In his article Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World, Paul Kei Matsuda presents the concept of globalization. This concept is the “global integration of international trade, investments, information, technology, and cultures.” Globalization he describes is one of the primary reason why classrooms are multilingual and students are able to write in multiple other languages. This makes it difficult for teachers to teach English writing in classrooms because students have a difficult time learning to write a language that is not native to them.

Furthermore, Matsuda also identifies this problem in higher education classrooms where there is a lack of attention to students who are not fluent in this style of writing. He presents several ways that the issue of globalization can be addressed in the classroom in the early stages of learning. Matsuda discusses a solution that is ESL based earning. For students who learn English as a Second language, all teachers should have a strategic approach to help these students in the classroom. ESL classes will ultimately develop a student’s writing and speaking style. The article goes more in depth about this concept and the ways that different cultures are able to write distinctively.

*** Read The article Here! 

The Monolingual Myth….

There are a few simple yet profound themes surfacing out of the combined sources we are reading from and sharing about. The focus is on expanding the accessibility of education, opportunity and ultimately hope for a brighter future. It includes broadening the horizons of narrow thinking and drawing out those that are under represented.
The activities in Equity Unbound have been profound in their articulate intimacy, creativity and intellectual stimulation. Every day a different phrase from Lina Mounzer’s article entitled “War in Translation” has swirled through my mind. Mounzer captures the complexity of understanding someone else with such fierce gentleness, that emerging unchanged is impossible. And in spite of my claimed resistance to technology and social media only one blog ago, I have spent a lot of time in the past two weeks reading things written by people found on the @Unboundeq twitter feed. This was one of my favorites this week and somehow intersects nicely: (Sean Michael Morris The Habitus of Critical Imagination)

The other piece this week was reading Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World (Second Language Writing in Composition Studies), by Kelly Ritter and Paul Kei Matsuda.

This article addresses the shift in student population in US college composition programs as a result of globalization and internationalization. It bluntly emphasizes that the globalized world “has been and will continue to be, multilingual (p36,Kelly & Matsuda).” The huge white elephant in the room is the monolingual North American learner and educator.

Matsuda states that with the globalization of higher education, the myth that English monolongualism is the norm has become increasingly inaccurate. I suppose I have never consciously quite thought of it like that; that English monolingualism is the norm. I have never had to. I was raised on English in America. Upon reflection, I realize I have never had to challenge this assumption, simply because that is how I was raised. My grandparents were Norwegian immigrants who moved to America and learned English working on the docks in NYC. Norwegian was only spoken when they were angry or speaking about the kids. I only speak English, even though I had years of required French in middle and high school. My experience of studying a foreign language was that it was kind of a joke. Foreign language studies began at the worst possible age. Kids were self-conscious and ultra-sensitive. This was in the 80’s, so the assumption was that we probably weren’t going to use it. Honestly, we were just getting past the idea that the only possibility for women was to be a teacher, secretary or nurse. On a personal note, this article made me interested in excavating any unchallenged assumptions that I have, and going beyond them. I can no longer settle for being a monolinguist.

This article highlights the shortsightedness of the monolingual educator. This limitation creates narrow thinkers as well as writing teachers that do not even have a command and thorough knowledge of English grammar. (p50) I am interested in studying further this idea of developing a thorough understanding of grammatical structure and the “nature of second language acquisition and ways of providing feedback on language issues.” Matsuda touched on the research on long term effects of error feedback (Ferris, “Grammar,” Treatment, Truscott and Hsu). I am interested in this idea of error feedback and learning more about strategies that have been applied.

Another theme I appreciated in this article was Global Literacy, as well as emphasis on cross-cultural collaboration. The world is ever changing and higher education in the US is poised to embrace these changes or be shut out. As stated, global communities are multi-lingual by default. It is now time for the monolingual reader and writer to change. “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.9p”

It is appropriate to embrace the expansion that comes with globalization and internationalization as opposed to defensively guarding against it. Language is the tool that can connect, it is also the tool that can divide. I love Matsuda’s suggestion about “Forging alliances with writing researchers from around the world.” This is exactly what we have been doing with Equity Unbound.

Vocabulary list:
Conation: any natural tendency, impulse, striving or directed effort.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

One of my favorite idioms of English language happens to be ‘taking a walk down memory lane’. I wonder if it is any coincidence that the article for this week’s class discussion allowed me to experience it firsthand. Too many memories that involve overcoming challenges in learning a new language rushed through my mind as I read the article Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World by Paul Kei Matsuda. It was as if my entire background in second language acquisition summed up in that single article.

I do not find myself overwhelmingly inspired by articles that I read but I feel compelled to bring my ‘A-game’ in composing this particular blog entry because it is as if an implicit challenge was made and I would like to believe that I possess the level of proficiency to face it.

In his article, Paul Kei Matsuda presents the notion that “no one is the native speaker of writing”. The ability to write is not exclusive to a nation but the language used in writing could very well be. As we have discussed in our previous class, the construction of voice in composition is influenced by culture and it is one of the key aspects that bridge the gap between the minds of the writer and the reader. I believe the influence of culture do not only shape the analysis of the writer but the cognition of the reader as well. Thus, it is crucial for a writer to meet that certain set of expectations in order to accomplish an authentic communication.

It is not easy to incorporate a culture into a language born in another. A cultural experience attached to a word or a phrase can be lost in translation and it may not necessarily represent the true feelings of the writer properly. In her article, War in Translation, Lina Mounzer expressed frustration with her attempt to convey certain emotions in English language. This has been a topic of discussion in many of my English and literature classes as it is now. The paranoia “about the English-language reader’s judgment” is a real concern for many second language writers. Utilizing an introspective approach and present it in an intuitive way tends to be the only option in most cases.

Lina Mounzer also presented the notion that circumstances in which a person learns a new language affects that person’s attitude toward it. Luckily, my personal experience was a positive one. My earliest interactions with English language included import comic books. I was an avid comic book reader when I was much younger. There were many international comic books translated and sold by local publishers but my impatient nature provoked me to seek out more obscure ones that were not given the chance to shine on international market. I needed to learn English in order to follow the compelling stories in those books. It was fun. It was exhilarating. I was also exposed to the culture as comic books not only illustrate but also describe the norms through language.

Paul Kei Matsuda states that writing classes specifically designed for ESL students should be optional in order to avoid any implication of identity positioning. I do not recall ever attending an ESL class that was not mandatory. In my high school, the non-native students were required to take the ESL courses as prerequisites to ENG courses down the line. They were tremendously helpful though, as my skills in writing were sharpened. I was better prepared for the academic language which was the next major step in communication. The ESL courses of my high school built a solid foundation for me to step onto and reach it.

A solid portion of my training in formal composition occurred in college. Though I had to suffer through nights of never-ending aggravation with assignments, I managed to acquire a level of proficiency that I am content with. There is still much to learn, much to improve. I have said that I felt “compelled to bring my ‘A-game’ in composing this blog entry” but I honestly do not believe this is my best. A little more time for revision would go a long way. The time might easily be the biggest challenge in writing, after all.

iii. on multilingualism & writing

On the topic of multilingualism, I envy Europe. As far as I’m aware (which is not particularly, to be frank), Europe-based students/youth are able to speak several languages based solely on proximity to other countries/cultures. (I could be wrong, but hey, feel free to correct me.) Sure, here in the States it’s that proverbial MeLtInG PoT and kids are made to study a second language in school, but the former is honestly strikingly dependent on immediate environment and the latter is not enough.

I say the latter is not enough because I took 5+ years of Spanish in school and don’t remember a thing. At the most I can pick up a few words here and there and quote simple phrases, but I can’t say I’m at all proficient. Shame, that.

On the bright side, I’ve picked up basics of other languages over the past few years. Some Korean, some American Sign Language, a few dwindling words from my high school Japanese knowledge… Heck, I can introduce myself in like 6 languages, but that’s the extent of my linguistic diversity.

Regardless! Enough about me! (For now.)

This week, we were tasked with reading Paul Kei Matsuda’s Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World. For some reason, I’ve always only broached the topic of second language writing/education tentatively over the years. “ESL” was said in hushed voices when I was in elementary school. I didn’t know what it meant back then, but was always fed the idea that the ESL class in my school was the separate class. The lesser class.

Horrible, I know. I’m not proud of that mentality.

And I think it’s just the lingering bits of that mentality being drilled into me as a child that have me always question nowadays what the Correct Terms for ESL classes/students really are. I appreciate that Matsuda goes into detail about “defining” the topic, specifically talks about that mentality and points it out as a widespread issue of thought.

While it’s mildly comforting to not be the only one conscious about the problematic thought, it’s discouraging and unfortunate that it’s a thought at all. If that makes sense.

Matsuda brings up the “constant struggle for nonstigmatizing terms” in regards to ESL/ELL/ESOL/etc. education, and how in years of efforts, it’s possible that “any attempt to find a stigma-resistant alternative is ultimately futile–until people begin to challenge and dispel the very notion that being a nonnative English speaker is somehow a deficit” (“Proud” 15, as qtd. in Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World 38).

[Is that how you indirectly quote? Two plus years of writing center work and I’m still not sure on the formatting.]

Anyway, wow. I hate that this mentality is a thing. I hate this English elitism and odd, monolinguistic superiority. Like… you speak one language (a confusing, nonlinear, bastardized one at that; don’t start with me) and have the gall to look down on someone who’s learning that language ? which could quite possibly be the second, third, fourth one they know?

Golly gee. Incredible.

Oh, and then you make fun of their accent.

Wow. Incredible.

I’m tired.

Like mentally tired, but also physically, too? It’s 1:17 AM.

Anyway. I often tutor ESL students in the writing center where I work. I’ve heard plenty of those student express their frustrations that they are amazing writers in their own languages, but writing just as well in English is a whole other animal.

And it’s not just the language that’s the barrier, or the grammar, but the whole system of writing style. American research writings are straightforward, state a point at the beginning and execute a solid list of reasons to back it up.

Not every culture writes like this. I recall from my Writing Center Theory class that (and please correct me if I’m wrong) Asian cultures write in a way that suggests the main point, almost dances around it (for lack of a better term) to not come off as rude.

I’m intrigued by this concept–the stark contrast between writing styles. And from what I’ve heard, it’s not just academic writing–creative writing/storytelling follow a similar pattern. Again, I could be wrong! I’d love to go more into this idea of… like… indirect writing. On the differences between writing styles throughout the world.

Possible thesis, perhaps? Shrug.

Before I go, I’d like to mention the article we annotated in class, Lina Mounzer’s “War in Translation: Giving Voice to the Women of Syria.” I didn’t get a chance to read the entire piece in class, but what I did read was eye-opening. No words can express the strength it must take to translate the women’s stories. Mounzer goes into the nature of translation itself, and how hard it is to take a perfectly crafted sentence, tear it down and strip it of all its contextuality, and build it up again in English in the hopes that it will come across with even an iota of the effect of the original.

Reading Mounzer’s piece and discussing it in class reminded me of something. Might be a bit of a stretch, and I hope it doesn’t make light of the topic, but in the end, I think it’s important to note.

A singer I listen to said on a livestream that he was learning English. That he wanted to of course connect with fans, but also… it was because of music. English music. He wants to be able to hear a song and understand the meaning exactly, completely, in that moment, without having to read a bare bones translation that will, essentially, never fully translate the lyrics’ meaning (without at least some level of contextual explanation, of course). I get that. I get that because I want that, too. I want to be able to hear the music he creates and understand the meaning exactly, completely, in that moment.

Translation is a beautiful thing, but… there are things it can’t do.

Which brings me back around to the need to learn, I guess. That envy of Europe where kids grow up learning several languages at once. Other languages are beautiful, after all.

Why strip a person of something beautiful like that?

Alright. I’m gonna cut it here! Looking forward to our discussion in class.

G’night/G’mornin’ all.