The Role Of An ESL Tutor

The role of a writing center tutor or fellow changes when an international student comes for help with writing. As Steve North noted in his article, "The Idea of a Writing Center," our most important job is as tutors "is to produce better writers" (24). In order to do this, however, we, as tutors, must learn to approach a tutorial as a cultural and academic informant, rather than as collaborator. As the academic informant, tutors must try to identify the problems that the student is having, and then use a direct approach to teach writing as an academic subject. When we, as ESL tutors, "understand, respect, and respond to the differences between the needs of ESL and native-speaking writers," we can increase the effectiveness of a particular session (Powers 103). For more advanced students, it may be advantageous to show "specific examples of how to fix a particular error, and then to try one on their own, or explain what he/she has fixed" because this process allows the student "to really grasp your ideas, and helps them learn in an effective way," according to Dotty Giordano (Connect, 10/17/97).

All ESL students who enter the writing center come from different backgrounds, and therefore, bring different cultural and social contexts to a tutorial. Although some of the problems that an ESL student has are a result of the rhetorical structure of their native language, "others are social or cultural attitudes and beliefs that will definitely affect the tutor-tutee relationship" (Powers 98). Therefore, the tutor must act as a cultural informant. As an example, the nature of asking questions is different among cultures. For an international student, questioning a tutor, or an authority figure, may be frowned upon in one culture, whereas in ours, it is simply regarded as a means of obtaining information for clarification. Since questioning authority may be considered disrespectful in the eyes of a particular international student, he or she may refrain from asking questions in a tutorial because he or she feels that it is inappropriate. In this situation, the tutor should encourage the student to ask questions and inform him or her that this type of behavior is not considered disrespectful in the eyes of Americans. It is obvious that there are many differences that exist between our culture and those of other nations. Because "the differences between native-speaking and second-language writers are sometimes masked by a deceiving familiarity in what they say and do," tutors who work with ESL students in the writing center need to acknowledge these behavioral differences, alter their tutoring methods, and most importantly, inform their tutees of American conventions in order to conduct a productive session (Powers 101).

Strategies for Working with ESL students

How to Help An ESL Student Who has Difficulty with the Rhetorical Structure of English

More Advice

The Value of Contrasting Various Discourses

The Importance of Understanding Differences in Rhetoric

Resistance To Foreign Rhetoric

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