Lesson 1: Do you know the challenges of ENL/ESL Students?



The participants will be able to identify at least three major common problems of ENL/ESL students

Case Study

“She has no book, Mrs. Watts remembers. Maria had just come to this class the week before and, because no one was quite sure what to do with her, had been assigned a classroom and a seat, but no materials. A district specialist had tested Maria. She apparently spoke no English. No one seemed to know quite what to do with her” (Meskill, 2009, p.113).

This is a typical scenario for ENL/ESL students who first came to the U.S.A.

  • Let's think
   If you were in the same situation as Maria, how do you feel? 
   What kind of challenges will you face?


As not so many teachers have the experience of living in abroad nor being in the community with the second language, it is not so easy for teachers to understand the problems and difficult situations of ESL/ENL students. ESL/ENL students struggle academically and societally for a variety of reasons and this frustration can lead to a lack of motivation.

These are some of the typical challenges that young ESL/ENL students in the U.S.A.

  • Language Difficulty

ESL/ENL students face many difficulties because of their language limitations. Those challenges in their classroom vary from subjects to subject. Please click to know some specific difficulties in different subjects. http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/challenges_ells_content_area_l_65322.php

  • Culture Shock

ESL/ENL students who came to the US for the first time experience an entirely new way of life. Many of them find it difficult to understand and adjust to the culture of new countries. Let’s click to find the different factors that can contribute to culture shock. https://www.valpo.edu/international/living-in-the-u-s/u-s-culture/american-culture-culture-shock/

  • Overwhelming workload

Many ESL/ENL students have to work twice as hard in school to keep up with their peers. In addition to learning a native student are learning, they also have to learn a whole other language. In many cases, ESL/ENL students still need to work on their own language development if they come to the US in the early stage.

  • Lack of sense of belonging and self-esteem

When the language barrier prevents them from participating, their self-esteem suffers.

  • Changing Social Status and Family Situation
  • Lack of sympathy and understanding

Lack of metacognition and logical thinking of young students make these problems more difficult to solve.

Therefore, it is important for ESL/ENL students to have someone who understands their problems and feeling to encourage their motivations during their difficult situation. Not only the educator but also their parents/guardians’ supports are crucial (we will have more detail about this in Lesson 2: How important for ENL/ESL Students to have someone who understands them?)to motivate ESL/ENL students.


Now it is time for you to think about it…. If you were in Japan as a new English teacher and no one around you would understand your native language.

Can you come up with any struggles that you will face?

  • Let’s click to watch 4 minutes video with a teacher who had been in this situation.




Go on to Lesson 2: How important for ENL/ESL Students to have someone who understands them?

Return to Encouraging Young ESL Students in the USA