The Challenges and Strengths of English Language Learners in the Classroom

1. Introduction

Nowadays, the number of non-native English speakers is growing rapidly all over the world (L1). Consequently, the number of English language learners in classrooms is also increasing. Many studies have been conducted to find out the challenges faced by these students and the ways to help them overcome these difficulties. This paper seeks to identify the barriers, difficulties faced by English language learners, as well as their strengths in literacy learning.

2. The definition of an ELL

An English language learner (ELL) is defined as a student who is learning the English language in addition to his or her native language(s) (2). ELLs come from a variety of backgrounds and speak different first languages. They may have different levels of proficiency in English and varying degrees of literacy in their first language. In addition, they may have different experiences with and attitudes towards learning English.

3. ELLs in the classroom

ELLs generally have lower levels of achievement than their native English speaking peers (3). This can be attributed to a number of factors, such as differences in prior knowledge, cognitive abilities, motivation, and socio-economic status. In addition, ELLs often face difficulties in mastering academic vocabulary and syntax, as well as in using appropriate register in writing (4). As a result, they may be less able to understand and participate in class discussions, and their essays may be shorter and less well-organized than those of their native English speaking classmates.

4. Barriers to ELL students

There are a number of barriers that ELL students face in the classroom. First, they may have difficulty understanding the teacher’s instructions if they are not familiar with the terminology used in the classroom (5). Second, they may be shy or reluctant to participate in class discussions for fear of making mistakes or sounding foolish (6). Third, they may have difficulty keeping up with the pace of the class if they are not able to understand the material as quickly as their classmates (7). Finally, they may feel isolated from their classmates if they are not able to socialize or communicate outside of class (8).

5. Difficulties faced by ELL students

In addition to the general difficulties that all ELL students face, there are some specific difficulties that young ELL students may encounter when learning to read and write in English. First, they may have difficulty understanding spoken English if they are not familiar with the accent or dialect used by their teachers or classmates (9). Second, they may have difficulty reading unfamiliar words if they do not know how to pronounce them or if they cannot recognize them from previous exposure (10). Third, they may have difficulty writing in English if they are not familiar with the alphabet or if they do not know how to form letters correctly (11). Finally, they may have difficulty with spelling if they do not know how to pronounce words correctly or if they are not familiar with common spelling patterns (12).

6. Strengths of ELL students

Despite the challenges that ELL students face, there are also a number of strengths that these students bring to the classroom. First, many ELL students are highly motivated to learn English and do well in school (13). Second, many ELL students have strong first language skills that can be leveraged to help them learn English (14). Third, ELL students often have a high degree of cultural competence that can be valuable in the classroom (15). Finally, ELL students often have a strong work ethic and are eager to please their teachers (16).

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, ELL students face a number of challenges in the classroom, but they also have a number of strengths that can be leveraged to help them overcome these challenges. With proper support and accommodations, ELL students can be successful in the classroom.


Some common barriers and challenges faced by ELLs include limited English proficiency, cultural differences, and previous educational experiences.

These barriers and challenges can impact a student's ability to learn English and succeed academically by causing them to fall behind in class, feel isolated from their peers, or become discouraged.

Some specific strategies that can help ELLs overcome these barriers and challenges include providing explicit instruction in English language skills, using visuals and other forms of support, scaffolding assignments, and offering opportunities for practice.

Some particular types of support that ELLs need in order to be successful in school include small-group instruction, one-on-one tutoring, bilingual education programs, and culturally responsive teaching practices.

Educators play a vital role in supporting ELLs as they work to develop their English language skills by providing high-quality instruction, modeling language use, fostering positive relationships, and creating a supportive learning environment.