English, not their mother language.

I've been working in the SLCC (Salt Lake Community College), Writing Center for about a month now and I have only a few more hours and my fifteen will be complete. My experience there has been really good. As a tutor, most of the students I have helped have been where their mother language was not English. It's a lot harder than it looks to help a student who struggles with the language I've known from birth.

On one of my sessions I was helping a young woman who spoke and wrote fluent Arabic. Her notes for the assignment were written all in Arabic and I could see that she was very proud of her background. She came in wanting my help with the notes her professor wrote on her paper. Those notes consisted of, "You must be able to write fluently in English if you are to move on to the next class." With her notes all in her mother language, I could see why the professor would make that statement.

In a class discussion I was given the advice on what to say the next time I have this situation. The suggestions were:

          *Ask her if s/he would start taking notes in English.
          *Remind s/he that if they want to move on to the next class they need to know the English language. 
          *Explain that when learning a new language it helps to immerse yourself in the language with speech, writing, and reading, etc.

I found my classmates suggestions very helpful and it makes sense. When I was in high school I took a lot of Spanish classes. I only know very little, only enough in fact to get through to the kids at the daycare where I work. If I had applied these suggestions to my learning I might know more. I intend to use these suggestions in my tutoring sessions and also when I transfer to a four year institution that requires four years of a second language.



  1. Emily,
    I really like your approach to this. Diversity is beautiful and encouraging the students to use their foreign voice in writing helps! I think the suggestions you were offered are great! Of course the students is required to improve his/her language speaking skills, but this shouldn't discourage or suppress the foreign language. There are standards in college and I think if the writer understands this, his/her writing can really improve, especially if he/she has an understanding of appropriation and suggestion. Great post!

  2. Isn’t the capability of acquiring more than one language amazing. Heck, even our ability to acquire one language is pretty spectacular. I’m in awe of people who are learning another language. I’ve never had the courage to do it. And I do think it takes courage!

    I love working with English Language Learners for that very reason. Anyone with the gumption to take on speaking a language other than his or her native language has my respect. The fact that they are also coming to the writing center –not always easy—is even more admirable. It’s true that there are certain requirements expected of students at the college level. As a student myself, I always try to remember how difficult some of my writing classes can be for me—a native English speaker—and give the students coming in for help the praise they deserve. They inspire me to become the best writing tutor I can be!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

IWCA Forum: Peer Tutor => What do we call ourselves: the poll!

Are we aiding and abetting fraud?

On Writing as a STEM major