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December 2004/January 2005 | Volume 62 | Number 4
Educating Language Learners
Five key mental habits help English language learners acquire the language of school.
Academic language is the linguistic glue that holds the tasks, texts, and tests of school together. If students can't use this glue well, their academic work is likely to fall apart. I define academic language as the set of words and phrases that (1) describe content-area knowledge and procedures, (2) express complex thinking processes and abstract concepts, and (3) create cohesion and clarity in written and oral discourse.
For English language learners, academic English is like a third language, their second language being the social English of the hallways, community, and media. And whereas students are exposed to social English in various settings, academic language acquisition is generally limited to the classroom. This third language is full of new words, figurative expressions, grammar structures, verb tenses, and communication strategies. Many English language learners, even those with well-developed social language, struggle to master the complex language of school.
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Copyright © 2004 by Jeff Zwiers
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