A plea for an Academic Reading-Writing Course in English

While courses on Academic Reading and Writing in English are quite common in the universities of the UK or the USA, there is hardly any provision for such courses in the Indian Universities or in the English Language Teacher Training institutes of the country. Poor language pedagogy in our regional medium schools and colleges does not equip our students with the required strategies to read or write academic texts in English and consequently, it affects their engagement with the academic texts written in English. Though the students who enter the MA programs often do not have adequate English language skills, they are expected to engage themselves with academic texts that carry complex ideas. The dual burden of transitioning not only to another language but also to academic discourse in a foreign language poses serious problems for academic excellence . An academic reading-writing course in English in our universities will familiarize our students with the relationship between the forms and practices of disciplinary genres. Such a course, I believe, will empower them to articulate their ideas and perspectives as per the established norms of academic writing in English.
A course on academic reading-writing in English should be based on the assumption that improvement in academic reading and writing comes in developmental stages and in order to help the learners to acquire the skills of reading and writing academic texts in English, we should provide them with adequate practice, through reading and through exposure to the models of academic writing. Nurturing the cognitive and linguistic resources of the L2 learners can alone help them read and write confidently in the target language.
What is involved in academic reading? Academic reading, according to experts, involves (a) Coding competence, (b) Semantic Competence, (c) Pragmatic competence, (d) Critical competence . It is often observed that many students do not know how to question an author of an academic text. Interacting with text information, juxtaposing it with the knowledge and experiences that the students bring to the text and constructing a representation of the author’s meaning are challenging tasks for non-native students of English reading an academic text written in English. These students need scaffolding and a regular course on academic reading and writing can alone provide that scaffolding.
What does Academic Writing involve? (a) Generating ideas, (b) sequencing of ideas (c) Linking ideas coherently, (d) Using academic vocabulary, (e) connecting paragraphs, (f) using transition phrases and (g) adding supporting evidence.
It is unfortunate that academic reading or academic writing as a topic of inquiry and pedagogy is not given due importance in our colleges and universities. How do you explore an academic discourse done in a foreign language and how do you articulate your ideas and perspectives in a language that is not your own?

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