NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1122060
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 22
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1682-3206
"We Know What to Say, We Know What to Write, but We Don't Know How": The Challenges of Becoming Academically Literate in a New Linguistic and Socio-Cultural Space
Sibomana, Emmanuel
Education as Change, v20 n2 p123-144 2016
Historically, some languages and discourses which were initially localised subsequently became regionally or even globally dominant. Currently, English is the dominant global language in all domains, including the academic. Thus academics and scholars from non-English backgrounds are at a disadvantage: they have to adhere to academic literacy conventions in a language in which they may not be completely proficient. This article discusses findings from a study of challenges experienced by a group of postgraduate students from Rwanda whose main languages are Kinyarwanda and French, but whose studies and research at a South African university were in English. Data were collected through questionnaires administered to 21 students and through interviews with four of these students and with three lecturers/research supervisors. Assignment tasks and lecturers' feedback on assignments and research work were also analysed. The findings suggest that, besides the challenges of studying and researching through the medium of English, these students' previous academic "ways with words" differ from those expected by their lecturers and research supervisors. This article offers a critical discussion of these differences and of the strategies adopted by students to master "the right English" to cross academic borders. It raises questions about academic borders and academics as border guards.
Education as Change. The Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa. Tel: +27-11-5591148; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Rwanda
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A