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Raising Lecturer Awareness of Issues in Academic Language for Non-native Speakers of English in the Irish Third Level Sector.

Author Ruth Harris
Abstract This paper considers how the growing number of non-native speakers of English in the third level sector may be supported by lecturers in all disciplines, in line with the stated aim of the Intercultural Education Strategy 2010 - 2015 put forward by the Department of Education and Skills and the Office of the Minister for Integration. This document states as an action that 'educators at all levels gain awareness of the fact that they are also teachers of language and have a key role to play in developing and enhancing the language competence of learners' (DES, 2010, p.61). Some of the features of Academic English are then considered. The distinction between Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is explored. The issue of vocabulary is looked at from a number of different angles: the predominance of words of Greek and Latin origin in academic language, and of words of Anglo-Saxon origin in spoken language; the difference in vocabulary thresholds for native and non-native speakers; specific and generic aspects of academic vocabulary as described in the 'bricks and mortar' model put forward by Dutro and Moran (2003). Frequently occurring structures in academic language are identified, analysed, and clarified. Conventions for paragraph structure are also examined and differences in these in different languages and cultures highlighted. Suggestions are made for how lecturers may facilitate the acquisition of CALP by drawing learners' attention to the features of academic language, by compiling glossaries with colleagues or student groups, and by creating small scale research projects in the area. Such initiatives, it is suggested, could also be helpful for native speakers of English who may also have difficulties with academic English, and link in with features of Universal Design (CEUD, 2012), with potential for more effective use of academic language among lecturing staff and the student body as a whole
Keywords Academic English; EAP; Migrants; BICS; CALP; intercultural strategy;
Published In ICEP Proceedings 2012
Date 2012
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