Six reasons why students should follow an English Course
If you’re reading this article, there’s a strong possibility you’re either an advanced English learner or you’re already a native English speaker.
There’s also a possibility you’ve found you have to do an English course as a requirement for your programme or even your PhD. Alternatively, you might need to prove your English skills to go on an Exchange.
But hang on a minute. Is this really necessary? After all, you believe you’re fully competent in English; you speak fluently; you’re used to writing in English; and you’ve written reams of school essays in the language. Why, then, should you have to do an English course at all?
This is a question many students ask, and it’s a good one. To explain why it’s often a compulsory component of a programme, here are some of the top reasons for including English for either business or academic purposes on the schedule.
1. Students are often not sure of the difference between formal and informal language
In most of our daily communication, we use a mix of formal and informal styles depending on the situation, but novice writers and students often don’t know which words are classed as informal. Added to that, and unless they’ve done bi-lingual education, they probably haven’t learned how to write in a formal style at school. This can also apply to native speakers as well as English as Second Language (ESL) students. Since most written work at university requires a formal academic style, students usually need to be trained to distinguish between the different levels of formality.
2. Academic writing in English is a specific skill that everyone needs to learn, no matter how good their English is
Vocabulary aside, there’s much more to academic writing than a simple matter of formality. It’s not just about style either; structure, development, coherent paragraphing, support and evidence are all components of an academic paper that a student needs to consider. The skill needed to formulate and develop logical arguments with sound critical thinking can take time to learn. To then compose these ideas into a complete essay or paper takes even longer. Targeted teaching can speed up this process substantially.
3. Writing business reports and documents is also a specialised skill with different requirements from academic papers
A number of programmes at Erasmus University require students to write business reports, proposals and summaries. Like academic writing, these will be written in a formal style; however, the genre is different so the specific requirements are also different. Even students who are practised in academic English frequently find the switch to a business style difficult. Despite the equivalent levels of formality, the choice of words, sentence length and language can be surprisingly genre specific and students need help in choosing the appropriate terms and phrases.
4.Using correct vocabulary and grammar is not as simple as you might think
Like every language, English is full of nasty pitfalls just waiting to trap the unwary. While it is quite easy to learn at a general communication level, English grammar can become complicated at the advanced level needed for academic speaking and writing. Clause structure, verb inversions, dangling modifiers, cleft sentences; just the terminology is enough to give you a headache. A course in academic English can clear up many of these mysteries of syntax and punctuation.
5. Following an academic or business English course can help us with the speaking skills we need for the purpose
University English isn’t only about writing essays, papers and reports. It’s also about taking part in discussions, debates, and seminars. Not only that, most students have to give presentations at some point in their studies, which is a challenge many fear especially if English isn’t their native language. Courses that include giving presentations and leading discussions can help students gain the confidence they need to perform under pressure and participate with enthusiasm.
6. An English for specific purposes course can also train you in the most efficient way to write clearly and concisely
Sometimes students need to write specific types of texts, such as job application letters, CVs, proposals or even chapters for their PhD. A short course in the specific writing skill they need for the task can do wonders in helping them write a clear, concise document faster, more efficiently and more accurately. It doesn’t matter whether they are ESL students or native speaker, they can benefit from this kind of targeted course.
So there you have it: six sound reasons for following an English language course during your programme of studies. It may not seem necessary at first, but there are few students who qualify for exemption from such courses – not because their English isn’t good, but because they don’t yet have the skill set needed for the type of English used in their courses.
And the good news is that with the Language & Training Centre’s dedicated courses, both open subscription and faculty arranged, these skills can be gained under the guidance of a highly experienced English teaching team.
Valerie Poore was born and raised in England but later moved to South Africa where she gained experience in Marketing and Communications, both as a practitioner and as a trainer. She returned to Europe in 2001 and has been working for the Language and Training Centre (EUR) as a freelance teacher and trainer since 2002. During this time, she gained her Master’s in TESOL, specializing in English for academic purposes. Valerie currently teaches writing skills to both business and academic students. In addition, she writes articles for magazines, as well as publishing her own books.