English as a Second (or Third?) Language

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

If English isn’t your child’s first language, the city offers three program options to help them learn English:


  1. Dual Language

  2. Transitional Bilingual Education

  3. English as a New Language


Your zoned school may not offer any of these programs; however, they can help transfer your child to a school that offers the program of your choice.


Dual Language


The dual language program is designed to benefit both English speaking and non-native English speaking students. In this program, students are taught equally in two languages: English and a second language, such as Spanish, Chinese or Arabic. According to the DOE, “the goal of the program is for students to be able to read, write, and speak in both English and their home language… and also learn about and appreciate other cultures.” From our experience, these programs are very desirable and often highly ranked by families in the admissions process.


Transitional Bilingual Education


As opposed to the dual language program, the transitional bilingual education program is made up of only students that share the same home language. Over the course of the program, the instruction transitions to a heavier focus on English, as the students’ knowledge of the language increases. “The goal of this program is to support students’ in their home language while they fully transition to an English-only instruction class”. - the DOE.


English as a New Language


In an English as a New Language (ENL) program, English is taught by teachers who use the support of the students’ home languages. The strategies used in this program differ from the above-mentioned bilingual options. In this program, the objective is for students to be sufficiently supported as they become proficient in English.



Interested in one of these programs? Every school in New York State is required to hold meetings for families of newly enrolled English Language Learners. To find out when this meeting may take place, you should contact your zoned school. (You can find your zoned school here.)

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