reading written accent: a working session on responding to second language writers

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Reading Written Accent: A Working Session on Responding to Second Language Writers. January 20 th 2010. Questions Central to Today's Discussion. What do we already know about reading and responding to NES writers that we can apply to second language writers? - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • Reading Written Accent: A Working Session on Responding to Second Language WritersJanuary 20th 2010

  • What do we already know about reading and responding to NES writers that we can apply to second language writers?What is different about responding to second language writers? What do we need to be more aware of?How do we read and evaluate second language writing fairly as compared to that of native speakers of English?When and to what extent is responding to second language errors helpful? What are the best practices for doing so?Questions Central to Today's Discussion

  • One Note:While some of our discussion today is pertinent to all second language writers, the main focus will be on international and immigrant students. Generation 1.5 students (students who were either born in the United States to immigrant parents or who came to the U.S. before or during their early teens) have different needs, which would require a somewhat different focus.

  • What do you look for when you read writing done by native English speakers? What do you value most?

    Ideas: Creative and Critical ThinkingDevelopment of a significant central idea. Main and supporting ideas are fully explored. Claims are supported by evidence.Sources are used appropriately and in meaningful ways.There is an awareness of a real audience (thinking from multiple perspectives, providing context for discussion, etc)Tone and Voice are appropriate to academic writing (ex. Not angry)Organization facilitates the readingSentence fluency doesn't distract from the reading

  • 2) What do you already know about surface error and native English speaking (NES) writers? How and to what extent do you respond to error? What else do you know?

    There is a logic to student error. There are patterns, and there is often a thought process behind error.

    As student write about more complicated ideas, we often see an increase in surface error as well.

    Focusing too much attention on error often encourages students not to take risks.

    Most errors don't impede meaning very much.

    Errors that carry race or class markers are often more commonly viewed more negatively than other types of errors.

  • 3) Now that we've discussed NES writers, consider how working with second language writers compares.


    Second language writers have many of the same difficulties as NES writers, including developing ideas, thinking about their audience, and communicating effectively in writing.

    Like NES writers, errors increase with the difficulty of the writing assignment.

    Our main focus should remain on the same global values (interesting thinking, idea development, etc.) that we focus on with NES writers.

    As with NES writers, the majority of second language writing errors don't detract from meaning.

  • Differences:Second language writers who grew up in other countries and in other school systems often have very different understandings of what is valued in writing. Here are a few examples.

  • Organization and Directness:Ever since Robert Kaplan pointed out how culture often influences the way writers present ideas, this has been one of the most intensely researched (and debated) topics in second language writing. Teachers do not need to try to familiarize themselves with all the literature on the subject. What is valuable, however, is to recognize how culturally determined our own notions of organization are.

    U.S. writers (particularly academic writers) have an amazing patience and even desire for explicitness. During their educations, American students are routinely taught that it is better to be too repetitive than too subtle (think about the 5 paragraph theme for an example). This is a rather strange preference if one just thinks about reading for interest. As one international student told me in an interview, I just don't understand the useful[ness] of a thesis. If I give my point at the beginning, why does the person want to read? Another international student complained to me that she thought Americans just repeated so many times their main point. It gets so tiring.

  • One feature of some ESL writing that may be disorienting is the lack of meta-discourse or signpoststhe transitional words and sentences that move readers between ideas, and the structures that mark the organization of a text. Even though a text may not have an organization that is immediately recognizable, there may be an organization at work. The trick is to identify and piece together the logic that is not immediately apparent to the reader by formulating questions with the assumption that there is logic in itby giving the reader the benefit of the doubt."

    Paul Kei Matsuda "Reading an ESL Writer's Text."

  • Reader/Writer AuthorityThe American academy is very reader-based in its view of writing. In the U.S., almost all responsibility for meaning, clarity, and even entertainment value rests plainly on the shoulders of the writer. This is very different from most other cultures where the writer has authority and readers are expected to work hard to understand the writers points. As an Ecuadorian named Maria told me, Americans don't [have] patience with things. Everything is fast food. Time is money. Reading for Americans is just that same way.

  • Political and Sociocultural Differences:Often, Americans assume that good writing is critical of society and institutions. The individual is expected to voice opinions that run counter to one's government, culture, and social hierarchies. Consider how uncomfortable (and even dangerous) this can feel to some students at first. One student I talked to from Malawi failed her first essay in America when she was asked to critique a local school lunch program for her nutrition class. She feared being critical of what she saw as a government institution and thus did very poorly on the assignment.

  • Plagiarism:The Western intellectual tradition emphasizes individuality and originality. Thus, to steal another person's ideas or language is the very worst academic crime. In other academic traditions, particularly those that emphasize communality, the relationship with sources is often be very different. Even after students learn about plagiarism, they will often make mistakes. As Mary M. Dossin points out in "Using Others' Words: Quoting, Summarizing, and Documenting Sources," paraphrasing and summarizing are among the most difficult language skills for students to learn. She reminds us that students not only need to understand the meaning of all the words and ideas in the source text, they also need to detect subtle traces of the author's tone and perspective, as well as come up with their own unique linguistic substitutions. Those skills are quite difficult for NES writers and substantially more difficult for second language writers.

  • While people sometimes want polished, native-sounding prose from their second language writers, that expectation doesn't acknowledge the complexity of learning another language. Many second language errors are based on advanced memorization of grammatical and lexical information that take years of practice to improve. The Foreign Service estimates it takes approximately 2,300 hours of instruction to become fluent in another language. By way of comparison, consider that a student taking a Japanese language class at Western receives approximately 50 hours of instruction per term. Consider some of the following common second language errors. Do you know the rule? How long would it take to memorize every instance of that error to achieve native sounding English?Surface Error:

  • Common Errors in ESL WritingCommon Errors in ESL Writing

  • We did a lot of researches on the subject.

  • Rule: Count vs. Not Count nounsEvery noun in English is either countable or not countable. There are some general rules (liquids are not countable, nor are abstract nouns like advice, anger, love, intelligence, etc.). However, many nouns just have to be memorized. Corn is not countable, while peas are. Rice is not countable, but noodles are.

  • The Pilot wanted landing in Dallas.

  • To + Infinitive vs. GerundLets stop smoking vs. Lets stop to smoke

    Verb + gerund : Avoid, postpone, put off, suggest, tolerate, etc.

    Verb + infinitive: Agree, decide, manage, plan, promise, refuse, want, etc.

  • She has cutted class several times this week.

  • Mistake in conjugating the past participle.There are 5 verb forms in English: present, past, present participle, past participle, and s form.

    Conjugating the past participle for irregular verbs is very difficult for ESL students. Ex. buy, bought, bought vs. give, gave, given

  • Lucinda got so angry with Jim that she called down their wedding. I cant believe she canceled it.

  • Phrasal verbsPhrasal verbs are just like vocabulary the student must learn. There are no rules for which preposition will follow the verb.

    Ex. Turn in, turn out, turn down, turn around, turn over, turn on, turn off.

  • He brought her a yellow, beautiful rose.

  • Cumulative Adjective orderArticle (a, an, the, those, these, my, your)Quantifier (none, some, ten)Opinion (ugly, pretty, delicious, yucky, happy)Size (big, small)Shape (round, square, long)Condition (broken, sagging, wrinkled)Age (old, young, new)Color (red, blue)Nationality (American, Chinese)Religion (Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim)Material (silk, chocolate)NOUN being describedclause or phrase - follows the noun

  • Some customers were aggressive. I couldnt understand why were they like that.

  • Embedded Question formIn English, subjects and verbs