Writing is perhaps the most important language skill in EAP.

Of course it is not possible to study effectively at university without being able to listen to lectures and take notes, read books and journal articles or take part in seminar discussions but almost all assessment involves some kind of writing, often under time pressure in exams. It is also the hardest skill to learn to do fluently, for anyone not just second language learners.

Writing is not much valued in other types of English courses, where language learning is more often conducted through reading, listening and speaking. If writing occurs at all, it is used to reinforce grammar points or to express personal preferences and opinions. Students may be asked to write genres that they might never need to write in their own languages, e.g. newspaper articles, poems, personal diaries or opinion essays.

Writing at university is also very different from these personal or creative types of writing. It is almost always based on material from sources, such as books or journal articles, or data collected from surveys, observations or experiments. It has a specified purpose, e.g. a question to asnwer, and a particular audience which has expectations about the structure of texts and the style of writing. It requires students to be able to manipulate complex noun phrases in simple sentences rather than complex verb phrases in compound sentences.

Both students and teachers new to academic writing often complain that it is not creative. However, the creativity lies not in the unusual choice of vocabulary or sentence structure but in the ability to make writing transparent, like a pane of glass to allow new ideas to shine through.

In another post Irina argued that any teacher who wanted to develop professionally needed to understand EAP approaches. I would take this further and suggest that any teacher who wishes to teach EAP needs to have experience of writing academic genres.

Comments

Dear Olwyn,Writing is an important issue in EAP and tutors make their best efforts to help stduents improve their academic writing. However, at least in the Nepalese case, there are some problems such as redundancy, circumlocutions, mixing of the registers etc. which never seem to go.  Any ideas in this line?Would be grateful for your inputs.Laxman

Hi OlwynIndeed, depending on the country students come from, writing in what we consider an acceptable academic style in the UK can be an issue that goes beyond language competency. The things Laxman mentions above seem to be deeply embedded in the oral and written culture of our students. Could you please, share your views on this?Cheers - Chris

[quote=Chris]Indeed, depending on the country students come from, writing in what we consider an acceptable academic style in the UK can be an issue that goes beyond language competency.[/quote] Hi Laxman and Chris,I agree with this absolutely. In fact I have a friend who is doing some very interesting research for her PhD. She is looking at children (about 12) who are bilingual Spanish/English and are taking CLiL classes where they are taught subjects through the medium of English. She is comparing them to a group who only study in Spanish. She is finding that the CLiL group are beginning to bring English stuctures into their Spanish writing and there is a clear difference between the more formal structure of texts influenced by English and the more fluid texts only following the Spansih structure.However, I think as EAP teachers it is up to us to point out these difference and to say what is valued in English. We would do the same if we were teaching speaking - we would teach the norms of politeness so that L2 speakers did not give offence unintentionally. The same is true for writing. The EAP students need to be aware of the different conventions in English that are valued by their discourse community and try to produce these. In fact if they are not able to do this they will probably not get published in English. Nothing to stop them sticking with their own conventions and publishing in their own languages of course - but the realpolitik these days is that most researchers want to get into English medium journals.

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