In learning an additional language, for most people one of the hardest things is to be able to understand the spoken language (listening) (Jordan, 1977). However, this problem tends to disappear after two years (Zhang & Mi, 2010). It is important that essential knowledge both about the course and the routine of the university be written. The more formal the language is, the better it is likely to be understood. Colloquial language is good for local students, but not for EAL (English as an additional language) students unless it is carefully explained the first time it is used. EAL students also need space and time in which to assimilate what they have to read (Dysethe, 2002; Skinner & Austin, 1999). They need to be able to take written material so that they can study it in their own time and space. Both academics and administrative staff should not assume that EAL students will understand all they say. So this may entail a certain amount of revision to make sure the idea has been driven home. I have personally been through this experience both as an EAL student and also as a teacher of EAL students.
Paper presented at 'Language in the disciplines: disciplinary discourses and the embedding of academic literacy skills within programs', an Academic Literacy Teaching and Research Network (ALTAR) Symposium, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia, 24 November 2010