Academic Writing in a Multilingual Context: A Study of Learner Difficulties'


Although the importance of the writing skill in university course work in comparison with the other skills is sometimes rated differently by students and faculty depending upon varying needs (Johns, 1981; Zughol, 1985; Bacha, 1993; West, 1994), few researchers, linguists and teachers of English as a second/foreign language2 challenge its significant consolidating role in an academic context. Writing is the medium through which students communicate their ideas, but more importantly, studies have shown that it helps to develop students' cognitive skills and, thererore, their learning (Vygotsky, 1962; Olson, 1996). It is crucial in any educational institution that students develop a certain proficiency level in academic writing, it being hard to visualize any type of learning without an appropriate standard. This importance of the writing skill has led to a proliferation of studies to identifj the particular V·.'riting tasks students need in their academic courses (Abboud and Shaaban, 1984; Abuhamdia, 1984; Horowitz 1986; Zughoul and Husain 1985; Badr, 1992; Jordan, i997; Bacha, 1999). Among tasks found necessary to students' academic course work are exams, reports, summaries, note-taking , research projects, and various business and scientific writing genres related to their careers. Although the 'traditional' essay considered important for a long time in language composition courses is not rated highly necessary, its significance is worth noting as it not only provides a cognitive framework for many of the more specific genres (Purves, 1988) but also it emphasizes the difficulty, true of most writing and best expressed by Hunter-Carsch (1990).


NahlaNola Bacha