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New course empowers students with academic English

Author: Myolisi Gophe

Students with English as a second language often struggle to write and present the academic side of the language properly at tertiary level - but that is set to be a thing of the past.

(Published - 12 July 2019)

The Department of Academic Development at UWC’s Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) joined forces with their counterparts from the University of Missouri, St Louis Campus in the United States, to put together the English Language Support Course. The programme empowers students with anything from word forms, verb agreement, sentence structure and construction to tenses, vocabulary, presentation, grammar and writing skills.

This week a group of 14 students, mainly from the EMS faculty and a few from other areas, completed the two-week block English Language Support Course which was piloted on campus.

“Academic English is different from everyday English,” says Dr Denise Mussman, from the University of Missouri, who developed the programme with Professor Venicia McGhie from UWC. “It has longer words, word forms and mostly comes from Latin.

“So this support course helps to develop their English usage,” adds Prof McGhie. “It gives them confidence to write coherently and express themselves clearly. I know from experience that if English is not your first language you are often not sure what is right or wrong. And you don’t understand the rules of the language. This course aims to address that.”

The two academics met in 2014 when Prof McGhie was on a nine-months Fulbright scholarship in Missouri. Dr Mussman was teaching English for Academic Purposes and Prof McGhie was dealing Academic Literacy for Commerce at UWC. “I used to sit in her classes and I liked what she was doing. I thought she could help us because we have a similar situation here where for many of our students, English is not their first language,” says Prof McGhie, who once worked as a domestic worker and taxi driver before she embarked on her studies and entered academia.

With UWC having a long-standing relationship with the University of Missouri, the two scholars took advantage of that partnership to construct and motivate for the course, which they did successfully. UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Professor Vivienne Lawack, funded the accommodation and meals to enable students to reside on campus during the course.

Prof McGhie says the course has been well-received by participants, and that it will be developed into an online course so that all students at UWC can access it. The two academics will also write a chapter about the course for a book called Language Learning Instruction for Culturally Diverse Students and Emigrants Communities, which is set to come out later in the year. Publishing papers about the course is also on the radar.


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