With a passion for acting and for teaching English grammar, Dr Julia Miller at the University of Adelaide in the School of Education set about creating an online resource for international students. Dr Miller says of her current work, “I’m developing a website at the moment, called ‘English for Uni’, which will be particularly helpful for international students”.
‘Ms Parrot’ is a fictitious character, played by Dr Miller herself, who helps solve language mysteries in a video story on the website. “This website has various activities and the first adventure is about the articles used in the English language system: ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. Those words are really difficult if your first language isn’t English… Another area of the English language that many international students have difficulty with is prepositions, such as ‘on’, ‘in’ or ‘at’. The passive voice and the conditional are other grammar items that can also be confusing, ” Dr Miller explains. The learning activities are based on research Dr Miller has conducted over the years.
Language isn’t the only thing Dr Miller is passionate about. Acting was, and still is, a great love of hers. Whilst studying at Cambridge University, ‘back home’ in the UK, Dr Miller was pipped at the post by none other than Oscar award winning actress, Tilda Swinton, for the lead role in a university play. “I was disappointed that I didn’t get that part; I was cast for a smaller role. Tilda was just another student back then, but later on of course she became a world famous actress,” Dr Miller recalls, adding regretfully, “Now I wish that I had accepted the smaller role!”
Dr Miller is loves language and focuses on the challenges of English for international students. At the University of Adelaide she gives lectures and workshops to assist the understanding of correct English grammar. She recognises that language is constantly changing and evolving and would even like some emoticons to become standard punctuation marks.
Learning a second language is also important for English speaking students, according to Dr Miller, “I think it’s enriching for anybody to learn another language. It’s good for brain development, and it can help you with your first language too.”
At the moment, Julia Miller is working with AusAID sponsored students at the University of Adelaide in an intensive five-week program, which introduces the International students to academic life at the university. These students come from developing countries and are sponsored by the Australian government. “The program is mutually enriching for scholarship holders and lecturers alike,’ says Dr Miller. Dr Miller comments on how rewarding this program is to teach, and how many skills these high-flying students bring with them. Dr Miller comments on the intensive workshop run over the summer at the University, “So that helps a definite group, I’d love to see it expand to the whole of the university” Ms Miller says.