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What Is Academic Language and Why Is It Important for English Learners?

Academic language is the specialized form of communication that is most common in educational settings, especially in academic and formal environments. It is defined by the accuracy, complexity, and conventions of the discipline it belongs to. Academic language is also very important for effective communication in the educational environment, and learning to use it properly plays an integral role in success. English learners have the daunting task of mastering not only ordinary language but also special academic language. In this regard, it is possible to clarify several keystones of the significance of academic language for English learners. Academic language is indispensable for English learning as it not only aids their understanding, speaking, and succeeding in a school setting but stimulates critical thinking, social integration, and professional competence that promotes complete mastery of the foreign language and good academic performance.

Academic language is the foundation for understanding and communicating in different types of academic work. Such mastery is crucial in scrutinizing textbooks, unraveling lectures, and composing research papers. However, the issue is wider than simply understanding each course’s content for English students; it also involves understanding the technicalities characteristic of such a discipline. Academic language proficiency allows learners to go beyond a superficial meaning and deeply understand the material. This increased motivation then becomes a driver of their overall academic performance. As English learners need to gain a command of academic language, they struggle not only with comprehending subject matters but also seizure by irreducible linguistic terms that lead to understanding their scholarly content. Acquiring academic language allows learners to interpret information through critical analysis and contribute to intellectual discussions.

Academic language is also pivotal in assessing and evaluating the education system. All the evaluation processes involving standardized tests, essay assignments, and educational presentations rely on fluency in academic language. When faced with such tests, English learners are challenged by the topic and have to deal with complex expectations in language. However, the most obvious need for a high level of academic language is in essay assignments where clarity and cohesiveness clearly emphasize clear ideas. In addition to a profound comprehension of the tested subject matter, assessments such as standardized tests typically require individuals to respond using the specialized vocabulary particular to each academic discipline. Formal language is also essential for educational presentations, as they involve sharing ideas with an audience. However, English learners need to gain proficiency in language skills for academic purposes to articulate their knowledge and insights accurately when evaluating such situations. As a result, literary language skills become vital for learners of English since the knowledge of this type of language is rather an instrument to show one’s understanding concerning course material than only some means of linguistic accomplishment, which eventually leads to accreditation through assessment. Thus, command of academic language is inherently linked to the ability of English Language Learners to deal with evaluation in their educational journey, ensuring that they can correctly exemplify his intellectual services.

Academic language is not only important for communication and evaluation, but it has an integral role in developing critical thinking skills and analytical abilities among learners. One of the essential aspects of critical thought is to be able to clearly and precisely express ideas, which academic language promotes. Additionally, it makes the learners defend their arguments with evidence and thus encourages a critical attitude toward intellectual inquiry. Academic writing also helps students express their thoughts and conduct thoughtful conversations to exchange ideas within a broader academic community. Acquiring academic language by English learners would become a transformative activity that makes them possess certain tools such as analytical thinking and evaluation. Critical thinking, metacognition, and the management of thought processes develop as students learn to read academic language. However, this ability to apply critical thinking enriches their ability to analyze and evaluate information in many other areas of life. As such, intellectual language development supports English learners’ progress in school and strengthens their ability to think critically and participate intelligently anywhere from numerous perspectives, ready for success outside educational institutions.

Academic language is also essential to socialization in literary society. Communication between learners, teachers, and other representatives of the academic community requires formalized language with specifics. Acquiring academic language skills allows English learners to participate actively in class discussions, work together on projects as part of a team, and establish friendships with their peers, making them feel like they belong within the space. Moreover, learning academic language aids one in being successful outside the classroom. For many professions, employees must communicate successfully in formal language and with specific terminology. Those learners of English who have developed academic language skills are more able to cope and prosper in professional settings.

In conclusion, academic language is vital to English learners’ proficiency. It goes beyond academic achievement, affecting personal and professional development aspects. Widespread acquisition of academic language enables English learners to interact with the content, achieve good grades on tests, improve thinking, and make friends; besides, they are bound for successful lives. Understanding the importance of academic language for educators and learners is crucial because it emphasizes how this type of knowledge positively affects the process of linguistic development and overall learning.

Reflection On My Own Teaching Experience

Being a substitute teacher, I have had the chance to see how crucial academic language is for English learners’ educational pathways. On many occasions, I have observed students struggling with the material presented in their classes and dealing with language subtleties associated with academic assignments. Crossing from one field to another, I have watched students work with deciphering subject-specific terms and presenting their interpretation of the content according to academic rules. In the limited case of a science class, English-language learners can understand scientific concepts and state their observations and hypotheses in the proper academic language. This incident shed light on the major role that mastery of school language plays in enabling students to participate and actively participate in class discussions.

Additionally, my observations correspond with modern studies concerning the significance of academic language for English learners. According to online-based research, mastery of academic language is a problem for English learners as they typically encounter challenges in assessments and standardized tests. This coincides with my observations, especially when standing in for them during examination periods, and the struggle of dealing with nuanced assessment language became evident.

Moreover, the study pointed out a connection between academic language ability and critical thinking. Looking back, intellectual language development positively affects a person’s ability to make logical statements and use evidence when stating an argument or participating in more thoughtful dialogue.

My sub-teaching knowledge has shown English language learners’ challenges while grappling with academic jargon. This reflection corresponds with the researchers’ findings, who state that academic language is a core component of comprehension, assessment performance, and development of critical thinking skills in English students (Soland & Sandilos, 2020, p. 17). In my teaching career, I understand the need to use strategies to help students acquire proficiency in academic language and contribute to their overall performance.


Soland, J., & Sandilos, L. E. (2020). English language learners, self-efficacy, and the achievement gap: Understanding the relationship between academic and social-emotional growth. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR)26(1), 20–44.


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