Academic English is No One’s Mother Tongue: Graduate and Undergraduate Students’ Academic English Language-learning Needs from Students’ and Instructors’ Perspectives


  • Li-Shih Huang University of Victoria



needs analysis, English for Academic Purposes, English as a first language, English as an additional language, graduate and undergraduate students


A research project designed to assess English-as-first-language (EL1) and English-as-an-additional-language (EAL) undergraduate and graduate students’ academic language-learning needs in the context of an academic language-support unit was conducted. This paper reports findings pertaining to 370 EL1 students and 88 instructors at the graduate and undergraduate levels. These participants responded to questionnaires, which requested them to rate the importance of academic language skills, to assess their own or their students’ skill status, and to respond to open-ended questions regarding their own or their students’ academic communication challenges. In addition to reporting EL1 students’ perceived needs and assessments of their skills, a comparison of findings between EL1 and EAL contexts is presented. Findings point to a match between instructors and students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels in their perceptions of important academic language skills, but a great divergence in their assessments of students’ competence in those skills. These findings indicate a need to re-examine the divide often made in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programmes regarding divergent needs of EAL versus EL1 learners as well as to determine whether the convergence of their needs can be considered when planning EAP courses or workshops, especially during challenging economic times, when priorities must be set in response to the rise of international EAL student enrolment in English-speaking countries.

Author Biography

Li-Shih Huang, University of Victoria

Dr. Li-Shih Huang is an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and is affiliated with the Learning and Teaching Centre at the University of Victoria as its Learning and Teaching Scholar-in-Residence. Her research interests include English for academic purposes, learner strategies in language-learning and language-testing contexts, needs and outcomes assessments, and corpus-aided discovery learning.


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