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Why do you need to speak academic English?

Why do second language (L2) English speakers struggle with academic English? Surely English is English?  When I got to university, in the Dark Ages, I was really surprised that my English awards meant absolutely nothing in the university environment. Even though I had managed to make sense of Shakespeare, it was with the help from my excellent English teacher, Miss Clarke. I had almost no idea of what my linguistics teacher was talking about. I knew it was English because I could understand words like “speech” and “sounds”, but talking about “speech sounds and non-speech sounds” made no sense. Surely all speeches made sounds? I knew I was in trouble. It was only then, after a very frustrating first semester, that I came across the idea of academic English.

How do I learn academic English?

I was very lucky. When I was at university, we had a course in our first year which introduced us to the basic principles of what is expected as far as academic English is concerned. Not just where the library was, or what sports clubs were on campus: the important stuff, like what makes a solid argument, why is referencing Wikipedia a bad idea and what do I use instead.  These days, Wits students can get this information at the Language School through a course called English for University Success which runs four times a year at R4500.

What does the course cover?

This course is designed to orientate first year students to the university’s academic English environment. Apart from looking at specific English constructions, we also look at how to construct your own opinion in an argument and why this is important. What is the leap between school-style thinking and academic thinking? Why is it necessary to know what others have thought about a topic? Do I simply say what was said in the lecture? Do I need to take notes in a lecture? Can I share my work with my friends? If these are questions you want answered, then the English for University Success, is the course for you.

Where do I find this course?

The English for University Success course is offered by Wits Language School which is situated at the bottom of East campus, in the Professional Development Hub building. The instructors on the course are all experienced and understand the difficulties faced by first year L2 English speakers. The course blends online resources with personal contact, and best of all we will introduce you to other students who you can work with and learn from. Come and join us and invest in your own university success!