Narrowing the Gap between EFL and ESL:

A Case Study of an International Graduate Student’s Development of Academic Literacy in the U.S.


  • Xin Chen



international graduate student, English academic literacy, linguistic factors, discourse community, case study


The sharp increasing number of international students in the U.S. has warranted more research into the academic literacy development of those students whose first language is not English. A great number of studies have found that how to socialize themselves into the new discourse communities at university remains a challenge for most international students because of language and cultural barriers. The gap between learning the English language in EFL contexts and using the language in ESL contexts also becomes an issue in international students’ academic performance that needs to be addressed. This case study examines how a graduate student from Korea (an EFL country) developed her academic English when pursuing her degree in the U.S. (an ESL context for her). The research demonstrated her strategies of surviving the academic life despite the language limitations and investigated the factors that influenced her language development. Implications for how to support international graduate students in improving linguistic and cross-cultural competences are discussed.