English as an additional language/dialect (EAL/D)

Students in Northern Territory schools come from a variety of different language, cultural and educational backgrounds. About 50 per cent of NT students have a language background other than English. Some of these students may need targeted support to learn English in school.

What is English as an additional language/dialect?

English as an additional language/dialect (EAL/D) is a term used to describe those students whose home language is a language or dialect other than Standard Australian English (SAE) and who require additional support to develop proficiency in SAE, which is the variety of spoken and written English used formally in Australian schools.

EAL/D students come from diverse, multilingual backgrounds and may include; overseas and Australian-born students and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students whose first language is an Indigenous language, including traditional languages, creoles and related varieties or of Aboriginal English.

The below describes the EAL/D students’ context in the Northern Territory.

Students Possible background and experiences

Overseas and Australian-born students whose first language is a language other than English

  • schooling equivalent to their age peers in Australia
  • limited or no previous education
  • well-developed literacy skills in their first language or another language
  • little or no literacy experience in their first language or in any language
  • learned English as a foreign language and have had some exposure to written English but need to develop oral English
  • good academic language skills but need to focus on the social registers of English.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students whose first language/languages may include traditional languages, creoles and/or varieties of Aboriginal English

  • learnt to speak and communicate in one or more languages
  • developed strong oracy skills in their first language
  • developed literacy in home languages/dialects
  • experienced periods of interrupted schooling due to family and ceremonial obligations
  • developed good oracy skills in their first language, which if Kriol, will  have many vocabulary items identifiable as English derivatives and may speak a traditional language as well as Kriol.

These students may live in

  • rural, remote and urban contexts
  • or regularly travel to, a local community where English is generally not used for everyday social and business interaction outside of the school
  • a local community where English is generally used in everyday social and business interaction outside the school.

Identifying and measuring progress

Students’ language background other than English is identified on enrolment. This acts as a prompt for teachers to consider which students may require more support to access the curriculum as EAL/D learners. NT EAL/D Learning Progressions are used to identify students’ English proficiency levels and determine the level of support needed to progress in and through learning English.

Teachers use the NT EAL/D Learning Progressions to:

  • identify students’ English proficiency levels across four areas: listening; speaking; reading and viewing; and writing
  • assess and monitor students’ progress in English
  • inform reporting to parents on their children’s achievement in learning English
  • identify the amount of support EAL/D students will need.


Teachers support EAL/D students by:

  • learning about their students’ language and cultural backgrounds and their proficiency in all areas of their home language
  • knowing their students’ English proficiency levels and using teaching practices that help language development like modelling, scaffolding and recycling of language
  • making the learning environment a place where students take risks and where their home language or dialect is a valued resource to support learning
  • explicitly teaching the vocabulary and language structures students need to know and use everyday
  • helping students to hear and practise using new language and time to link to English language already learned
  • giving opportunities to use their knowledge of the world to support learning
  • planning and teaching with bilingual teaching assistants/home language officers
  • using other home language speakers to translate and make clear understandings
  • giving non-verbal supports like gestures, visuals, diagrams or demonstrations to support language input.

For more information

Teachers in the NT have access to further EAL/D resources located on the department’s eLearn portal. Teachers and schools also have access to EAL/D Teaching and Learning Officers and opportunities to attend EAL/D professional learning sessions.

For further information on EAL/D teaching and learning please email qtl.doe@nt.gov.au.

Last updated: 14 September 2021

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