Honoring and Celebrating All Languages Spoken By Maine Students With the Shift to Multilingual Learners Terminology

Maine is home to students and families who speak a multitude of different languages in their homes and communities. Recognizing and celebrating the linguistic and cultural assets they bring starts with using asset-based language. That’s why the Maine Department of Education (DOE) is transitioning to the term “multilingual learners” (MLs) to describe bilingual and multilingual students who are in the process of learning English. Formerly referred to as “English learners,” MLs enrich their classrooms and communities in invaluable ways. This shift in terminology reflects the principle that all languages a student speaks are important and honored, as they strive towards acquiring English as an additional language – not as a replacement for their primary/home language(s).

Resources from the Maine DOE will begin to reflect this shift right away, and schools are encouraged to embrace this shift as well. Note that the U.S. Department of Education continues to refer to students as English learners, and this may still appear in resources related to federal programs. Programs that teach English to MLs are referred to as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs, and teachers are ESOL teachers or teachers of MLs.

If you have any questions, contact April Perkins, ESOL and Bilingual Programs Specialist, at april.perkins@maine.gov.