Resistance To Foreign Rhetoric

It is quite common for international students who are studying at a foreign university for a designated period of time to wonder why they should learn American rhetoric, rather than continue to use that of their native language. Clearly, it would be much easier for a student to travel to the United States and write all of his or her assignment papers using the rhetoric of his or her home country. Unfortunately, it is not advantageous to compose in this manner. The majority of professors will not tolerate it, and most importantly, the student will not leave this country with a heightened understanding of our language and stylistic tendencies. What would the point of studying abroad be if students were not ready to be instructed on the cultural and academic conventions that occur within a particular country?

Since some ESL students are reluctant to accept new approaches to writing in a foreign language, it is necessary to establish rapport with nonstandard English speakers and help them to understand some general information about different discourses. First, it is essential for the student to become aware that our mode of writing will not replace his or hers, but will instead be an addition to his or her knowledge of the English language. The misunderstanding that the student's second discourse will replace that of his or her native language can seriously impede the learning process. Thus, the tutor must ensure that the tutee knows that learning more about a new rhetoric will not estrange him or her from his or her native speech community. Nor should the writer feel that he or she is experiencing a loss of cultural identity. Lastly, both the tutor and the writer must understand that differences are not signs of inferiority or superiority. All discourses are "equally valuable means of communication to those who fluently speak and understand them" (Working 207), and therefore should not be deemed socially or linguistically "inferior" in the eyes of a tutor or a student. Writing center tutors should remember that English rhetoric is not superior to that of any other language. At the same time, the tutor must make sure that the student understands that, "their spoken dialects are not inferior and need not be abandoned: they need to know Standard Written English in addition to their spoken dialects" (Working 219).

Strategies for Working with ESL students

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

More Advice

The Role of an ESL Tutor

The Value of Contrasting Various Discourses

The Importance of Understanding Differences in Rhetoric

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