ELL vs. ESL: What Do These Terms Mean and What’s the Difference Between Them?

The Mainstreaming Toolkit

What exactly is the difference between these two terms? It depends on who you ask.

Most everyone seems to agree on what these acronyms stand for: “English Language Learner”/”Learning” and “English as a Second Language,” respectively. As far as how they should be applied, however, there seems to be a great deal of disagreement. I’ve found it interesting that none of the articles I’ve come across in my research have seen fit to address this discrepancy, but I’ve observed that “ESL” tends to be more common in older research, while “ELL” seems to come up more often in newer materials. That being said, I have also seen several other terms in newer research, including “Limited English Proficient” (LEP), “Second Language Learner” (L2), and “English Learner” (EL), though each of these terms is uncommon relative to the two in the title of this post.

Since the interchangeable use of these terms…

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