About Academic Language

In short, academic language gives students ways to engage with the content they’re learning.

Academic language is the oral, written, visual, and auditory language needed by students to understand and communicate within and across the disciplines. Academic language is the language used in classrooms, textbooks, and assignments and includes discipline-specific vocabulary, rhetorical conventions, syntax, symbols, grammar and punctuation. Some examples of academic language may include terms such as interpret, context, analyze, concept, critique and  perspective.

To support student learning in the discipline, teachers teachers need to consider the language demands including  vocabulary, language functions, syntax,and discourse. Click the image below to enlarge. 


  • Vocabulary: Includes subject-specific words, general academic words, and commonly used words that are used in specialized ways within the disciplines.
  • Language functions are the content and language of the learning task such as compare, contrast, explain and inform. Colorin Colorado has an excellent chart with the action verbs, examples, and tools to effectively incorporate in teaching practice.
  • Syntax: In academic language, syntax can include complex sentences, nominalizations, passive voice, and long phrases
  • Discourse: Includes the features or ways of structuring oral or written language (text structures) that provide useful ways for the content to be communicated.

Learn More

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Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners, 2nd Edition
by Jane D. Hill and Kirsten B. Miller

Teaching About Academic Language: 15 Things I would like educators to know by Susan Ranney, from the Teacher Education Pedagogies Learning Series


Image courtesy of Pixabay.