Appropriation, Not so fast...

I had a consultation with an ELL student today who was very bright. She had a draft prepared and obviously knew what she wanted to say in her paper. The problem was not in her knowledge, it was in her lack of vocabularly and confusion on how to use articles. I have been researching appropriation for my end of term paper and have come to believe that when it comes to ELL students what was commonly thought of approporiation is not always so clear cut. As far as this student was concerned, her ideas were clear - I knew what she was trying to say, as I am sure would her teacher, but a clearer meaning could be reached by sharing some American knowledge. Sometimes I simply said that I thought a "the" or "a" was needed, other times I asked her, and other times (towards the end of our consultation) she figured it out on her own. This was also the case with certain vocabularly she used that was repeated throughout the paper, it wasn't that the word she chose was wrong, it just wasn't as clear as it could be. I suggested an alternate word and she decided to use it. I don't think this is appropriation. The meaning of her writing was never changed.

There was one point that I had to stop myself from speaking and let her figure something out on her own. I started to try to guess what she was trying to say, and I am glad that I stopped myself because she was going in a direction that was not what I had expected. While I believe that tutors should act as cultural informants for non English speaking students, I also think it is important for the tutor to take a step back and let the writer figure things out on their own. Turns out we don't always know everything : )


  1. Jenny, it sounds like your session went well. I understand trying to hold back the habit of trying to say people's thoughts-the subculture I grew up in highly valued interrupting people's sentences as a way of showing interest in the conversation. To some people this can seem rude, and sometimes I finish the sentence wrong. Piping down (as opposed to constantly interjecting my comments) can be good,especially in the writing center, where it can give the student enough time to reformulate a thought in her head and on paper! :)


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