As Bourdieu and Passeron noted, academic discourse is never anyone’s ‘mother tongue’. Acquisition of this discourse in one’s first language is a prime aim of undergraduate education, but there is evidence that a substantial minority of students fail to acquire it. There is strong evidence that academic discourse skills are transferable from L1 to L2 and best acquired in L1, but it is not clear to what extent these skills represent usable capital in professional life. Graduates often report having to write in a very different style from the one they have been taught at university. There may be a trade-off between the fluency in a second language provided by its use as sole or parallel medium in education and educational depth in the discipline studied. This fluency may in some circumstances constitute greater capital than the disciplinary insights partially sacrificed. But this varies strikingly across disciplines. This paper uses Bourdieu’s framework to assess the types of linguistic capital – academic discourse, foreign-language fluency, and more – to be acquired in the internationalized university, their utility in the personal advancement of graduates in various societies, and the variation of these factors across disciplines.
linguistic capital; international university; academic discourse; Bourdieu