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For Instructors

Specific Populations

Adult learners in ESL classes come from diverse backgrounds and have widely differing experiences with literacy in their first languages. A number of factors influence the progress that different learners will make in learning English and the instructional strategies that may work best with each learner. They include level of literacy in the first language and in English, oral language proficiency in English, educational background, personal goals for learning English, and the structure and writing system of the first language. For some adult English language learners, other factors such as recent refugee experience and possible learning disabilities also affect how they will learn and how to best help them learn.

Please see the resources and links below for more information on issues and strategies for offering English language instruction to specific populations. If you have questions or comments about this topic, please email

Digests & Q&As

Cross-Cultural Issues in Adult ESL Literacy

ESL Instruction and Adults with Learning Disabilities

ESL Language Instruction for Incarcerated Youth

Refugees as English Language Learners: Issues and Concerns

Social Identity and the Adult ESL Classroom

Trauma and the Adult English Language Learner

Valuing Diversity in the Multicultural Classroom

Other CAELA Resources

Adult Non-Native English Speakers in the United States (Practitioner Toolkit)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), especially numbers 2 through 8.

Online Resources for Promoting Cultural Understanding in the Adult ESL Classroom (CAELA resource compilation)

Other Resources

Cultural Orientation Resource Center
This center, housed at the Center for Applied Lingusitics, offers culture profiles, phrase books and other resources realted to specific refugee groups including Liberians, the Hmong, Somali Bantus, the Iraqi Kurds, and many others.

Cultural Profiles Project
Created by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in conjunction with faculty of the University of Toronto, this site provides overvies of life and customs in over 100 countries.

While this site developed by University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle focuses on issues related to health care of immigrants, it does contain information about cultural beliefs for some less commonly found groups.

Intercultural Press
Intercultural Press publishes materials focusing on culture and intercultural communication and understanding, including guides to working with specific cultures and cross-cultural training theory and activities.

Latino National Survey(LNS)

On December 7, 2006 The Division of United States Studies and the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Migration Policy Institute, and the Pew Hispanic Center presented Redefining America: Key Finding from the 2006 Latino National Survey. While the data file of the survey will not be released until Spring 2007, the PowerPoint presentation from the session and Latino National Survey: Weighted Demographic Tables, Nationally and by State are available on the Wilson Center Web site (above). The survey questions (English Survey and Spanish Survey and the executive summary as well as other information are available on the University of Washington Web site at

U. S. Department of Homeland Security: Immigration Statistics page offer links to documents such as 2005 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics and Profiles on Legal Residents.