Academic Language Acquisition: some suggestions for supporting EAL Students

As academic language is lexically dense and functional, it cannot be learnt in isolation; teachers of all subject areas need to be able to recognise and address the language learning needs of EAL students in order to support them with accessing academic knowledge.

The table below highlights the main subject specific language genres that students are required to use and understand. Academic language requires a learner to analyse, synthesise and evaluate information; in order to develop an understanding of new concepts a learner needs to be able to answer questions, follow instructions, explain, describe, discuss, inquire and therefore be in a position to understand complex and abstract ideas.

The diagram below is a continuum of registers that are needed in order for successful communication to take place.

The 2 diagrams below offer some language learning strategies that may support EAL students and also help to raise teacher awareness about their subject specific language complexities.

The suggested 5 phase lesson plan below is based upon CALLA (Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach); this body of research (Chamot and O'Malley, Lightbown and Spada, Cummins, Mohan) aims to develop academic language, metacognitive strategies and language skills. Learners are encouraged to be actively engaged in the processing of knowledge and skills; they are encouraged to make connections and to construct their own knowledge by developing their learning strategies.