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VIII.

STRATEGIES FOR WORKING WITH NON-NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER (NNS) STUDENTS The number of international students at CSU is increasing and approximately 30% of our Writing Center consultations are with students for whom English is not their native language. Our NNS students come from many different backgrounds: International students here on a visa who will return to their native countries: o May have completed the INTO CSU Academic English or Pathway language programs (or a similar program at another institution). These students were conditionally admitted until they improved their language ability and successfully completed the language program. o May be students who studied English in their country and achieved a sufficient level in an English proficiency exam (TOEFL or IELTS). These may include undergraduate transfer students and graduate students . o May be those who grew up speaking English as a second or third language and did not formally study the language (e.g. in countries such as India or Malaysia). Resident students: o May be immigrant students who have settled in the US. o May have been born here and lived in the US all their lives, but are the children of immigrant parents and speak another language (e.g. Spanish) at home.

NNS students all have very different experiences in learning and writing English, so we must be careful not to generalize their needs and (as always) handle each consultation individually. The following information may be helpful in preparing to work with non-native English speakers. Challenges Students May Face NNS students may face the following linguistic or cultural challenges during a consultation or when writing in English: Linguistic Challenges Incomplete comprehension: Naturally, NNS students may have difficulties fully understanding what others say or write. They may need help understanding course readings, or they may ask you to repeat what you say during the consultation. Difficulties in expression: When writing or talking, NNS students often feel frustration in being unable to say what they wish to express due to vocabulary problems. As one Japanese student explains, I never know how exactly I sound to native speakers[Also] it takes longer to write in English because I turn to my dictionary a lot more frequently to look up the right usage of words and look for the appropriate expressions. In addition, using the right grammar can be a challenge. One Korean student puts it this way: I feel like being locked in a grammar box. My ideas dont come out as they are due to some hindrance of grammar. Students may ask for more help in finding the right word or making sentence structure clearer.

Cultural Challenges

NNS students may also face some cultural challenges that may affect their writing and consultations: Critical thinking vs. rote memorization. Students may come from educational backgrounds that rely heavily on memorization of facts. Some students may have difficulty in thinking critically about a text, so they may ask for more help with brainstorming or developing ideas. Writer vs. reader responsibility. In some cultures (e.g. Japanese and Chinese), writers expect readers to make connections between ideas, so relationships are not always stated explicitly. This is because the writer assumes that the reader has a shared understanding of the ideas' details and meanings. Some students may need help clearly connecting ideas or stating points more directly. Appropriate use of sources. Adherence to academic citation practices varies widely across the world, and some students may not be aware of the need to paraphrase, quote or cite. Students may need more assistance in understanding when and how to avoid plagiarism. Differing rhetorical thinking patterns. Different cultures may organize texts differently in order to achieve their purpose with their audience. In closed-form, US academic writing, writers are expected to introduce a thesis, main ideas or themes at the beginning of a text and then develop them individually. Some students may come from cultures where indirect writing (with a thesis in the conclusion) is valued. Others may be used to writing texts that include more digression or repetition. A basic illustration of these contrasting patterns is shown below. These organization patterns may be transferred into the student's English prose and appear as errors of focus, coherence, development or organization. Students may need assistance to make their papers more suitable for US readers.

Image taken from Kaplan, Robert B. Cultural Thought Patterns in Inter-cultural Education. Language Learning 16.1-2 (1966): 1-20.

Strategies for Helping NNS Students: 1. When preparing to work with a NNS student: do not feel intimidated. These students are often very enthusiastic, goal-oriented and a joy to work with. Consider your own experiences in speaking and writing in a foreign language and try to empathize with the student. Remember that writing with an accent does not mean that ideas are bad and

consider how you can increase the students confidence. Creating a comfortable, relaxed environment will increase the success of the session. 2. At the beginning of the session: If it seems that a student is a NNS, be aware of your speech rate and vocabulary. If you naturally speak fast, slow down. When asking the student about their writing, it may also be appropriate to ask the student where he/she is from and how long they have been in the US. Since the length of consultation times can sometimes be an issue, explain to the student that you will work together for 30 minutes and come to an agreement about the goals of the session. It may be more necessary to explain about time constraints with some students who want a lot of help. You may also choose to describe your role as a consultant and peer rather than an instructor, and you may also explain our Writing Center philosophy and the hierarchy of rhetorical concerns. 3. During the session: It may be helpful to offer to read the students text as some students feel embarrassed reading out loud and may stumble over pronunciation. As with all consultations, try to focus on the hierarchy of rhetorical concerns, considering purpose, audience, focus, development and organization before focusing on grammar and mechanics. As you read the text, try to focus on just a couple of major issues that you can address, so that no one becomes overwhelmed. As you focus on a few areas, it may be appropriate to be more explicit in suggesting ideas than you are with native speakers. For example, rather than simply asking a question about organization, you might explain more by saying, In this paragraph you seem to have a lot of great ideas. First you describe Friedmans use of personal anecdote, and then you talk about his use of language and his sarcastic tone. These are all really good points and you could explain all of these ideas more if you divided them up. If you put each one into a separate paragraph, you will be able to give examples to support each idea and analyze a lot more. You should always focus on just one idea in each paragraph. How do you think you could do this? Which one could you start with? NNS students often appreciate modeling and instructional handouts. If you can quickly find an example, or provide a handout, then this can reinforce your suggestions and provide information for the student to review after the session. As you talk with the student, check to see that he/she understands what you are saying. If the student is concerned about sentence-level issues, try to prioritize one or two common errors after addressing higher order concerns. Do not edit the paper for the student or spend the whole session going line by line through the paper. Certain grammatical issues are easier to address than others, so you may choose to look at a

pattern of verb tense use, subject-verb agreement or word form. You could model how to correct the error and then ask the student to address similar subsequent errors. Alternatively, you may choose to revise sentences that are difficult for a reader to understand. You could ask the student to clarify his/her meaning and write down what they say. Further strategies for helping with grammar will be given during future staff trainings. As your session comes to an end, you can encourage the student to return to receive more help. Explain that they are able to come to the Writing Center one time each day and encourage them to book another appointment after they have worked more on their draft.

Some Helpful Resources: The following resources may be useful in preparing to work with NNS students. Ann Raimes ESL Tip Sheets Available online, these pages give instructors/consultants an overview of the grammatical differences found in 10 foreign languages (including Chinese, Arabic and Korean). These provide excellent background information for understanding language transfer errors. ESLbee.com This website provides explanations and exercises for students who want more practice with specific grammatical structures. ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors 2nd Ed, Ben Raforth and Shanti Bruce (Eds) This anthology addresses relevant topics such as helping students with grammar, addressing plagiarism, working with generation 1.5 students, and providing feedback online.