I plan on doing my final research project on ESL students. More specifically I want to talk about how their home cultures influence the way they write. We had watched a video the other week that covered the same topic, and it was fascinating. In interviews with a number of ESL students from various countries, the students mentioned how american culture in relation to writing was so different from the home countries, which honestly was never something I even considered as an issue of any sort. For example, a student from latin america mentioned that he felt Americans spoke too quickly and were more concerned with getting to the point of things then setting up a story. Another latin american student supported his statement, saying that it is more typical for an essay in her country to sort of skirt around the central idea until maybe the second page. She said the reason for this was because in her country it was more customary to try and make each sentence “beautiful”, and to not only write an essay, but treat it like a story.
I’ve become fascinated with cultural writing differences since watching the video, so I plan on interviewing a diverse number of ESL students to learn about how they typically write within their culture, if they’ve noticed any differences now having to write within the american culture’s parameters, and their opinions on both.
Aside from interviews, I’m not very set with other research methods. If there are any ideas you’d like to share, or ways you think I can tighten my idea for the project let me know!
Over this semester about 90 percent of my tutees were ESL students. I wanted to my research paper on something related to them. One of my biggest challenges was trying to understand their language to help them understand how it’s different from English. For example, I took five years of French. Let’s say a French speaking student came into the writing center and it became evident in their paper that she was trying to conjugate the verbs like they do in the French language. To make words plural it’s not as easy as adding an “s” to the end of a word. With my experience I would be able to understand where she got the idea to write like that and it would be easier for me to explain how it’s different in English.
So I could do my project on being open to the many languages and forms of writing in other countries.
My other idea would be to about explaining the rules of grammar effectively. As native English speakers, we don’t think too much about the odd rules of English. English is one of the hardest languages to learn because of all of the exceptions to different rules. For example, the plural of goose is geese, but the plural to moose is not meese. David and Matt want to go to London. However Jack wants to go to Italy.
I’m still brainstorming ideas, but I definitely want to write about ESL students because that is who I’ve had most of my experience with. I’m open to any suggestions.
I feel like I already separate myself from my own opinion to tutor. It doesn’t matter what I believe. It’s the same as a professor. If they have their students write about who they’re going to vote for the election and why, they can’t fail all the students with a different opinion than the professor’s. They need to be open-minded.
I will admit, it would be very hard for me to read a paper that completely disproves something dear to me like Christianity. If someone were to write a paper about the disbelief in God creating the heavens and the Earth, I actually might want to read it to hear what they have to say. However, I would have to hold back my opinions on the matter and my urge to persuade them otherwise. Instead of focusing on what I believe is wrong, I would try to keep in mind what the student wants to focus on. If they want to focus on grammar or structure, that’s where my focus will be. Not whether they’re right or wrong. If he or she wants to focus on content then I have to separate myself from my beliefs and try to look at it from his point of view.
On the other hand, being from the opposite side of the the matter, I might be of more assistance in helping them create a better argument. For example, if I can easily prove a fact wrong based on my knowledge I can tell him he needs a stronger argument. Instead of saying, “based on my belief you’re wrong,” I could just have him look at that particular argument in his paper. That way I can help him brainstorm a better argument or make his opinion stronger.
So depending on what the student wants to focus on, I could look at it from their point of view. If they need help on the content I can help them make sure they have strong arguments. Either way, the paper belongs to the student. It’s their thoughts and their words. I’m only there to guide them in the right direction. It doesn’t matter if we have the same opinion, I’m there to help.
For me, I’ve always been told I was a strong writer. I never really agreed with that, but it’s what I was told. In fact, for the most part, I don’t particularly enjoy writing. I can never think of what to say, I second-guess myself constantly, and I never feel like my writing conveys what it is I’m trying to say very well. Naturally, I never once thought throughout High School that I’d wind up as a writing major. However, one person in particular sparked my interest, and while I in no way consider myself a “writer” writer (I plan on being an editor), this individual managed to inspire me to give writing a shot: Hunter S. Thompson. I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the start of my sophomore (at the time I was a psychology major), and within two weeks I had changed my major to writing. I read Thompson’s articles, his stories, I even watched a documentary on the man, just to try and pinpoint every little nuance in his writing style. I threw myself into writing for a semester, trying to emulate Thompson in every way I could. I eventually grew out of that phase, opting instead to edit people’s work, instead of trying to create my own. But were it not for discovering Hunter Thompson, who I will absolutely call my cultural informant, I wouldn’t have found my love for editing.
A university community should value the work of a writing center and/or writing tutors because they are providing skills which will always be important in life. In school writing is needed to convey your message to your teachers; it is a vital part of getting those good grades. Writing is not just valuable in school it takes a front seat in jobs and day to day communication. It is a part of more than just a GPA it is the difference between getting a job or not.
I know that at Penn State Berks our teachers often advertise the writing center and there are fliers places. I also know that we just opened a new writing center and it is beautiful, but do people realize that it is there? I was searching around the internet and I found some universities who made videos about writing and its importance in life. They were kind of lame and boring. Take a look for yourself.
If you could create a short quick video that was not cheesy I feel like it would be a great advertisement to stream around campus screens.
I also feel like if you made a coffee shop atmosphere and made it a writing nook and tutors could meet you in there too maybe without appointments it would make students more comfortable. If we just put writing in our normal atmospheres instead of putting people in awkward authoritative-feeling circumstances there may be more students willing to learn.