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English as an additional language: literacy training
Katy Parkinson, founder and director of Lexonik by Sound Training, discusses how literacy training can improve the experience which academics have when attending UK universities…
Academics with English as an additional language (EAL) can benefit greatly from literacy education programmes, which improve both their vocabulary when writing and their confidence in speaking to others.
Many students who attend our universities who are not native English speakers find that, although there is no gap in their knowledge of the subject matter, they can struggle to keep up with classmates due to a language deficit. This is often caused by accents or dialects being too far away from ‘the mainstream,’ and can lead to a lack of confidence when it comes to speaking in seminars or reading course materials.
We have found while working with Chinese students from Teeside University Business School, that our programme, Lexonik, had a profound impact on international learners. We found that following the training, which consisted of six hour-long sessions which took place over six weeks, the average reading age had increased by 27 months.
When the reading age improves, this, in turn, improves the learners’ confidence when speaking to others on their course, and gives them the independence to become more literate, working out words on their own which they may not have come across during the course of their education.
Literacy training focuses on roots of words
Lexonik teaches literacy through a fast, fun version of Latin. It focuses on the roots of words and allows the students to build up words from their key elements, so they can learn what they mean, rather than just learning by rote. There is also a significant amount of recapping and reinforcing, to work at the pace of both the fastest and slowest learners.
One of the dangers educators can fall into, when teaching literacy adult learners, is using childish course materials. It is important not to come across as patronising, and to respect the learner rather than insulting their intelligence. For this reason, we specifically tailor our course materials to be adult-friendly, and our students responded well to this.
It is important to remember when providing training to all EAL students, particularly those in academia, that we are aiming to plug a language gap, not a knowledge gap. Just as if you went abroad to study, and did not speak the language, you would bring with you a suite of skills and experience, so do these students.
They must be supported to be curious, engaged, and feel like they are understood and respected, just as we educators would expect ourselves.
See lexonik.co.uk for the range of literacy training available from primary schools upwards.