WHAT IS ENGLISH FOR ACADEMIC PURPOSES?

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It’s probably safe to say that the majority of EFL classrooms around the world are Young Learner classrooms. However, this is only one aspect of Teaching English as a Foreign Language and if you are thinking about becoming a TEFL teacher, you need to consider all the different teaching situations you may find yourself in. Teaching English for Academic Purposes is one such situation and if you are not familiar with the rules of Academic English, it can be quite daunting. Here we’re going to look at a few different aspects of Academic English you should know if you find yourself in an EAP classroom.

What is English for Academic Purposes?

English for Academic Purposes is English as used in an academic setting. Many students need to learn English because they want to go to an English-speaking university. Consequently, while they need to learn everyday English as well, they need to learn Academic English in order to be able to read textbooks, understand lectures, take notes and write academic papers.

How is Academic English different to General English?

On consideration, it is quite obvious the English we use in textbooks or in lectures is different to the English we use in conversations with our friends or in our everyday lives. What is more difficult is isolating exactly what is different and how to teach it.

Academic English is very descriptive and can be used to describe a situation, an object or a process. It is also used to express opinions and arguments and motivate and justify these ideas.

We can summarise the main features of Academic English as follows:

  • Usually formal and impersonal
  • Avoids contractions
  • Avoids pronouns
  • Uses complex sentences
  • Utilises the passive
  • Avoids phrasal verbs
  • Makes use of nominalisation
  • Use hedging language

In the classroom it is necessary to use texts which more closely resemble academic texts. This may mean using a specific coursebook or it could mean supplementing your coursebook with authentic materials. Special attention should be paid to teaching reading skills like skimming and scanning, and writing skills. Plus, there needs to be a focus on certain grammatical structures like the passive, conditional sentences and linking devices. Authentic listening texts such as TED talks are great ways for students to practise their listening and note-taking skills.

Preparing to study in an English-medium environment is challenging and our students need as much help as we can give them. By making sure we cover all aspects of Academic English in our lessons we will be helping them prepare as best we can.

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