You are on page 1of 4

English Language Teaching Unit Course D [Project 1]

“Critically evaluate Lin, 2009. Is it true that an

international student must learn a new way of
thinking and writing when they come to study in a
UK-type academic environment?”


Date: 5th August 2010

Project Group: Mass Comm

[1035] words

ELTU 2010
English Language Teaching Unit Course D [Project 1]


It is not uncommon today that many students are likely to studying in the UK. But the
fact is that majority of international students do not adapt to the British academic
environment because of the different style of learning, especially academic writing
and thinking ways. According to Linn (2009), if non-native learners do not understand
or accept the purposes of writing in British academic institution, they will meet a
large number of barriers (Linn, 2009: p1).

It seems to be true that the real problem the overseas students may face is not
language-related mistakes, but the students are not meet what the academic reader
expected. Because of the new cultural environment, the overseas learnershave to write
the essays and reports in an unfamiliar way, which is quite different from their
academic writing style before. For example, the students may have a logical
positioning in their own cultural thinking model, but it probably be recognized as
illogical by the British tutor who is expecting a British style.

This essay will analyse some main differences of oriental and western academic
writing styles which lead international students to adapt the new academic
environment in terms of changing the way of thinking and writing.

It is generally believed that the culture differences cause thinking and writing
difference. For international students, cultural patterns transfer to their writing in
academic English is not only at the word and sentence but also at the whole text.
According to Linn, “The English way of structuring an essay, though flexible,
normally includes introduction, body and conclusion” (2009: p3). In UK-type writing,
an essay is usually organized into clear structural pattern, which can be seen in the
number of the paragraphs. Linn claims that each part of the article has its certain
distinct function and “higher numbers of paragraphs may reveal a more functional
organization” (Linn, 2009: p3). In China and other East Asian countries, there is no
systematic tutoring about “the total numbers of paragraphs may reflect the general
structure of the essay” (Linn, 2009: p3). If a reader who is glance at the title, subtitles,
and topic sentences of each paragraph of an UK-type article, he or she will know its
main points immediately, and the reader can easily get the useful information by
following the linking words, like first, second, finally and other connectors.

ELTU 2010
English Language Teaching Unit Course D [Project 1]

Linn also states that all people communicate with metaphors, “in the field of
published academic papers, English writer clearly restrict the amount of metaphor
which they use” (Linn, 2009: p3). However, in China, teachers are likely to encourage
students to use idioms, maxims, sayings, and other proverbs. In sharp contrast, for
Western students, these patterns are not allowed to use frequently and students should
write their ideas using own words. Exceptionally, in some subjects’ essay, like
historical research, it may be required to quote of classical theories exactly.

“Since the foreign students’ original styles may not work with the new academic tasks,
they need to adapt to the new academic context” (Jordan, 1997). According to Kaplan
(1966), the writers were divided into four types depending on their cultural
backgrounds,and which is affect how they express the topic sentences and topic
changes. To some extent, different culture has different patterns of rhetorical
expression. Kaplan (1966) claimed that Anglo-European rhetorical type is linear and
the essay is usually run from a clear main idea to explanations and examples. In
contrast, the Chinese essays always follow a circular development. That is to say,
linearity and circularity can be used to demonstrate the major difference between
Anglo-European and Chinese cultures.

In Western academic writing, “Each paragraph usually contains one clear step” (Linn,
2009: p4). For instance, when British try to express their views, one may point the
main idea directly. But Chinese is tend to a euphemism way to “argue by presentation”
avoiding the obvious judgment (Kaplan, 1996). It might be the origins of difference in
thinking between international students and local students. In fact, one of the Chinese
traditional concepts is balancing two sides of a thing, which is strongly affects the
students’ methods of thinking and writing.

The Anglo-European essay differs from the oriental one in terms of the deductive
style. Anassignment written in the westerntype“would be considered poorly written in
other countries such as Japan where the inductive pattern is more common, with
background material given first to lead the reader to the main point” (Cortazzi& Jin,
1997).As Cho (1999) observes, it is the typical British deductive style that placing the
thesis statement at the beginning of an essay. That is why the Chinese essaywith
inductive mode always makes the British tutors confused. Therefore, if an
international student’s essay is expected to be relevant, logical and clear, it is
necessary to have a topic sentence in a paragraph and do not mention too many things
within one paragraph.

Otherwise, according to Sondek’s (2008) research, there are five contrastive aspects
that the international students have to learn and try to change their original style. On

ELTU 2010
English Language Teaching Unit Course D [Project 1]

one hand, The UK writers used more discourses markers to signrelations between
sentences and parts of text, but the Non-native English writers used much fewer
connectors than native English speakers did (Ventola&Maranen, 1991). On the other
hand, the Non-native English writers could not use the paragraphs and make topics
changes in the same way as native speakers.

As a consequence, the international students have to learn more than grammar and
vocabulary to be a successful academic writer. For example, English style writing
asks much transitional statement or express for readers easy to understand, so the
Chinese international students, who are accustomed to the Chinese inner logic, should
try to understand the usage of the linking in academic English writing.


Nevertheless, the cultural pattern is not easily to be transferred, and the cultural
tradition handed down from generation to generation shows great consistency and
continuity. The cultures of different countries and nations have their own distinctive
characters. From what has been discussed above, itmay reach the conclusion that if an
overseas student wants to be outstanding in UK-type academicwriting, the individual
must learn more about the main features, such as “discourse markers”, “number of
paragraphs”, “non-metaphorical usage”, “linear structure” and “deductive style” (Linn,
2009: p3, p4), to get on with the new education environment.

It is also predicted that there will be more overseas postgraduate rather than
undergraduate students studying in English speaking countries as many international
applicants already have a first degree from their own country. For this reason,
preparation of the academic language is a vital factor of their future academic life.
Students need to develop attitudes, approached and strategies that make the best use
of the learning they will encounter at university.


Dr. Carlos Linn. (2009). Investigating the difference in Academic Writing between
UK and Non-UK Writers. In Journal of Applied Study 20 (April 2009 Volume 2), pp

ELTU 2010