ESOL vs ELL: Difference and Comparison

English is crucial to surviving in many parts of the world. With its wide prevalence, the English language has become a basic requirement for some jobs and to get into some educational institutions.

People from non-English countries find it a little hard initially to get used to English. To help them get better many programs are organized.

Key Takeaways

  1. ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages and focuses on teaching English language skills to non-native speakers.
  2. ELL refers to English Language Learners, students participating in ESOL programs.
  3. ESOL encompasses various instructional methods, while ELL refers to the individuals receiving the instruction.


ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages. This term is used to describe non-native English speakers who are learning English as a primary language.  ELL stands for English Language Learner. This term is used to describe any student, regardless of their native language, who is learning English as a second language.


ESOL courses are offered to students with a mother tongue other than English. It is taken by people whose first language is not English. Anyone who starts to learn English with different cultural background is an ESOL learner.

ESOL exams are taken by people working in English countries. Institutions and schools help these people achieve their goal of good English.

ELL is the term used to denote the non-English people learning the English language. These people may be immigrants or students who are poor in English.

Immigrant students attending schools and colleges in English-speaking countries are given special English programs by the respective or other institutions. These students are ELLs.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonESOLELL
Full-FormEnglish for speakers of other languages English language learners
DefinitionIt is a program for helping people that are not strong in the English language It is used to denote non-English English learners
Offered bySchools, Libraries, Churches, Institutions, etcIdentified by teachers and given specific training
Reason ESOL helps in securing a good job or getting into an institution of choice ELL students should be given language instructions
Age limit16 and aboveNo age limit

What is ESOL?

People go to English-speaking countries like America and the United Kingdom to look for jobs and earn a living. But these people may or may not be good at English.

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If they are not capable of communicating properly it is hard for them to live there and tough to get a job. To improve their English skills ESOL program is given.

School students also suffer due to low English knowledge. So, in schools with immigrant students teachers find out if a student is feeling it hard to understand English.

Students are selected and trained teachers are appointed to teach them. Other subjects that the student finds hard to understand because of language are also taught.

Institutions and colleges also offer ESOL programs. ESOL for University students is given before they start to attend their normal university classes.

Public libraries in these countries also give this program to people who need assistance. Librarians and Local teachers indulge in teaching here. In this case, people are asked to pay some amount of fee.

Churches, Refugee centers, and NGOs also offer this program free of cost. Basics like Vocabulary, Grammar, and Phrases are taught. Reading and writing lessons are also included.

This program has been a good opportunity for the students to understand and appreciate varied cultures. The classes are collaborative and teachers specially trained are also involved in helping the students in addition to normal English teachers.


What is ELL?

There are different programs and courses given to improve English proficiency. People whose mother tongue is not English and who take these courses are called ELLs.

ELL learners are commonly primary and secondary school students, adults looking for jobs, and immigrants. By learning these courses they become confident enough to speak among native people.

ELL learners go through many difficulties at work and school. Students who need support can be easily distinguished from the other students.

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They are quiet and do not communicate with other students and teachers properly. All of them are immigrants and they have different cultural backgrounds. They find the new space different and stay silent mostly.

Language also acts as a barrier for them to mingle with others. Students from different countries face different difficulties.

Students from Germany and some other European countries already know many English words but students from Asian countries are entirely new to it. So some students learn quickly while the others take more time.

ELL students are taught in small groups. Students communicate with their peers and practice speaking. This will allow them to process and verbalize the information.

This lets them effectively communicate their thoughts. Visual and graphical tools are used in the process of ELL teaching. ELL students must be provided a safe and comfortable environment to practice and correct their mistakes.


Main Differences Between ESOL and ELL

  1. ESOL is the program offered to non-English people learning the English language while ELL is referred to the people learning the English language who have no English background
  2. ESOL is offered by Schools, universities, Libraries, and NGOs. ELL learners are either chosen or they enroll themselves
  3. ESOL helps increase a person’s knowledge and fluency in English. ELL learners suffer early due to the language barrier
  4. Immigrants take ESOL to improve their language and get better jobs while ELL learners are mostly immigrants or students who have come from different countries
  5. ESOL programs in schools also help the students to improve in other subjects that are taught in English. ELL learners focus mainly on learning new vocabulary and grammar.

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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9 thoughts on “ESOL vs ELL: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article provides a clear and concise comparison between ESOL and ELL. I appreciate its straightforward explanations and comprehensive nature. It leaves no room for confusion.

  2. An excellent piece that clarifies the distinctions between ESOL and ELL learners. It’s very helpful to understand the differences for those new to this topic, and the post certainly articulates that well.

    • Absolutely, Ethan53. The piece captures the disparities between the two terms with remarkable clarity. The discussions are very instructive.

  3. A very informative post. I think this will be immensely beneficial for teachers who need to distinguish between ESOL and ELL learners. The apt comparisons and comprehensive discussion are quite enlightening.

  4. Although I am already familiar with these concepts, the post certainly offers a detailed and well-structured comparison. It could be a valuable resource for individuals wanting to understand the nuances of ESOL and ELL.

  5. This is an important discussion, and the article offers an insightful perspective. The list of educational institutions and other entities providing these programs sheds much-needed light on the topic. Quite enlightening indeed.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Ekelly. The post offers a profound examination of ESOL and ELL, providing insightful knowledge about their application and implications across diverse environments.

    • Absolutely, Ekelly. The information presents a valuable addition to the discourse surrounding ESOL and ELL learners. It also demonstrates the significance of these programs within different settings.

  6. The way ESOL and ELL are expounded upon in this article is commendable. I believe that the depth of knowledge shared here is incredibly beneficial in fostering a well-informed and erudite discussion about this subject.


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