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Bi, Butch, Bar Dyke, and Beyond!

“We must think seriously about identities we bring with us into the classroom, remain conscious of the way those identities interact with the identities our students bring, and insert ourselves fully into the shifting relationships between ourselves and our students at the same time that we resist the impulse to control those relationships” (Gibson, Marinara, and Meem, 92).

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Entering a new week and a new blog! This article was fascinating to read but also important. All of our past articles have touched upon topics and controversies that I believe needs to be taught more in classrooms. This article is another topic adding to that list. This article stands out differently from the articles because the authors told their own stories. That is what really drew me to the article. A collection of authors, Michelle Gibson, Martha Marinara, and Deborah Meem all have various stories but come together to tell them. I loved the idea that these women are telling their stories and were able to read their point of view and their voice. “Through our ‘stories,’ we hope to complicate the notion that identities can be performed in clean, organized, distinct ways by examining and theorizing our own experiences of class, gender, and sexual identity performance” (pg 70). I’ve always believed that the way to learn and absorb information is through hearing other people’s experiences and even going through situations for yourself.

Another part of the article that I found interesting was the concept of voice. We discussed the topic of voice by Peter Elbow. There was a part of the article that expanded on the importance of voice. Gibson talked about how writing students define voice.

“Writing students define ‘real me’ voices as safe, static, inherent, and inviolate; public voices, though, are required to listen to other public voices, and listening can cause uncomfortable changes. The tension, the uncertain space writing teachers and students find between the familiar, ‘real me’ voice and an emerging public voice, should not necessarily be resolved with already codified positions; rather the tension should be a space to work from and with because the language of any personal narrative contests static identities” (pg 72).

I found this quote to be so powerful and influential that I couldn’t help but put the entire passage in my blog. Touching upon the concept of tension in writing is also an interesting discussion. Every student, teacher, and writer probably already know about the uncertainty that writing and voice can bring. This passage then made me bring up the question of “real me” in my own writing. Do I even have a “real me” when I am writing about personal experiences or in academic papers? The tension should not be something that a writer fears but it should be embraced. More specifically, “a space to work from…” (pg 72).

This article had a lot of rich content. The last quote from this article that stood out to me that I want to point out is the concept of silence. “I know that stories like mine can be used to create silence” (pg 91). I have questions that I want you to think about that expanded my mind as well. Is silence something we need our classrooms? Does silence hinder any progress? Is it the same as the phrase, “no news is good news”? Meaning, is silence a sign for processing information in a good way? Should we be having more teachers and lessons in the classroom who create silence to make a change? Lastly, does the silence in the air equal silence in writing or does the silence allow students to write loud words? 

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“Expressing” Grammar

Drawing is one of my favorite hobbies. It is very personal and expressive. I had a few opportunities to attend drawing classes as electives in my undergraduate college life and the thing that I remember vividly the most is frustration. The professors were keen on establishing and enforcing the rules as we exercised drawing, which only served as an obstacle more than anything else. Their common belief was creating a foundation onto which the student could built upon but I did not share the same belief. Rules do not build foundations, they only serve as overall guidelines to form a standard. If one wants to express complex thoughts or feelings, sometimes the rules that may hinder their depth need to be broken. Drawing is an art form of emotional exercise and study of expression. So is the language.

I have always viewed grammar as the rules that dictated the structure of a language. Although their importance is undoubtful, the degree of restriction that they impose is exigent. The article, Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar by Patrick Hartwell, presents the clash of ideals about how to implement grammar in language pedagogy. The two sides of the spectrum are identified as proponents and opponents, or more preferably as grammarians and anti-grammarians, respectively. I tend to fall into the camp of opponents but I believe it is important to note that my position is based on my own personal experience. In the article, it is suggested that “teaching grammar does no harm” by the proponents but I would disagree. Making someone aware of the rules beforehand makes them aware of their own errors and “degrades their performance”. More often than not, I have observed students who fail to express their thoughts because they make an unintended stop over an error and attempt to correct it. This is something I have also struggled with during my own language acquisition.

Throughout my high school life, learning grammar was always the top priority in my ESL and ENG courses. Present perfect tense was the most complicated. I was perfectly (no pun intended) fine doing exercises on paper but I could never actively use that tense in speech. Looking back, I believe the major reason of difficulty in transition was too much emphasis being placed on the form rather than implementation in discourse. I have seen many of my own students struggle with the same transitional problems. Exercises such as fill-in-the-blank or error correcting do not necessarily help someone to develop the grammatical skill to utilize it in language but for whatever reason every grammar book, regardless of proficiency level, seem to include variations of these activities and do not offer much else. As the article suggests, the best approach would be. I managed to learn how to actively use the present perfect tense after writing essays in my senior year at high school. Although there was grammar correcting, it was not the priority of the essays. My focus was to organize my thoughts and present them to an audience.

Grammar can be considered “the internalized system that native speakers of a language share”, as suggested in the article. The key term in this particular definition is “internalized” as it hints at how grammar often exercised by native speakers; unconsciously. Children began using their native language by simple repetitions. They obtain phrases or short sentences used on daily basis from those around them, particularly their parents, by listening. Then, they recite those phrases or short sentences themselves until they develop an aptitude to mold their own language. The exposure to the rules of the language comes later down the road; most likely at elementary school. Some instructors believe that this particular approach is much more efficient in implementing grammar in comparison to a much traditional one. I would often give the example of “what time is it?” to my students in class. The idea was to examine the possibility of learning through repetition. The question “what time is it?” is not something that they would create from ground-up using grammar. I would suggest that the same method could be applied to longer sentences or even daily conversations. Practice of communication could improve their grammar better than constructing sentences by following rules listed in front of them because they would not only repeat the sentences but the grammar as well. It would be a recreation of the method of how children tend to learn grammar as mentioned.

One of the misconceptions that many instructors have is “all the rules taught will be learned” and it is simply not true. The overwhelming amount of rules, especially when enough time of exercising is not given, run the potential of negating each other. Delving into the complexities of language is more challenging for students than most instructors seem to realize; “mental baggage” of a student is a real issue. Each proficiency level has set of grammatical items that the language learner is expected to utilize but not necessarily be able to offer reasoning for their usage. Hence, overwhelming a learner by introducing every single rule is not necessary. In my experience, offering the most basics and allowing the students to apply them correctly had the potential to encourage students to broaden their ambitions. They had the illusion that they were already using correct grammar and thus they could easily shift their focus more on other skills, such as speaking or writing. More complex grammar could be taught by repeated exposure through these skills and acquired unconsciously. Sometimes, it is easier to haul if you do not see the size.

There is an unfortunate disadvantage to that natural method however. It is something that I was reminded of after doing the adjective exercise offered in the article. The exercise was simply to place the listed words in proper order. I was able to form the correct sentence of “the four young French girls” as expected, but I was not able to express the reasoning. It was simply natural. As most native speakers would agree, sometimes it is impossible to explain why certain things need to be in a certain way. When an error is detected, the vague explanation tends to be “it just does not sound right”. This is a problem that I often deal with and I believe it is due to how I acquired grammar. The unconscious utilization of it creates a challenge to present it. There are many grammatical rules that I am unconsciously aware of but offering elaborate explanation instead of “it is just the way it is” proves to be more laborious than I would like; especially as a language instructor.

I always had difficulty with grammar trees. Other instructors, the ones who learned grammar traditionally and utilize it consciously, are incredibly fast with constructing grammar trees for complex sentences. It is like puzzle-solving on advance level. I think the suggested correlation between “the study of grammar and the ability to think logically” comes from this particular aspect but I would argue that logical thinking does not necessarily need to be a conscious effort. Inability to explain something is often confused with lesser cognition. I tend to compare this difference to people who utilize one side of their brain more than the other. Some people, the left-side dominant ones, excel in mathematical skills and memorization. This probably makes it easier for them to exercise grammar in more detail. Other people, the right-side dominant ones, excel in artistic merits and emphasize the bigger picture more than its details. Obviously, this is not a conclusive notion but more of a suggestion of possibility. The instructors who could ace grammar trees were much better at presenting the rules of the language but not so well at actually using it in real life. I guess the satisfactory lies on the position of the individual.

Teaching grammar is and probably always will be a controversial topic among language instructors. I can only offer my perspective based on my own experience to the conversation. The best way to state how to approach this issue would be by the statement in the article, and I strongly agree, that we should “see it not as a cognitive or linguistic problem but rather as a problem of metacognition and metalinguistic awareness, a matter of accessing knowledges that learners must have already internalized by means of exposure to the code.” I believe the students of language are more than capable of attaining this metalinguistic awareness and develop a “syntactic sophistication”, as long as they have freedom to practice their voice and attain it by natural means as opposed to methodically.

Sequence, Interaction and Grammatical Incantations

In “Grammar, Grammers, and the Teaching of Grammers,” Patrick Hartwell poses interesting questions about the intentions of educational research. He suggests that the very basis of this discussion is designed to perpetuate the debate, regarding formal grammar., not resolve it. Grammarians and anti-grammarians. Transformational or traditional. Magical thinking or alchemy. Cognitive or linguistic. Many studies are presented in the reading representing different periods of the past century, bouncing back and forth from one side of the argument to the other. In conclusion, Hartwell illustrates that the teaching of formal grammar does not fare very well. At best the evidence is inconclusive, at worst it doesn’t help at all and perhaps inhibits a student’s ability to write well. Hartwell’s intention is to ask what he considers the right questions, with the intention to shed light on issues, terms and maybe most importantly, assumptions.
Grammar based instruction has a model that is rigidly skills based. The formal teaching of grammar (sentence structure, diagramming, etc) is the first step in that sequence and acts as the cornerstone. With that, Hartwell brings the reader’s focus to the key elements of the grammar controversy: sequence in the teaching of composition and the role of the teacher. Traditional sequencing unfolds in the following way: First Grammar followed by an absolute model of organization all controlled by an omnipotent teacher at the center. The idea of style does not enter the picture until much later in this paradigm. Without a doubt, this is the way I learned composition in grade school and high school. Or I should say, this is the way they taught composition. I struggled with grammar lessons, and wrestled with organization in an abstract way. But the whole experience was dominated by the intimidation of the teacher. But I have no question that this form of teaching lead to what Hartwell later refers to as teaching error and nurturing confusion (Thomas Friedman, p.120). After graduating high school, I spent an endless amount of time reading, and developing my own literacy. I was working in an environment where there were a lot of different kinds of people and so I was developing communication skills and by default my own rhetoric. As an adult being back in school, I have finally learned to write. The scarring from those elementary school grammar lessons finally have begun to fade.
I appreciated the breakdown of different categories of grammar. Although, it remains clear as mud I am afraid.
Grammar 1:(P111) Three features include 1) the grammar in our heads. The internalized system of rules. A tacit and unconscious knowledge. 2) The abstract and even counterintuitive nature of these rules, particularly in relation to our ability to express them in terms of grammar 2 rules. 3)The way in which the form of one’s Grammar 1 seems profoundly impacted by the acquisition of literacy.
Grammar 2: (p114) A scientific model of Grammar 1. The branch of linguistic science that is concerned with the description, analysis and formulization of formal language patterns. Not to be confused with the stable entity it is often presented as. It is an attempt to approximate the rules of grammar 1. However, these rules are continuously in flux depending on the dominant research of the time.
Grammar 3: (p121) Linguistic etiquette. This relates specifically to the usage of grammar. Usage issues which tend to be linguistically unnatural departures from the grammar in our heads.
Grammar 4: (p119)Rules of grammar. I am personally not clear on what distinguishes grammar 1 from grammar 4. However, the author refers to grammar 4 as incantations and a complete sham. Perhaps the reader was not supposed to gain clarity?!
Grammar 5:(p120) Stylistic grammar. Grammatical terms used in the interest of prose. Romantic. Classic. Philosophical theory of language as opposed to linguistic.
According to Hartwell, above all, writers need to develop skills at two levels and can be developed in any language activity that enhances awareness of language as language.
1)Broadly rhetorical. Strategies, and procedures for communicating in a meaningful way.
2)The ability to actively manipulate language with conscious attention to surface form.
This seems to dovetail with themes in previous readings. The gem out of this reading for me was the idea of language being “verbal clay….to be molded, and probed, shaped and reshaped, and, above all, enjoyed (Kolln, p 125)”

I was very excited by some themes that Hartwell raised and would like to revisit them:
• Those who dismiss formal grammar instruction as the cornerstone have a model of instruction that is focused around a complex interaction of learner and environment in mastering literacy. (P108) I personally believe that teachers are the guardians of learning threshold. That interaction between learner and educator can be magical.

• Hyperliterate perception of the value of formal rules. Most students reading their writing aloud will self-correct a majority of grammar 2 errors. Hyperliterate is such an interesting way to frame things.

• Mastering codes from top down (issues of voice, tone, register and rhetorical strategy). Not bottom up (grammar usage, to usage, to fixed forms of organization)

Vocabulary:
Tacit: understood or implied without being stated.
Posit: assume as a fact; put forth as a basis of argument.
Orthography: the art of writing words with the proper letters according to standard usage.

Teaching Grammar

At the very beginning of his article Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar, University professor and author Patrick Hartwell agrees with the conclusion offered by literary scholars Richard Braddock, Richard Lloyd-Jones, and Lowell Schoer in their 1963 journal article Research in Written Composition. They conclude that

In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in composition, even a harmful effect on improvement in writing.(pg. 105)

Even so, Hartwell goes on to present the issue of grammar and its debate among other scholars. This issue he argues has always been a controversial topic in the classroom and continues to adversely affect teachers everywhere. His main argument debates that “formal grammar instruction, whether instruction in scientific grammar or instruction in “the common school grammar,” would have little to do with control over surface correctness nor with quality of writing.” (pg. 125). In essence, Hartwell is stating that the issue of grammar is a complicated one that needs more research. One specific example that he highlighted to make this point is found in his agreement with author Martha Kolln, who has conducted extensive experimental research in the studies of grammar and also “calls for more definition of the word grammar” (pg.106).  

Furthermore, in the article, Hartwell uses the research results and conclusions of several scholars and writers of this debate to validate his main point. Considering the beliefs of these scholars, Hartwell presents four questions that are meant to articulate the grammar issue against those who are pro-grammar. These questions are,  

  1. Why is the grammar issue so important? Why has it been the dominant focus of composition research for the last seventy-five years?

  2. What definitions of the word grammar are needed to articulate the grammar issue intelligibly?

  3. What do findings in cognate disciplines suggest about the value of formal grammar instruction?

  4. What is our theory of language, and what does it predict about the value of formal grammar instruction? (This question-“what does our theory of language predict?”-seems a much more powerful question than “what does educational research tell us?”) (pg.108).

The questions asked allow both grammarians and non-grammarians readers to choose a side in the debate. One has to agree whether they prefer the traditional style of teaching grammar or reason with other non- grammarian scholars who agree that grammar teaching in the classroom does not equal witting success. I personally, will side with other grammarians on this issue because I also agree that the traditional style of teaching grammar does improve student writing and success in school.

Hartwell provides the answers for these four questions in detail by properly defining the meaning of grammar. This is another main point that Hartwell suggests as a solution to solve this issue. In order to have a clear explanation and reason for teaching grammar, Hartwell describes the five definitions of grammar presented by 1954 scholar W. Nelson Francis. These five definitions of grammar are, Grammar 1: the set of formal patterns, Grammar 2: linguistic science, Grammar 3: linguistic etiquette, Grammar 4: school grammar and Grammar 5: stylistic grammar. Throughout the article, Hartwell goes more in-depth providing example that clearly apply these five rules of grammar as well as describing each style of grammar.  

Hartwell’s debate was strong and very passionate. Overall, the article was an edifying resource that provided me with the knowledge and viewpoints of the issue of grammar. The thesis presented factual and credible sources for the argument made and his case study is well supported. Even though a majority of scholars argue that teaching grammar in the classroom does not lead to student success in writing I conclude that in the context of academic writing strict teaching of grammar should be though in every classroom and even college campuses. I side with the grammarians on this issue in hopes that students from any background will learn to write academically and use proper writing language. In conclusion, based on the results of experimental research on this debate Hartwell concludes that “Teachers should formulate theories of language and literacy and let those theories guide our teaching” (pg.127). I reason with Hartwell’s final conclusion, however in order to move forward in the attempt to solve the issue of grammar we need to answer more difficult questions. Such as should the government eradicate the requirement of standardized test in schools?  Without the constraints of grammar, how will non-native learners of English write properly? What is the point of English classes if grammar skills are not being thought and enforced in the classrooms? Answering these questions in addition to Hartwell’s questions will bring us closer to solving this ongoing debate.

Click Here to Read the Article! 

Presentation Paper 

Presentation Powerpoint 

Grammar, Grammar, and More Grammar!

“In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in composition, even a harmful effect on improvement in writing” (Richard Braddock, Richard Lloyd-Jones, and Lowell Schoer, 1963).

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Confession time? Grammar has never been a good friend of mine. (Surprise, surprise). The foundation of my grammar comes from various teachers, moving from one school to another, and simply just not having a consistent education. At least that is what I believe. After reading this article, there are probably multiple reasons as to why grammar has never been my friend. Patrick Hartwell, the writer of this article “Grammar. Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar”(https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-NQx4UJlVmxdl9TV1dHUi1EWUU/edit), uses other scholars and sources to support his argument of how grammar and experimental research is crucial in this field of composition. Hartwell uses Janet Emig’s term “magical thinking” as part of the base for his article. The term “magical thinking” is “the assumption that students will learn only what we teach and only because we teach” (Emig, 105). For me, I took this definition as there is this invisible rule that the only reason why students are able to take in the information that is given to them is that their teachers are giving them the information. Students are capable of learning outside of the classroom as well.

Apart from Emig, Hartwell also uses Janice Neulieb as a source to discuss grammar. Neulieb wrote, “The Relation of Formal Grammar to Composition in College Composition and Communication” where she wants to reconstruct the definition of the word “grammar”. Her new definition of grammar, “the internalized system that native speakers of a language share” (140). She also expresses a certain goal for this field that is geared toward helping students. “Our goal should be to help students understand the system they know unconsciously as native speakers, to teach them the necessary categories and labels that will enable them to think about and talk about their language” (Neulieb, 150).

What I found interesting was how the article was mainly focused around four questions in order to point out the various grammar issues. Out of the four questions, I believe the first one is the most important. “Why is the grammar issue so important? Why has it been the dominant focus of composition research for the last seventy-five years?” (Hartwell, 108). This is not a simple question as it may seem. There are people who believe in teaching grammar the traditional way and then there are people who believe in teaching grammar the non-traditional way. The reason why the grammar issue is so important is because of the students, native speakers of English and non-native speakers of English. “Developing writers show the same patterning of errors, regardless of dialect” (Hartwell, 123). If problems are being shown in both native speakers and non-native speakers, then the different questions and experiments that Hartwell has pointed out to us could be just what the field needs in order to solve these problems.

Globalization

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: https://www.seanmichaelmorris.com/the-habitus-of-critical-imagination/ (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.

https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/teaching-composition-in-the-multilingual-world-second-language-wr

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.

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” (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B5–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.

 

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.