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Academic vocabulary

Teachers have always known that a very significant part of learning a subject is learning its vocabulary. All students expect to learn subject-specific terms such as evaporation, denominator, reafforestation, etc. These words are generally not such a problem for ESL students because they are usually the focus of the discussion in the classroom or are glossed in the textbook.

In fact, the words that ESL students have most difficulty with are the academic, non-subject-specific words* that occur across all disciplines; words like duration, indicate, similarity, furthermore, rate, etc. These words cause ESL students problems for two reasons:

Implications for mainstream teachers:

Students can do the quizzes on this website to learn and test themselves on the most important academic vocabulary.

* In ESL jargon this vocabulary is also called semi-technical or non-technical.


Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)