L&T Session D – Fitting Language – but how many sizes?

Paul Roberts – Education/CELT

AbstractPresentation: session D | Forum magazine article Recording (University of York login required)

Language is central to academic life: as students struggle to ‘language themselves’ into an academic identity, knowledge is constructed in acts of language use. When it comes to interacting with a wide, diverse range of students, how do varying accents affect progress and outcomes? And when you are marking students’ assignments, how does students’ language use affect your attitude and, therefore, the resulting mark? Dealing briefly with spoken language, I would like to raise questions over which accents are deemed to ‘fit’ and which not. I will then move on to examine how writing with an accent appears to be even less acceptable than speaking with one. While English is the dominant international language of the Academy, students are often disturbed to find that they are discouraged from transferring, to English, patterns of writing learned in association with their other languages. Their potential is, inevitably, compromised. At the same time, insistence on a narrowly defined writing style may mean that the resulting knowledge is also stunted. One size not only hangs unhappily on many students, it also limits the production of knowledge. I will conclude with some recommendations on how we might accommodate a wide range of speaking styles and how we could draw benefit from diversity in approaches to academic writing.