AcademicWriting Development Strange Lands
Masteryof a new language is very complex. According to McCarthy, academicwriting development is contextual. This means that individuals learnhow to write within an academic community discourse by learning theprinciples and rules that guide communication in that particulardiscourse. Thus, transiting from one academic discourse to another islike to get into a strange land. This paper supports McCarthyargument that entering a new academic discourse community andperfecting its written language is like learning a language in aforeign country.
McCarthyargues that languages processes and speaking is largely influenced bythe social and cultural contexts in which they occur. Use of languageoccurs within a special community and aims at achieving a meaningfulsocial function. As a result, people within the same social contexthave similar ‘ways of speaking’. This is because the social andcultural context defines the acceptable linguistic and intellectualprinciples that govern speaking and social communication. The abilityto perfectly use these rules, largely unconsciously, results intocommunication competence. Similarly, communication through writtenmeans takes place within a particular community discourse. Effectivewriters put into consideration the details that are important for themembers of a specific community discourse. Based on thatunderstanding, McCarthy argues that when a student enters aparticular academic discourse community, they learn the rules andprinciples of communication in a similar way an individual learnswhen entering a foreign country (McCarthy, 234). Cultural factorshave a huge impact on communication. For example, cultures define howan individual addresses an elder or a senior person. Culture alsoinfluences other essentials of communication such as eye contacts andfacial expressions. The principles that guide communication within aparticular community discourse are learned progressively over time.
Aslearners advance from one level of study to the next, they master theprinciples and rules of communication that are acceptable within thatacademic discourse. The mastery of these principles and thus thewriting competence is evaluated based on the standards within thecommunity discourse. It is essential to note that even innon-academic writing there are complex norms and principles thatmust be learned, both tacit and explicit, for a writer to besuccessful within that discourse. Learning how to write within aparticular academic discourse can be compared to learning a newlanguage within a new cultural and linguistic background. Writing inthe academic discourse involves the teacher and the learner as wellas other essentials such as the subject matter, sequence of actionsand learning activities, and the structure of the task. Additionally,the academic discourse is not viewed from the school context, butrather from the professional conventions in that discipline andintellectual norms. As learners progress in their academic andprofessional life, the overlapping principles of academic writinginfluence the way students think, write and interact with theirteachers and other students ((McCarthy, 235). Progressively, thisbuilds the notion of what it means to be a nurse, a literary critic,psychologists, a scientist or a member of any other profession.
Inconclusion, in the same way learning how to speak takes place in aparticular context and is influenced by communication norms andprinciples, academic writing also occurs within a particular context.Therefore, learning the communication norms in a foreign country canbe used to understand how individuals learn how to write effectivelyin a new academic discourse. In the same way individuals perfect anew language in the cultural context progressively, learners alsolearn how to write in an academic context progressively.
McCarthy,Lucille Parkinson. "A Stranger in Strange Lands: A CollegeStudent Writing Across the Curriculum", Researchin the Teaching of English,21(3) (Oct., 1987), p 233-265.