Every time I am in a foreign country where I don’t know the language or culture, I immediately end up wanting to climb into a UPS shipping box and overnight myself straight back to my home in Texas. Back home, I know I can effectively speak and write in English (which ironically is my second language), and I don’t have to feel embarrassed every time I open my big, foreign mouth. Struggling to formulate simple sentences is embarrassing. Staring blankly back at someone who is trying to explain something to me that seems so simple and yet is so complicated is humiliating. Having my grammar corrected every other word is enough to make me want to be mute for the rest of my life.
Let’s have a change of scenery and fast-forward to a typical day in the writing center—it’s your next session as a peer consultant is with an international student. You give a little sigh because you already know what’s next—all of the sudden you are listening to student struggle to formulate simple sentences. As you explain a one of those simple yet oh-so-complicated concepts, you see the client staring blankly back at you. As you read their work, you realize that every other word has some sort of grammar mistake. Does this sound familiar?
At some point in time during our years of schooling, we have all had to learn a foreign language, and we all struggled to communicate. According to “Being a Linguistic Foreigner: Learning from International Tutoring,” tutors can reflect on their own struggles of learning a foreign language and use these reflections to enhance sessions with international students. When we place ourselves in the shoes or our clients, our patience and compassion towards the students rises. Many of our international clients struggle with the same feelings of insecurity and frustration that we experienced, but we shouldn’t allow these feelings to affect whether or not international students use our services on a regular basis. If we, as tutors, can break down the barrier or frustration and humiliation that exist between a client and his/her paper, we can build a personal connection that allows the student to feel more comfortable during the session.
We also need to make a conscious effort to stop looking at these students’ papers as one big grammar mistake—if our attitude towards the paper changes, then our attitudes toward international students will also change. And when a student is comfortable in a session, he/she stops feeling judged or inadequate. Once we reach this stage collaboratively with our client, then the learning process goes beyond the perceived cultural differences to a more focused approach; we can focus on our mission of making better writers and communicators instead of making perfect language speakers. Besides, if our language teachers had stopped believing on us when we made mistakes, would be have ever learned a second language? Being the motivator and source of encouragement for an ESL student is one of the best perks of our job, and we get to watch the circle of language evolve and continue.
Bergmann, Linda S., Gerd Brauer, Robert Cedillo, Chloe de los Reyes, Magnus Gustafsson, Carol Perterson Haviland,Brady Spangenberg. “Being a Lingusitic Foreigner: Learning from International Tutoring.” ESL Writers A Guide for Writing Center Tutors. 2nd Ed. Shanti Bruce and Ben Rafoth. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publishers Inc. 2004. 195-207. Book.
Popular posts from this blog
I have posted a poll in the IWCA forums: IWCA Forum: Peer Tutor => What do we call ourselves: the poll! It is a part of an earlier discussion that kind of petered out about the titles used for writing center workers. Please take a moment and vote! If you don't have an account on the forum, you can register for one by clicking on the "Register" link (next to the rocket icon in the top-right of the page.) Don't forget to state your institutional affiliation when you request and account. (That's how the IWCA Forum keeps out spam accounts.)
So, I was driving to school today and as always was listening to NPR (that's my self-promoting conversational piece informing you on how intelligent and connected I am) really, I just like the coverage on the campaign and "This American Life." Okay, I am already getting off topic and I haven't even gotten on topic yet. Anyhow, the story I was listening to was about a woman who used to be a part of the admissions committee at Dartmouth and is now working as an independent consultant helping students with the admissions process for schools. For a cool $40,000, she will work with you from 9th grade to graduation to help prepare you for your college admissions process. And for the budget price of $14,000, she will help you write and revise your college application essay. So, how in the world does this correlate to our world? Well, her work with college applications includes helping students decide on effective topics (staying away from "teen angst, or th
By Lori Brock
A Nearly Septuagenarian’s Ad ventures with Purdue Owl January 9, 2023 As a student, the Purdue Owl website was a source of great comfort for me. It seemed almost a tangible, billowy, yet safe and confining space; kind of like those bounce-houses filled with balls for kids. I would flit among MLA and APA and general writing tips: pulling up a sample reference page here, making sure I knew the difference between effect and affect there, and ended up by checking an in-text citation for a quote within a quote. I haven’t perused Purdue Owl’s website in some time, so, it is disconcerting to find it is completely tied into Purdue University’s writing lab. Now, you can also more readily access various sections of the style guide directly from the browser. If, for example, you want to check to cite a poster in APA format, Purdue Owl’s information is listed among the many sites you can choose in your browser. I can see how advantageous this fine-tuning is, and, in fact, I have already ma