What do we mean when we say “EAL”?

Robert Sharples*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


This chapter evaluates the term “EAL”, which at its broadest extent indicates pupils who are learning the language of instruction as they learn through that language. Such usage is frustratingly broad and casts serious doubts on the accuracy and validity of achievement data. The fundamental problem with the term “EAL” is that the context of additional language learning has changed since it was first proposed in the early 1990s. Where once it could be taken to reflect relatively stable patterns of migration and multilingualism, rapid increases in global movement and connectedness means that it must now serve to describe increasingly complex and fragmented patterns of mobility, learning, and language use. The term “EAL” has become something of a shibboleth, indicating a shared interest among those working in the field but lacking the analytical precision to describe the situation in meaningful detail.

This chapter examines EAL policy in the four nations of the UK, considers the challenges of using a single term for wide-ranging needs and experiences, and outlines a practical framework in response.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEAL Research for the Classroom
Subtitle of host publicationPractical and Pedagogical Implications
PublisherTaylor & Francis Group
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781000903188
ISBN (Print)9781003274889
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'What do we mean when we say “EAL”?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this