ESL: Non-Native English Speaking Students

From ESL Instructional Resources by Young-Kyung Min, PhD

There are two groups in the non-native English speaking student population: international visa students and immigrant students. There are great differences in terms of learning styles and educational backgrounds between international visa students and immigrant students. When it comes to the immigrant student group, we should recognize generation 1.5 students.

The term “1.5” refers to students who have characteristics that lie between first and second generation immigrants (Harklau, Losey, & Siegal, 1999). It is important to note that the term is a designator that points out the in-between identities of such students even if they are fourth or fifth generation in terms of the immigrant histories of their families. Generation 1.5 students can fall into a broad range: some were born abroad but immigrated to the US, and some were born in the US but grew up speaking their heritage language at home (Roberge, Siegal, & Harklau, 2009).

Their literacy practices are quite different from those of international visa students since they had part of their K-12 education in the US. Although it cannot be applied to all international and immigrant students, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each group can help faculty design and implement more effective class activities and assignments.

The majority of the non-native English speaking students on our campus are generation 1.5 students, especially Asian 1.5 generation students. We do not have the exact enrollment data for 1.5 generation students on our campus since there is no visa data to track. When they apply to UWB, some of them indicate English as their native language and some don’t (depending on when they came to the US and how long they’ve stayed here). The latest enrollment data of international students on our campus can be found here.


Harklau, L., Losey, K., & Siegal, M. (1999). Generation 1.5 meet college composition: Issues in the teaching of writing to US-educated learners of ESL. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Roberge, M., Siegal, M., & Harklau, L. (2009). Generation 1.5 in college composition: Teaching academic writing to US-educated learners of ESL. New York, NY: Routledge.



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Young-Kyung Min, PhD
Education Program