Understanding Multilingual Learners

older students reading and writing at desks

Discover the value that each multilingual learner brings to the school community

Multilingual learners are students developing proficiency in multiple languages. The term multilingual learner is truly an assets-based approach. By using the term multilingual learner, we recognize the totality of a student. We’re emphasizing what a student knows, rather than what they don’t know.

The term multilingual learner is in sync with WIDA’s Can Do Philosophy. This philosophy reflects the foundational belief that your students have valuable resources they can use to support their own and others’ learning. When your multilingual learners are encouraged to use all their ways of talking, being, and knowing to power their thinking and communicating, they engage fully in learning and enrich all learning communities.

WIDA is committed to evolving and learning as an organization. That includes listening to the experts in the field and evolving our terminology as needed.

Multilingual learners bring many assets to the classroom:

  • Information and ideas that they have already learned
  • Ways that they have used languages at home with their family members and in their communities
  • Home and community experiences that can become the focus of standards-based, content-area instruction
  • Interests and passions that they have, and what they've already done to pursue them
  • Previous successes they have experienced and can connect with in order to build their confidence in academic settings
  • The amazing ways that they navigate their various roles and identities
  • Brains that are flexible because they are always processing two or more languages and making connections across languages and cultures

Getting to know your multilingual students more deeply can transform the way you approach instructional planning. You may find yourself on a journey of discovery led by your interest in learning more about your students, their families and their communities.

Creating a welcoming classroom and engaging with families is a great place to start this exciting journey. Learn more on the Creating a Welcoming Classroom page.

mother and girl listing to teacher at table

Family Engagement

WIDA provides resources, including webinars and parent handouts, to help educators engage with families to support multilingual learner success.

claudia trillo

Featured Educator

“I believe that when students feel empowered by vocabulary and are able to make connections to their learning, they feel more successful and are engaged in their learning.”

Claudia Trillo, lead ELL Teacher
Duluth, GA

Read more about Claudia