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I Have A Question About Long-Term English Language Learners – Can You Help Me Answer It?



As regular readers know, I’m developing a curriculum for a pilot class next year providing support to Long-Term English Language Learners (see Here’s My Tentative Plan For A Support Class For Long-Term English Language Learners – Tell Me How I Can Make It Better).

Pam Buric, my talented colleague, and I took a cursory look at language tests for a sampling of our school’s Long-Term ELLs this week.

We were surprised to find that the domain in which most were the weakest appeared to be “Listening.”  We would have thought it would be writing.

Admittedly, the sampling was small and not random – we look at the students in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes.  So we need to explore a broader representation to see if that finding is typical or a fluke.

But I would like to know if readers know of any specific research related to commonalities of LTELL weaknesses and/or your own anecdotal experiences.

I’m all ears!

You might also be interested in The Best Resources On Supporting Long-Term English Language Learners.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. As a teacher AND a language learner, I can say listening is – by far – the most difficult thing to master. If you think about the other domains – speaking, reading, writing – you have time to contemplate what is correct, time to re-read, time to read what have written to make sure it’s right. With listening you have one shot. And if you happen to hear a word you are not sure of, by the time you move past your uncertainty, the conversation has moved on.

  2. Also learning a language is very dependent in the amount and type of exposure. Whilst reading different texts is pretty accessible – on or offline – magazines, news, sector specific texts, exposure to various types of (authentic) listening is harder to come by.

    I teach adult ESL (newcomers) in Canada. I really try to get my students to listen to the radio (watching TV is not pure listening). . For rapid connected speech, everyday topics – a talk show like on CFRB1010. For more formal and challenging topics and more formal English – CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. At first – it is really really hard for them to follow – take notes – what words did you understand? then later – write down words you didn’t understand, look them up. It is a lot of work. There needs to be strong motivation …( lol – girkfriend or boyfriend does wonders for one’s language learning…)

    Add to that the idiosyncrasies of stressed speech, regional accents, individual use of idioms and slang…and the fact that there are two Englishes to learn – written and spoken – it is a challenge…BUT – amazingly – we are wired for learning different languages..isn’t that wonderful!

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