Chapter summary of ESL Writers by Bruce and Rafoth, Second Edition
Chapter 4: “Reading an ESL Writer’s Text” by Matsuda and Cox
The approach for reading an ESL student’s paper is not very different from the approach for reading papers written by native English-speaking (NES) writers. The writing of ESL students and NES writers may differ on many levels. Though many tutors may feel distracted or frustrated by them, differences are not necessarily problematic.
ESL writers and texts vary greatly from person to person, but they have some genral characteristics. ESL writers are still trying to develop an implicit knowledge of English and may not be able to easily create grammatical sentences. Also, some ESL students are better English speakers than writers while others are the exact opposite. ESL writers’ texts are also partly shaped by their prior experiences with literacy.
Readers of ESL writing take one of three stances. Accommodationists seek to teach the writer new discourse patterns without losing the old. They point out differences that may be seen as problems, but the writer decides how “native” the writing should sound. Separatists encourage writers to maintain separate linguistic identities thereby preserving the differences. The assimilationist stance is avoided. It seeks to protect writers from readers by making the writing like NES writing, but it inadvertently turns differences into deficiencies.
It is usually a good idea to start a session with a quick reading of the writer’s text out loud by the tutor. Afterwards the tutor can reread and make brief marks near details that jar the reading process.
· Overgeneralization of ESL writers and writing should be avoided.
· Never take the assimilationist stance towards ESL writing.
· Tutors must be aware of their own responses as readers to ESL writing.
· Tutors can prioritize by paying attention to their own reactions to errors that interfere with their understanding of the meaning of the text.
· If the number of errors in a text causes the tutor to stumble too often while reading it, then it is best to just read the text silently.
· Tutors may want to focus more on global errors (errors that affect the comprehension of meaning) than local errors (errors that do not affect meaning).
· Read ESL writing all the way through since the point of the paper may not become clear until the end. Focus on what the writer is trying to communicate.
· Give the writer the benefit of the doubt-the logic in the text may not be immediately apparent, but organization may still exist.
· At what point exactly might we move from a separatist approach to an accommodationist approach?
· What are some occasions when the assimilationist approach might be tempting?