History of ESL Education in the U.S.

History of ESL Education in the U.S.
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  • 0:03 ESL Education in the U.S.
  • 1:23 TESOL & Beyond
  • 2:30 ESL Methodologies
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

When did ESL (English as a Second Language) education begin in the United States? Would you believe as far back as the mid 1600s? This lesson provides a history of the strategies and methodologies of ESL education in the U.S.

ESL Education in the U.S.

ESL (English as a Second Language) education has a long history in the U.S. In fact, ESL education was an important part of the earliest settlements in North America. People from a variety of cultural and language backgrounds were arriving in the New World in a steady stream. This mass immigration meant that at least 18 languages were commonly spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries throughout the territories that would eventually become the modern United States.

Many schools and other educational institutions embraced bilingual education until a shift in attitudes towards bilingualism and multiculturalism began to occur at the turn of the 20th century. Students were increasingly required to assimilate into English-speaking environments and either had to learn English or be left behind. Between the 1920s and 1960s, the immense need for ESL education was largely ignored until the government eventually stepped in to officially sanction bilingual programs.

The first major government effort to establish ESL programs as part of the public education system occurred in Dade County, Florida, in 1963. A rapid increase in the number of Cuban immigrants necessitated the need for an ESL curriculum, and soon educators and institutions from around the country began to base their own ESL programs after the Dade County model.

TESOL and Beyond

TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) was established in 1966 as a resource for ESL materials and the need for teaching methodologies to accompany them. During this period, the U.S. was experiencing a significant demand for ESL programs to cater to an increasing population of different immigrant groups.

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