Academic Language: Definition, Examples & Functions

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  • 0:01 What Is Academic Language?
  • 0:36 Know the Basics
  • 2:00 Why Teach Academic Language?
  • 3:04 Six Steps to Success
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
In this lesson, you'll be able to learn about academic language, and how it fits into a school's curriculum. Check out some various examples and functions of this way of writing and then test your knowledge with a quiz!

What is Academic Language?

In education, academic language refers to the words we use mostly in schools in places like text books, lessons, assignments and tests. It's the vocabulary students need to learn and is necessary for their success in school. Compared to social language, or the words we use every day, academic language is more demanding and complex. Learning, using, and applying academic language is constantly ongoing as new concepts are taught on a regular basis. All students need direct, explicit instruction of academic language. Before diving in, let's take a closer look at different definitions of language.

Know the Basics

When we use the word 'vocabulary', we mean the words we hear, use, and understand. They can be divided into two categories: receptive vocabulary, which are words we hear and read, and expressive vocabulary, which are words we speak and write. How many vocabulary words we have in our heads depends on how much diverse language we're exposed to.

Vocabulary can also be broken down into tiers. Tier 1 consists of basic vocabulary words that usually don't have more than one meaning. These words are easy to understand and don't need specific instruction for most students. Examples include words like dog, girl, sad, pencil, or tree.

Tier 2 words are used more often and have more than one meaning. They can appear in differing situations but are not often present in social conversations for children. Examples include predict, summarize, infer, or determine.

Finally, Tier 3 are words that are not used often and are subject-specific, such as isotope, Industrial Age, or indigenous.

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