A modern dictionary about us.
We define our words, but they don't define us.


English as Second Language (ESL)



the teaching of English to people who speak a different language and who live in a country where English is the main language spoken


Monolinguist, English-only speakers often refer to people who don't speak English natively as "ESL" or say they are learning a "second language". More often than not, this is not true, as many people are multi-lingual with 3 or more languages


It makes false assumptions about English learners, centres English as the "default" or "expected" first language, ignoring that many people learn multiple (>3), non-English languages first.

Alt Words

  • English as learning-language (ELL)
  • English as an additional language (EAL)
  • or non-native
  • or omit (because do you really know, for sure?)

Further Reading

Something not quite right?

If you found a typo, would like to add another resource, or add nuance to this definition, please feel free to submit an issue or open a pull request.


Previous words

Next words