • little or no literacy experience in their first language (or in any language)
  • excellent literacy skills in their first language (or another language)
  • received schooling in many different languages and never gained proficiency in one specific language
  • learnt English as a foreign language and had some exposure to written English but need to develop oral English
  • developed fluency in colloquial oral English, but need to develop skills in written and academic English
  • already learnt one or more languages or dialects other than English
  • well-developed academic language skills but struggle with the social registers of English.

Furthermore, EAL/D learners have to learn more than just a new language or dialect. They also have to learn the culture of the classroom, the school and the wider community. Teachers of EAL/D students should consider how some concepts related to learning an additional language or dialect and the associated cultural and social understandings will impact on their students’ learning. EAL/D learners:

  • need time, support and understanding to adapt to the many aspects and routines of school life
  • require appropriate EAL/D support including modelling and scaffolding of language and concept learning across the curriculum
  • may require provision of extra time to process new language and concepts
  • may need explicit teaching of vocabulary and language structures with awareness of task expectations and learning purpose
  • may come from traumatic and disrupted backgrounds and/or may be managing complex issues, such as loss, separation or family upheaval.

EAL/D learners are generally placed in Western Australian schools at the year level appropriate for their age. Their cognitive development and life experiences may not correlate with their English language proficiency, so as part of the process to personalise learning for EAL/D students, the student and parent/caregiver must be consulted. Awareness of, and provision for, cultural and linguistic differences is essential when communicating with families and caregivers of EAL/D learners. Teachers and schools may need to enlist the support of Teacher’s Assistants, Aboriginal and Islander Education Officers (AIEOs) or interpreters to support communication with EAL/D families, caregivers and communities.