While reading Paul Kei Matsuda’s essay, “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World”, I felt a sense of his pride in the great strides made by this specialized area of language within the larger, well-established field of composition studies. The history he provided of second-language learning was quite interesting for me as my knowledge of this field is somewhat limited. I had no idea that these programs were started after WWII, meaning they were in full swing by the time I was in elementary school. His breakdown of the various labels given this class, and its students, made me think about the potential to stigmatize such a department. I also thought about how incredibly difficult it must be to learn how to write when you are only learning how to speak a new language! When I have tried (repeatedly) to become fluent in Italian, simply to be able to speak freely to all the lovely friends my brother brings us to visit when we are with him in Firenze, try as I might, the best I can do is understand their conversations better (until they get excited) and utter a few practiced responses. My comprehension is better but my "speaking freely" remains problematic. More importantly, I can barely write a simple note (thank you or greetings) without carefully checking ALL my notes, and then pray that they can understand my message. The idea of writing an entire essay in a language other than my own is rather terrifying! Which brings me to my other observation about the author; there is a strong suggestion that monolingual Americans (such as myself) will soon need to broaden our linguistic skills as WE will be the minority in our globalized world. As a result of this globalization, including the influx of so many international students in the USA, Mastuda states the following: “The question is no longer limited to how to prepare students from around the world to write like traditional students from North America; it is time to start thinking more seriously about how to prepare monolingual students to write like the rest of the world” (50). He makes an excellent point, but I could not help but notice a feeling of bias towards the traditional American student and their natural ability to write, with ease, in their native language. In truth, that ability is no different than any student of a given culture’s ability to excel when writing in their native tongue, and, as I mentioned, it is difficult for most anyone to master a second language. I do agree that American students will have to step up their single-language limitations and become more comfortable with multi-lingual exploration, as these ESL students presently do, in order to keep up in today’s globalized world.
“Tutoring ESL Students: Issues and Options” by Muriel Harris and Tony Silva was a delightful and informative piece dealing with the same topic. I very much enjoyed the explanations on tutors’ concerns and where they must draw the line when they help their ESL students with writing projects. Often, we all have to stop ourselves from “fixing” everything when helping our friends or children with a paper. The temptation to correct rather than point out problem areas is a strong one, but must be ignored if we are to help the student develop their writing and revision skills. I was happy to see their suggestion about praising the strong parts of a paper first; it reminded me of our other readings which also discuss revision approaches and teacher’s comments. The explanation of global vs. local errors was very helpful information as it clarified that area of writing concerns (I wouldn’t have been very sure which was which…). “Rules” are deemed wise and suggested to serve as a guideline—a needed replacement--for the intuition of native speakers. Teachers are expected to “tell” students what they need to do in many cultures, so the authors’ suggestion for tutors is to lay out a plan (for students) of areas that the tutor can help with, and then explain how students can utilize those recommendations. Most important is the suggestion for tutors to tell students that: “…it is unrealistic for them to expect to be able to write like native speakers of English…” (531). When writing in a second language, one’s accent will peek through, as it does in speech. These authors also explain it is more helpful to work with students from their earliest drafts and to then remember to deal with one problem at a time. The list of common ESL errors is very useful for anyone trying to help a fellow student or proofread their own work, as well as a must-have for ESL tutors. Idiomatic expressions are evidently a well-liked form of language, particularly to second-language learners, and encouraged as a tool. However, proofreading and reading aloud--better left for the tutors’ than the ESL students; their accent will always come through in their writing but that is a reality to be embraced, not discarded. I really enjoyed this paper and felt the authors’ strong sense of commitment to their project and its continued success.