Wednesday, September 30, 2009

9/21 Chapter 9 in Longman

What were your reactions to this reading? How might these ideas help you as a tutor? How might these ideas help you as a writer?

1 comment:

  1. Chapter 9, Longman

    I am always struck by the dynamic that emerges when working with NNS writers. It feels different than the dynamic that emerges when working with individuals for whom English is the native linguistic framework. Very many of the same issues (e.g. subject-verb agreement) arise with native and nonnative writers, but the processing feels very different. It is my opinion that this is because a native language shapes the way a person thinks about the world, and some of these patterns of thinking do not translate well into a new language. This can be based in syntactical arrangements and in semantic associations. The process of bridging the gap, so to speak, becomes a more global challenge for me. I enjoy the challenge.

    So, this argument I’ve made is counter to Myth #2 in Chapter 9. This is intentional. I don’t think it is at all a “myth” that different cultural linguistic groups view the world differently. Similarly, I think it is nearly as spurious to say that we (i.e. English natives) do not think about the world in a manner similar to – sticking with the authors’ example – a five paragraph essay. The five paragraph essay represents more than just a convention of presenting information. It represents a long history of Western rhetoric. The essay has come to implicitly state that the author of said essay has gone to some trouble in his or her life to learn not only the conventions of writing but also the conventions of thought. Granted, we do not all hold the socio-political views. We do, however, present our differences in roughly the same format. We are predictable. Western rhetoric has been both blessed and cursed by the fact that it is terribly linear and syllogistic.

    So, the process of working with some NNS writers needs to expand from just syntactical refinement and clarification of idiomatic usages, for example, to a whole reconceptualization of how to approach a given set of information. Returning to the information in the chapter, I agree with the authors that we need not pigeon-hole those we work with. I think that we neither need to impose our world view on others nor prohibit ourselves form learning from others. Yet, we need to present the conventions of the English language and Western rhetoric. The tough part is presenting the conventions in a way that does not undermine or invalidate the worldview of others.