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.


Teaching in a Multilingual World!

“In other words, 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.” -Paul Kei Matsuda (50)

When I first read the title of this article, I was intimidated. I have a strong passion for students who have an unfair disadvantage in the classroom from any circumstance. I was intimidated because I did not think I would be able to relate to anything that Paul Kei Matsuda, the author of this article “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World: Second Language Writing in Composition Studies” (–sMS-4u43fnFiOHBMVzJjSW1lLVJDN3V3YXVIcXZzNmstdUxNXzQ5eWl2SUlQVVo3NVE), would say. However, from the first page to the last, I was captivated, and my passion grew even more. The reading was packed with essential and knowledge that should be taught more to students but most importantly teachers. There is a growing population of second language speakers and writers in the U.S. Unfortunately, there are not enough classes being brought into the education system to help these second language writers grow to their full potential. This issue has been overlooked many times, and I can say personally because it has happened to me. Before I discuss that more in depth, there were two main points to the importance of this article that Matsuda brings up.

  1. “This chapter provides an overview of some of the historical developments related to the status of second language writing issues in composition studies while providing a sense of state of the art.” -Matsuda (37)
  2. “For the purpose of this chapter, I focus on writing in English as a second language in the context of North American higher education particularly in the disciplinary context of composition studies.” -Matsuda (37)

Matsuda also gives two reasons as to why there is a lack of attention to these language issues, and that would be the “disciplinary division of labor” and the “myth of linguistic homogeneity.” The last important point that he talks about is how globalization, (global integration of international trade, investments, information, technology, and cultures), is a critical factor that connects to teaching second language writing. Globalization could be used to teach writing in various fields such as professional or civic that expands beyond academic writing. That is important because second language writing can be taught passed the U.S. and should be international, which Matsuda discusses later in his article.

A new term that I learned from this article was “generation 1.5”, which is a term to describe people who came to the U.S. as children and adolescents. Generation 1.5 is the group that is more difficult to grasp learning English writing and the English language as a whole. I even learned that there was a debate over what is considered a second language and what is considered a difference in dialect. One of the varieties of English that were mentioned was African American Vernacular. I have never heard of that term until I entered Graduate School. That is when I realized that I grew up in a home where we spoke “African American Vernacular” but was never considered a second language speaker. However, my writing and bad grammar were always pointed out by my teachers and professors. An example of a second language speaker who speaks a form of English that even English speakers wouldn’t even understand would be from a television show, “A Different World.”

“A Different World” is a television show from the 80s and early 90s about college students who attend Hillman College, which is an HBCU (Historical Black College/University). One of the characters from the show, Lena James, speaks “African American Vernacular” and had trouble understanding “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespeare in her First-Year English class. Until she realized, it was all about translation. In the clip above, she was able to take an English language and translate it into another form of English, one of which is her native language. This all ties into what Matsuda said about translation. He states, “The use of translation is also a possible resource for second language writers; although the effectiveness of translation as a writing strategy can vary depending on the writer’s second language proficiency level (Kobayashi and Rinnert), it can allow second language writers to tap into the knowledge base they have already developed in another language” (40).

Another main issue that second language writers have is that they have limited exposure to what is considered the correct use of the English language and formal written English, which means that it is harder for them to develop their writing proficiency in U.S. English compared to people who grew up learning the U.S. formal English. Although having these lack of resources is one of the cons that second language writers have, they also have a pro. “Others suggest that second language writers may have expanded their intellectual capacity as a result of the constant demand of working with a broader range of linguistic and discursive resources” (Matsuda, 40).

An interesting point that Matsuda brought up that I never thought about before is the level of difficulty bringing this issue to the classroom is because of the teachers. The teacher should have a balanced knowledge of English and second language writers, which many teachers don’t have. Besides globalization, internationalization is a crucial key factor in bringing this issue to our education system. Internationalization, however, requires the need to travel to other countries and then come back to the U.S. and share their research with their fellow scholars. I believe everyone should study abroad or travel if you are going to become a teacher, professor, or scholar. When I studied abroad when I came back to the U.S. my thinking and knowledge towards my education and other college students expanded.

Matsuda has a suggestion as to how to internationalize the field, “U.S. composition specialists need to learn more about sociolinguistic and institutional contexts of other countries. Before trying to reach out to others, however, U.S. composition studies many need to come to terms with the issues of globalization and multilingualism within its own institutional contexts” (Matsuda, 51). I hope that anyone who read this article was able to learn something new about second language writing and the effect it has on students and teachers.


On Voice (…and bearing voice in translation)

Peter Elbow on Voice

Thanks Jeanne for a thorough presentation of  Elbow’s theoretical writing on voice:  “Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries”.  Jeanne spoke eloquently about the concept of “voice” with a clear lens into the key points of Elbow’s article.  We thought together about what makes up a “voice” as writers develop.  “Voice” is framed by Elbow as a rhetorical tool – a writing skill that needs to be considered (applied or withheld) depending on writing context.  Is the goal of teaching writing to develop the self by honing voice?  Or is voice a misleading metaphor?  Perhaps we do not really write, …for we are ultimately written by culture?  When facing these tensions around the concept of voice in writing, Elbow pointed out the problem of either/or thinking which often leads to a “compromise” mandate. (And compromise often becomes problematic way of understanding the complexity of perspective.  The result is often a watered-down middle-of-the-road take away).  Elbow thoughtfully favors both/and thinking.  Thinking that might instead include two opposing perspectives in relief, standing side by side for us to apprehend in stark contrast, in order for us to gather a more depthful understanding of why there might be such distinct/disparate perspectives.  (What a timely reflection to have at this point, no?)

….So what does a deeper dive into modes of thinking have to do with the construction of voice in writing?  The voice-as-self verses the voice-as-role debate illuminates that “voice” is indeed the perfect lens or metaphor for language as both material and historical.  As Jeanne pointed out the fact that Elbow always defines voice from an auditory/aural perspective.  And some of you followed up by sharing insight regarding the embodiment of language.  We know things in our body.  How do we give that kind of knowledge voice….in writing? …and in our lives?  What other ways can we claim “voice” (….other than through the polished act of writing text)?  It is important to take note that we can establish voice with our other senses.  Thank you Jeanne for sharing with us Molly Bartholemew’s work in order for us to think this idea through some more:

To Equity Unbound

From this rich theoretical conversation, we moved on to the #unboundeq public annotation of Lina Mounzer’s  profound article entitled “War in Translation”.  Thank you all for adding to the growing responses and conversation (link below).

What a powerful group read on the heals of our discussion of the embodied voice!  Lina Mounzer’s writing drove home the millions of ways that bearing witness and giving voice (in the act of translation) is a dangerous-but-powerful, burdensome-but-critical act.  I cherish the ways we are weaving together so much beautiful “food for thought” in our small classroom learning community, as well as the global one beyond our classroom’s walls.  As our class continues its journey through Writing Theory & Practice, we are contributing to #unboundeq by illuminating the essential role that writing and storytelling plays in bridging human understanding:

What is up for next week?

  • Please read Teaching Writing in the Multilingual World by Paul Kei Matsuda.  Vee will present on Paul Key Matsuda’s article and the politics of teaching writing in a multilingual world.
  • Write your third blog post, reflecting on both Matsuda’s article as well as any thoughts about the “War in Translation” #unboundeq group annotation. Don’t forget you can tweet it to the #unboundeq hashtag!
  • We will continue with our #unboundeq activities (on the theme of Equity).  For our second half of class, I will choose an activity or two focused on the issue of Equity from the  Equity Unbound suggested activities.

See you next week for more rich conversation and reflection!

Dr. Zamora

Third Dimension of a Person

I do not remember the last time I had a chance to watch television. Being able to watch what you want and when you want online made the habit of watching television casually fade away. Although one can easily argue that watching stuff online is just as wasteful of time as watching television, I can at least find more meaningful things to watch online that otherwise would easily go unnoticed. The video The Danger of a Single Story that I had a chance to see in our class was another excellent example for that. It was a recording of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie’s TED speech. She argues about critical misunderstanding of other cultures and places that stem from single narrative. It was an intriguing and a thought-provoking video.

I attempted to reflect the message in the video by the response: “Similar to a work of art in a gallery, a human being is open to many different interpretations. These alternative interpretations form the three-dimensional being that we see. Hence, accepting a single interpretation would only serve to strip away that crucial third dimension.” People tend to observe others on the surface level. Given personal information and background of the person gets assorted with what they had heard about that person’s culture from other sources in the past. This is the point in which literary works become very important in shaping that perspective. Some literary works do not represent the culture with intricacy as they tend to focus on dramatic aspects or cultural contrasts. Many people may find themselves in position of neglect due to their desire of simplicity or lack of encouragement to discover more about others. In the video, Chimamanda Adichie encourages people to broaden the scope of stories that they consume in order to fully understand the notions of other people and perhaps appreciate a narrative by the person rather than an observer.

The danger of being only exposed to a single perspective on a particular culture or group of people is accepting the stereotype as the norm. Chimamanda Adichie makes the statement that “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” It is important to remember that exploring similarities among cultures, peoples, and places is as crucial as exploring the differences. Storytellers have the power and the option to motivate their readers to discover these alternative perspectives. I believe the key is examining what makes a story or a narration compelling to the reader based on empirical reasons rather than commercialized reasons. People in general may find it difficult to grasp the importance of rejecting the single story and break away from the limitations of simplicity but writers tend to find the opportunities in which they can explore these complexities as they are expected to be the puzzle-solvers of thoughts. Hence, the objective of writers should be crafting stories that explore many different aspects instead of assembling a product that repeats the same, single story.

My meta-goal for voice in writing…..

This week’s reading has been quite a feast and I am looking forward to our class discussion. In the spirit of Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDtalk and Peter Elbow’s idea of moving beyond compromise and embracing contradictions I am including a link to one of my favorite artist/linguists. Molly Bartholemew is an American Sign Language interpreter who captures the spirit of music and popular recording artists through visual storytelling and ASL.
Watch with the sound on and then turn the sound off.
Does she capture the voice of the artist?
What tools does she use?
Are there any metaphors that move beyond sound and hearing that might be useful in writing beyond “voice?”

Voice in Writing​

Last week while watching Chimamanda Adichie’s TEDtalk video about “The danger of a single story” I was able to relate to many of her experiences and agreed to the statements she made about the dangers of a single story.  Growing up in Haiti, my parents always enrolled in private schools, I enjoyed summers in resorts and lived a life unlike many others. In my younger childhood years, I was unaware of Haiti’s poverty and political destruction until I went to other places for holiday and other people would talk about terrible things happening in the country. My parents, for the most part, kept me sheltered from that reality because they planned to move out of the country in the future. After living in both Canada and the United States, I have a story about Haiti that many other people would not assume. I suppose people would expect a story of poverty, misfortune or any other stereotypes that connect when it comes to the country and living there.

Nevertheless, I, like Chimamanda have a voice in the story of Haiti that is unconventional and different from stories in the news, or books. If I were to write a truthful story about my childhood in Haiti it would sound natural to me, however, to be more persuasive for others I would probably write a different story about a reality that fits more into the stereotype of a Haitian childhood. This is a point Peter Elbow makes in his article Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries when he referenced philosopher, Aristotle. He states,

We can now see that a writer must disguise his art and give the impression of speaking naturally and not artificially. Naturalness is persuasive, artificiality is the contrary; for our hearers are prejudiced and think we have some design against them. (1404b)

The point of voice in writing is further elaborated in the text. Elbow discusses the difference between writing (text) and voice ( language). He discusses in great details about the way writers have an authentic voice and one that is tuned and polished in order to create writing styles that are appropriate in context ( i.e classroom, teacher expectations, etc.)

Another point Elbow referenced in his article is from associate professor Darsie Bowden who argues that,

…voice is alive in our classrooms. Students at all levels instinctively talk and think about voice, or their voice in their writing, and tend to believe they have a real or true self—despite the best efforts of some of their teachers (170).

It is in a classroom setting that many students, unfortunately, lose their voice because teachers tell them that they should write in ways that fit categories, and proper writing formats. Students are adversely affected in this way because they are no longer able to express themselves in writing and ultimately their true voice is silenced. They then go on to write stories or text that simply gets them a satisfactory grade.

ii. speak yourself

In this metaphorical world, then, even if we figure out the system, we are stuck. If we want to be heard we are limited to our single note. If we want to sing other notes, we will not be heard.
And yet, if we are brave and persistent enough to sing our note at length–to develop our capacity for resonance–gradually we will be able to ‘sing ourselves in’: to get resonance first into one or more frequencies and then more. Finally, we will be able to sing whatever note we want to sing, even to sing whatever note others want to hear, and to make every note resound with rich power.
Peter Elbow, Power 282
(qtd. in “Voices in Writing” 172)

Whaaaaaaat? I’m starting a blog post with a deep quote and not an awkward “oKAY KIDS WE’RE HERE LET’S GO” ? Unheard of. Unthinkable. Wild.

Maybe I’m learning. Maybe I’m still lowkey, wistfully emotional and riding the high of a double concert weekend. I gotta give my wallet a break, my god.

Anyway. Elbow. I’m really digging this article. Like, wow. I feel like I won’t be able to do it (nor anything else I’m planning on talking about) justice with my paltry commentary.  Here goes nothing, I suppose.

So, from the beginning, I could already see the whole either/or debate Elbow would later talk about throughout the paper. We have those who are all into students/writers having their own voice in writing and that voice is something that should be taught to try to achieve, then we have the skeptics who are like “y’all are just adapting to your audience so it’s not Really You but a You that’s been Socially Constructed to Fit Into A Mold.”

And like. I get it. I get what the skeptics are saying. Yes, people are so altered by society’s expectations of them that they almost don’t become people living for themselves anymore, but people living exclusively for others, even going as far as being a different person for each of those different people… so like, does a Real You even exist at that point?

Fun fact: I read a fanfiction that discussed that whole concept once. One of the best fics I’ve ever read.

Ten points if you could follow that long sentence. Because I’m afraid to reread it again. Regardless, Elbow has the right idea in disagreeing with the either/or debate, because things are never in black and white.

I feel like… we won’t be able to change the fact that we are socially constructed if we don’t try to alter society ourselves. If we don’t try for sincerity in writing and in general, we’ll never get it at all–if that makes sense. It’s completely true that we are changed by our places in society, but that’s a very dour and complacent state of mind to stay in. Real nihilistic, if you ask me. So… it’s fine to focus on your own voice in writing. It can really help with soul-searching and whatnot.

But along that same line, I’d say it’s not wrong to adapt the voice of your writing for your audience. For example, do you think I’m gonna write like this for a legitimate paper? With snark and thinly-veiled exhaustion and maybe one thought too many ?

Nah. I’ll reign it in. But does that mean my academic voice is any more or less Me? There surely is one real voice in me, but can’t it have more than one tone? Adaptability doesn’t always equate “artificiality,” which Elbow brings up a bit later in the article with an interesting quote:

“Naturalness is persuasive, artificiality is the contrary; for our hearers are prejudiced and think we have some design against them.” (169)

Lemme just @@@@ all those skeptics. Sure, there will be those writers that try to fool their readers into believing that they’re all-knowing, but it’s the writers who put their own selves into their writing that truly get (or should get) listened to.

Later on, Elbow talks about how there are those who believe that text gives no window to the actual self. Interesting. I’d say maybe not the whole self, because pshhh our whole selves aren’t even visible to us to begin with. But… given the right topic, you can have a person writing some pretty honest and soul-bearing stuff.

(I’m reminded of a blog post I did back in the day on fanfiction. That was a wild ride. I still shoot that link at people once in a while.)

Even more later on, Elbow brought up voice in different types of writing. I’m gonna go off about the voice in Internet language. I’m generally active in groupchats and on Twitter, and text-speech and internet lingo is a whole language on its own.

Elbow talks about how “handwriting is more personal and body-connected than typing, so handwritten words are often more experienced as more ‘voiced’ than typed or printed words. With the resources of word processing, people sometimes try to create or bring out a voice by using certain fonts” (176). That’s all well and good, but what about those platforms where you can’t utilize formatting options like fonts, bolding, italicizing, underlining, strikethroughs, etc.? Emoticons and emojis come to mind, but with text alone, more subtle trends come and go.

In fact! Who better to introduce those “Twitter Linguistics” than a student who studied them. A Twitter user conducted a survey (which I participated in) earlier in the year about different linguistic trends utilized online (particularly Twitter) such as “Keyboard Smashes,” “Excessively Long Ellipses,” “Non-Interrogative Question Marks,” etc.–most, if not all, of which I use on a daily basis. The user then posted later, saying that the paper was completed, so there you go! 

Now, all these little trends can help effectively convey one’s voice and attitude over cyberspace. I’ve been told that, in a messenger setting, I can easily be “heard” when I send messages. Whether it’s a rAISE IN VOICE or a……. confused…………. drawn-out….. pause, or??? ?? a disbelieving? ? ? series of not-questions? ????, little text quirks can bring a new context to a person’s voice in writing.

When appropriate, of course. You won’t see me going jfklsjfkldsjkl in an academic paper.

I think that’s all I’ll say for this reading! I can’t wait to go over it more in class. It was actually a really interesting read.

There’s just one more thing I want to touch on before I go.

Last week in class, we watched a TEDtalk about “The danger of a single story” by novelist Chimamanda Adichie:

Hers was an incredible story. I was only able to answer two of the three posed questions during our Twitter discussion:

Before I did, though, I mentioned how I was reminded of a speech I’d heard earlier in the day at the United Nations General Assembly by the leader of popular K-Pop group, BTS. Truthfully, I felt (and feel) a little silly bringing it up, but the message of the speech–about youth, self-empowerment, self-love, and finding your voice to “Speak Yourself” and tell your story–was too important to pass up.

Everyone has a story to tell, after all. One that should be told and should be listened to. It’s something I stand for.

So yeah, voice is important. Probably more important than any of us can comprehend on our own.

See y’all next week.

— C