If English is your second language, then you probably know full well how difficult it can be to pursue an advanced course of study in this language. Conversational English is arguably much easier to pick up than is the rarefied and sometimes inscrutable nuances of academic prose. At the same time, it’s not impossible.
There are some very specific steps that you can take to improve your academic writing in English almost instantaneously. As someone who used to tutor English to foreign nationals who were pursuing PhD degrees in America, I learned a few quick ways to improve their academic writing. Here are the tips and tricks I found to be most effective:
1. Read academic works.
Of course, this goes without saying. The more academic writing in English you immerse yourself in, the more quickly you’ll understand how academic prose in English works. Read papers, essays, and reports in your field with a careful eye. When you read each sentence, ask yourself, “Why did the author use these specific words?” and “What is the author setting out to accomplish?
2. Aim for clarity, not for sophistication.
Unfortunately for those who are trying to learn academic English, many academics from English-speaking countries write very poorly. A trend, at least in American institutions, is to write in such a way that the reader ends up being confused. With academic writing, you are aiming to teach your readers something, you aren’t aiming to impress them with your florid and fancy prose. As such, aim for clarity. Don’t use very advanced words until you know exactly what they mean and you’ve seen them used in context many times before. Keep your sentences relatively short. Don’t condescend to your reader, but don’t assume that she understands everything either.
3. Watch lectures online of professors teaching in English.
While reading academic prose can help tremendously, sometimes it’s better to see an academic speak in English. With the proliferation of lectures available online, you can watch thousands, if not millions, of professors in your field speak English in a more academic manner. This method can be more effective because you’ll understand how to have a conversation in academic English, which sometimes translates into more lucid, engaging, and clear prose on paper.
As with learning anything new, it’s important to practice, practice, practice. If you know other academics whose native language is English, ask them to read and edit your work with you, so they can highlight common mistakes that you’ve been making. For more information, check out this resource about academic English. Good luck!
About the author
Angelita Williams is a freelance blogger who specializes in education-related content. She’s familiar with educational practices for every age and lifestyle, from online college courses to homeschooling to traditional learning. You can read more of her writing on www.onlinecollegecourses.com, and you can contact Angelita anytime at [email protected].