English as an Additional Language

Aboriginal English as an Additional Language (EAL) Background and Initiatives

The Languages We Speak: Aboriginal Learners and English as an Additional Language: A Literature Review of Promising Approaches and Practices

The Manitoba ESL Program Review and the resulting ESL Action Plan (2005) drew attention to the need to develop a strategy to address the experiences and needs of Aboriginal EAL learners in Manitoba. The change to the more inclusive and comprehensive term “English as an additional language” is a positive beginning, as it suggests learners of English may already speak a number of languages and dialects, which is often the case for many Aboriginal learners. The term “EAL” also reflects an orientation to language learning that values and encourages linguistic diversity and sees the teaching of English as an additive process.

Several other general initiatives that are relevant to Aboriginal EAL learners in K-12 also came about in response to the Action Plan:

  • Enhancement and clarification of criteria of the EAL Student Support Grant
  • Actions to address ethnocultural equity by improving Manitoba’s capacity to respond appropriately to school and community diversity and to enhance anti-racism education
  • Development of an EAL Curriculum Framework that provides guidance for assessing, planning, and monitoring English as an additional language learning for social and academic purposes
  • Establishment of a full-time EAL consultant position
  • Establishment of accountability measures through the Categorical Grant Review process

More specifically, Action 2 of the ESL Action Plan highlighted the Department’s intent to work collaboratively with schools, Aboriginal organizations, and communities to address the linguistic diversity needs of Aboriginal learners by:

  • researching and studying the linguistic diversity of Manitoba’s Aboriginal student population and Standard English as an Additional Dialect (SEAD) issues
  • developing a teacher support document on Aboriginal linguistic diversity and best instructional and programming practices
  • developing culturally appropriate and relevant EAL programming resources and supports
  • encouraging and supporting school divisions in developing initiatives to address the EAL, SEAD, and Aboriginal languages learning needs of Aboriginal learners

Manitoba Education began a period of study and consultation in order to develop a common understanding among Manitoba educators of the linguistic diversity of Aboriginal learners and their needs and of what is considered appropriate EAL programming and supports for Aboriginal K-12 EAL learners. A provincial symposium, The Ways We Speak was held in 2007 and followed in 2009 by the publication of The Languages We Speak: Aboriginal Learners and English as an Additional Language: A Literature Review of Promising Approaches and Practices.

While the review is primarily aimed for the Canadian Prairie context, particularly Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it also has relevance to those teaching dialect/vernacular speakers in other parts of Canada and in other countries, particularly regarding marginalized or disempowered groups.

Ongoing departmental initiatives and professional learning related to the EAL Curriculum Framework, especially as it supports classroom teachers, and cultural proficiency are intended to provide teachers with new lenses and tools for providing culturally and linguistically diverse learners, including Aboriginal learners, quality and equitable educational opportunities.