According to the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA), state-collected data for 2005 to 2006 shows more than five million students with limited English proficiency (LEP) enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade, and 1,172,569 adults in state-run ESL programs in 2003 to 2004. Public schools are legally required to address the educational needs of non-English-speaking youth, assuring they can achieve academic success. The Orange County Literary Council finds that non-English-speaking adults voluntarily take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to participate more fully in their communities.
ESL classes prepare students to be fully engaged with their communities. English learners benefit by being informed and achieving a level of inclusiveness that enhances their lives. Communities benefit from an increased level of inclusiveness for all community members.
Families benefit when parents become proficient in English, enabling them to participate in their children's education and social lives. The family benefits when children are not required to act as interpreters for their parents, thereby preserving the family structure and parental roles.
Health and Safety
English-language learners benefit from being able to read or understand safety instructions, road signs, medication instructions, workplace safety literature, and weather and safety advisories. English learners are able to speak to law enforcement and emergency medical personnel.
Non-English speakers benefit by becoming more self-sufficient and reducing the need for translators to assist with daily or personal business. They are able to use public transportation, read street signs and directions, get a driver's license and communicate with the public to make their needs known.
Education and Employment
ESL students benefit by being able to take advantage of educational and training opportunities, which lead to employment, promotions or higher salaries, all of which benefit families by improving their opportunities and access to benefits such as health care.
Civic Pride and Citizenship
ESL classes benefit participants and communities by enhancing participants' civic pride. They may become full members of their communities and prepare to enjoy the responsibilities and benefits of citizenship.
Benefits for Youth
Youth derive additional benefits from ESL classes by being able to do well in school and participate in social activities. Their immersion in the community and connecting with peer groups is made easier when they are able to communicate in, and fully understand, English.
The community benefits from ESL classes by alleviating the cost of support services and special accommodations for individuals and families with limited English proficiency. Increased opportunities for education, employment and financial stability allow families to functions with fewer supports.
Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.