Thriving Immigrant Populations In the U.S. Are Keeping ESL Lessons Alive

Did you know that after Mandarin, English is the second most popular language in the world—with over 1.5 billion English speakers around the globe? The total number of native English speakers adds up to about 350,000,000, which means that there are an estimated 1,150,000,000 people who speak English as an additional language.

English is the global language of business, international government affairs, and the internet (over half of the world’s most popular websites are written in English). And the demand for ESL educators has steadily climbed to reflect this growth. Not surprisingly, we at Wyzant found that ESL lessons are most popular in cities with strong immigrant populations.

However, beginning in September 2016, we noted a 15 percent decline in the popularity of ESL lessons in the United States.

To dig into this trend a bit further, we examined the popularity of ESL lessons compared to other subjects on our platform across our major markets. These findings uncover the locales with the highest and lowest popularity of ESL from May 2016 – April 2017 at Wyzant.


It’s worth noting that the most popular cities for ESL are home to thriving immigrant populations.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers, the St. Louis area has seen the largest percentage increase in immigrants compared to other major metropolitan areas around the country. Between 2014 and 2015, Federal data showed the number of foreign-born people living in the metro area had increased 8.9 percent, from 118,8936 to 129,559 people, which may account for the number of English learners in this area. Minnesota’s immigrant population is also booming. Over the past 25 years, the number of Minnesotans born outside the country has tripled.

Does age impact ESL trends?

We also wanted to delve into the ESL trends across different age groups to see if the numbers changed.

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Wyzant data revealed that although the overall popularity of ESL lessons had dipped, ESL amongst adults is actually growing in popularity across the nation.

Interestingly, we found that the percentage of adults taking ESL lessons through Wyzant is higher in the Midwest than in other regions—and has even grown by more than 20 percent in the past year.

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We discovered an overall decline in ESL popularity in college students over the past year. But like adults, among all college students seeking tutoring through Wyzant, the percentage of ESL lessons taken in the Midwest is higher than in other regions.


While the popularity of ESL lessons has been declining overall in the past 12 months, it’s still the most popular language subject among adult students on Wyzant by far. It’s over 50 percent more popular than 2nd place Spanish, and approximately three times more popular than any other language.

We’ll be sure to keep an eye on our numbers over the next 12 months to see how the popularity of ESL continues to trend.

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