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Volume 20 Number 2, Summer 2023, Pages 215-506   


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Chinese-Speaking Undergraduates in Australia: A Lexical Approach to Teaching Academic Writing

    Qin Chen, Anne Thwaite & Brian Moon


Chinese-speaking students enroll in Australian tertiary institutions in large numbers. Success for these international students is heavily dependent upon their mastering the conventions of academic writing in English. How best to ensure such mastery among EAL learners has been a matter of debate among tertiary educators and language specialists, with competing theories and methods proposed. This paper reports on an attempt to improve English academic writing through intensive lexical instruction, a method proposed by Ackermann & Chen (2013), Boers et al. (2016), Lewis (1993), Selivan (2018), Wray (2005, 2018) and others. Nine Chinese-speaking tertiary students were offered training in recognising and employing those lexical constructions commonly found in relevant technical and academic genres. The project employed a mixed methods case study approach to describe students' performance and their perceptions and responses to the teaching they underwent. While gains in performance were evident in some cases, the outcomes of the teaching were inconsistent and equivocal overall. We conclude that this raises questions about the efficacy of purely lexical methods and underscores the challenge involved in teaching complex genres at tertiary level. These findings have implications for those teaching Chinese-speaking students, particularly in EAL contexts.

Keywords: lexical method, lexical chunks, EAL teaching, academic writing, English; proficiency, polywords, collocations, sentence builders, Chinese-speaking students