A question of language competence or writing style?

DoctoralWriting SIG

By Cally Guerin

Last week a student came to me in tears, distraught at what she felt was a very unfair assessment of her writing ability after her supervisor had decided her English was not up to scratch. She is from an Asian background, and was born and educated in Australia. While English might not be her first language or ‘mother tongue’, she is certainly not using English as an Additional Language (EAL), as the current terminology has it. (It used to be English as a Second Language, ESL, and may be moving on to English as an International Language, EIL – all of which depends on the context and perhaps the current fashions in the field.) Our universities have plenty of ‘Generation 1.5’ PhD students like her who work and think in more than one language.

Putting the labels aside, the young woman is also typical of many students…

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