English as a Second Language for Internationally Adopted Children


Many internationally adopted kids can struggle with learning English after being adopted. They can have a hard time communicating with their new family and understanding what is being taught at school. Angela Zickmund is a ESL (English as a second language) teacher at Frankfort high school. She has worked with elementary, middle school, and high school students. Her experience has allowed her to see the benefits of ESL and the everyday challenges that students, whose primary langue isn’t English, face on a daily basis. She strives to help her students learn English, do their best in all of their classes, and also embrace their primary language. Being bilingual is a great attribute and will serve children well in the future!  Angela Zickmund answered some questions that can help you to understand what the ESL program is and what it can offer your son or daughter.    


  1. What is ESL and what is its purpose for students?

ESL is the acronym used for those who are learning English as a second language. It is used when a student’s primary or home language is something other than English.  In schools, when a new student registers and indicates that they speak another primary language, that student is tested to determine what level of English they speak. Depending on their score they can qualify for extra help.

  • Does every school have an ESL program?

Every school is required by law to offer some sort of ESL program or testing. Some schools just have more resources to offer than others.

  • How do students get placed in an ESL classroom or get assistance from an ESL teacher in their classroom?

Students take an Initial test to determine their level.  Every school offers difference services. Typically, schools will allow ESL students to meet with their ESL teacher to work on improving their English and get assistance with homework. Some schools will allow an ESL teacher to push into classrooms to assist students understand instructions and help them to ask questions.  

  • What do ESL teachers work on with students? 

ESL teachers usually help students on their grade level material that they are doing in class. We also work on teaching new vocabulary and improving their ability to speak and understand English.  

  • How have you seen the ESL program impact student’s ability to speak, understand, read, and write in English?

 I think ESL helps student’s confidence in learning a new language and fitting in. In an ESL classroom they can ask questions and feel more comfortable trying to speak and understand English as well as other material they are learning in their classes.

  • How have you seen the ESL program impacting students testing scores?

 Test scores are slow to rise. If your child is in an ESL program, don’t be too concerned if their test scores do not show a significant change each year. The tests aren’t always able to accurately measure how much a student can speak or understand in English. Learning a new language is a marathon and not a sprint!

  • How have you seen new students integrate with other students in the ESL classroom? 

I work with students in my classroom and I also push into their regular classes.  Many students that are very talkative in my classroom never say a word in their other classes. In my class they are loud and funny. I think that being around other students who are also trying to learn a new language allows them to really be themselves. Hopefully once they feel more comfortable speaking in English, they will begin to be themselves in their other classes as well.

Moving to a new country and learning a new language can be extremely challenging. If you are adopting a child whose primary language is different than yours, it’s important to research your school system and ask questions about extra assistance such as ESL. Not only can an ESL program offer your child help with learning English, but it also gives them the opportunity to meet other students who may speak the same language or share a similar culture. This will help your child to feel connected at school and help them make friends who they can relate to. The ESL program is a great way to help your child be as successful as possible at school.