VOA Learning English with Dr. Jill on Academic English
Jill Robbins, Ph.D.
Aspects of Academic
• Differs from social language.
• Used for cognitively demanding tasks.
• Taught and learned in school settings.
• Closely tied to literacy; also found in oral language.
• Includes subject-specific vocabulary (often of Greek or Latin
• Grammatical structures more complex than those of social
• Formal and decontextualized discourse.
• Used in higher-level thinking.
• Used in higher-level thinking and academic language functions.
• Needs explicit instruction.
• seeking information/informing—observe and explore the environment, acquire
information, inquire, identify, report, or describe information
• informing—recount information provided by a teacher/text; retell a story or personal
• comparing—describe similarities and differences in objects or ideas
• ordering—sequence objects, ideas, events
• classifying—group objects or ideas according to their characteristics
• analyzing—separate whole into parts; identify relationships and patterns
• inferring—make inferences, predict implications, hypothesize
• justifying and persuading—give reasons for an action, decision, point of view;
• solving problems—define/present a problem and determine a solution
• synthesizing—combine or integrate ideas to form a whole
• evaluating—assess and verify worth of an object, idea or decision
Academic Word LIst
• The Academic Word List (AWL) was developed by Averil Coxhead
as her MA thesis at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language
Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The list
contains 570 word families which were selected according to
principles. The list does not include words that are in the most
frequent 2000 words of English. The AWL was primarily made so
that it could be used by teachers as part of a programme preparing
learners for tertiary level study or used by students working alone to
learn the words most needed to study at tertiary institutions. The
Academic Word List replaces the University Word List.
• For detail on the development and evaluation of the AWL, see
Coxhead, Averil (2000) A New Academic Word List. TESOL
Quarterly, 34(2): 213-238.
• See also: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicwordlist/
The Academic Corpus
A written corpus of academic English was developed for
the purpose of finding out which words occurred in a wide
range of academic texts from a variety of subject areas.
The Academic Corpus contained approximately 3,500,000
running words. It was divided into four faculty sections:
Arts, Commerce, Law and Science. Each of these faculty
sections contained approximately 875,000 running words.
Each faculty section was divided into seven subject areas
of approximately 125,000 running words.
Subject areas in the Faculty Sections of
the Academic Corpus
Frequent Words in AWL
• This sublist contains the most frequent words of the Academic Word
List in the Academic Corpus. The most frequent members of the word
families in Sublist 1 are listed below.
How to Learn Academic
• Read texts in your area of interest (economics, technology, social
• Watch videos of presentations in those areas, provided by platforms
– Coursera: https://www.coursera.org
– iTunesU: https://itunes.apple.com/us/genre/itunes-u/
– Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses
• Talk with others studying in the field of interest through face-to-face
encounters, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.
• Write a blog about your interests in the field. Read and comment on
other blogs in the area.