ESL and Non-Standard English Writing Instruction Hiram College WAC October 14, 2010
Two Primary Concerns • How do we introduce the student to conventions and styles of academic prose, BUT ALSO allow them to maintain distinctive voice, idiom and way of approaching writing • How do we address the patterns of grammar and usage problems, BUT ALSO teach students to correct their own grammar issues.
Conventions of Academic Proseand ESL Writers • Student essays seem strange and unfocused • Students seem unable or unwilling to make a point or come to a conclusion • Students shy from presenting their own ideas, relying exclusively on sources.
Introduce Western Academic Prose • Attempt to balance between teaching American style of academic prose and working with them to make their essays correct but still distinct. • Probe students about their plan for writing an essay. How do they organize? Why? • Introduce the five paragraph essay format stressing the importance of a straightforward thesis.
Play to their cultural strengths • Encourage them to play upon their cultural difference in their writing. They may or may not realize the strength this gives them in details, perspective, and cultural perspective • Pick topics that relate to their experience. What is new in their experience that will be interesting to the reader? • Teach them how to translate that experience to a western academic audience.
Don’t eradicate cultural accents • Idioms: How and why do they translate? How can the writer use them in a way that is interesting and informative to the reader? • Strange, indirect, or odd sentence construction: Does the student make choices that inform that sentence construction, or are they flailing in an attempt to write?
Teaching Patterns of Grammar • Students use turns of phrase that seem almost nonsensical. • Paper grading and comments devolve into editing. • You can tell students what is wrong, but not why it is wrong • You have trouble understanding student and their accent
ESL/NSL Priorities • ESL students do need more help with grammar, but they often need help with higher order concerns as well. • Divide up time/comment space into percentage talking about grammar, percentage talking about higher order concerns. • Concentrate on only one to two grammar concerns, not all of them • Discuss the grammar concept in addition to the sentence at hand.
Teach a man to fish • Read the essay aloud with the ESL student, or have the student read the essay aloud on their own. • As you read over the essay, underline grammar errors that you see, but do not correct them. Ask students to make corrections. • With ESL speakers, use the correct terminology. • With NSE speakers, teach the correct terminology.
Common ESL Grammar Errors Since there are so many possibilities for error, respond to: • Stigmatizing errors are those that are most likely to annoy or put off either native-English-speaking readers or expert readers in the student's field. No matter the quality of the writing otherwise, stigmatizing errors can turn readers off. • Significant errors are those that may not necessarily stigmatize but that may impede comprehension. While a misplaced comma may not interfere with a text's readability in many cases, problems with verb tense or idiom may produce serious misunderstandings. • Persistent errors are those that occur frequently and appear to follow a pattern. • (U of Utah’s ESL Writing Initiative)
Common ESL Grammar Errors • Article use: • Indefinite versus definite articles. • Count versus non-count • First mention versus subsequent mention • Count versus NoncountNouns: • Count nouns can be counted, • Non-count can’t (abstractions) • Verb tenses you don’t usually get to: • Past perfect , Present perfect • Misuse of Vocabulary, especially synonyms.
Common NSE Style & Grammar Errors • Transfer of spoken language directly to the page, including: • Lack of punctuation or misuse of punctuation. • Misuse of homophones: confusing terms and words due to pronunciation rather than their correct meaning. • Overly conversational prose, including extensive use of slang.
Resources • Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL): • Purdue OWL • ESL Writing Initiative, University of Utah: • ESL Writing Initiative