Precautions to Consider

1. ESL students have needs which set them apart from the mainstream. Consultants should not view these writers as merely basic writers, but as individuals possessing different ways of thinking, different customs, and different assumptions about writing. Be patient and willing to work with second-language students while they endure many of the frustrations associated with profiency in another language.

2. Another important precaution for consultants involves the lack of experience many international students have with the narrative writing required by the ECRSB Portfolio. While topics stemming from college experiencs and personal growth can prove extremely beneficial to native speakers, personal histories and modes of self-expression serve as an embarrassment in some cultures. Remain sensitive to the fact that such an assignment can increase rather than lighten the linguistic and memory-retrival burden of ESL students. To provide extra assistance, have students check out the consultant's link to narrative writing.

3. Understand that ESL students come from cultures preaching different strategies toward writing than the American way. For example, the U.S. favors a direct approach when presenting information while another culture may rely on meaning being implied. Consultants may also see text with abnormal amounts of background information to present a case in personal growth for the ESL student. Recognize these strategies not as incorrect, but merely as a difference in culture.

By identifying some of the ESL students' problems as variations in cultural and academic background, portfolio consultants can make conferencing sessions as well as the entire Business Portfolio much more positive and stimulating for these students.

This list was compiled from Ilona Leki's Understanding the ESL Writer and Leigh Ryan's The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors.

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