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Articles on English as a Second Language

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Bardovi-Harlig, Kathleen, and Beverly S. Hartford. "Congruence in Native and Nonnative Conversations: Status Balance in the Academic Advising Session." Language Learning 40.4 (1990): 467-501.

Compares status balance of native and nonnative grad students in advising sessions with advisors. NNSs generally less successful in doing out-of-status ("noncongruent") things during conversation because they don't use "status-preserving strategies" such as downgraders to soften the effect of the noncongruent speech acts. NSs also ask for advice more, too, apparently to balance out their suggestions by letting the advisor help accomplish the work of the advising session.

Bardovi-Harlig, Kathleen, and Beverly S. Hartford. "The Language of Comembership." Research on Language and Social Interaction 26.3 (1993): 227-257.

Examines relation between speech acts and comembership (something shared by advisor and student, either institutionally or socially), in NS and NNS grad and undergrad students and their advisors. Finds that low comembership (between undergraduates and advisors) is associated with fewer linguistic status-preserving strategies than is high comembership (between graduate students and advisors). Explanation: when status is clear (e.g., with low comembership and clear status difference, as with undergraduates and advisors), few linguistic or pragmatic devices needed. With grads and advisors, status similarity and higher comembership make for a complicated social, and hence, linguistic, situation.

Berry, David W. "Silences in the Writing Center: Avoiding Babble for ESL Students."The Writing Lab Newsletter. 23.9 (1999): 6-7.

One problem with tutoring ESL students is that tutors often use too many words to explain a point. Often, the student may still be processing the first explanation while the tutor offers a second explanation meant to clear up any confusion. Three solutions present themselves: use fewer words, use gestures and facial expressions, and use silence. Of the three, the last is the most highly recommended. ESL students anticipate that they will have difficulty with articles and modifiers; having the tutor correct these in silence will allow the student to reflect on the reasons for the corrections. In a best-case scenario, tutor and student will take turns correcting the errors.

Cogie, Jane, Kim Strain and Sharon Lorinskas."Avoiding the Proofreading Trap: The Value of the Error Correction Process." The Writing Center Journal 19.2 (1999): 7-32.

While the tutor's role as cultural informant can help the ESL student gain understanding of English, sometimes that role seems to translate into one of proofreader--especially when whole-essay issues are absent. Editing, however, both contributes to passivity in a tutorial and fails to help the student take charge of her own writing. By using such tools as learners dictionaries, minimal marking, and error logs, the tutor can help the student become a better self-editor. These tools may take up more time initially, but will ultimately enable the student to become a better writer in English. Several examples of types of error logs are included.

Ferris, Dana R. "Rhetorical Strategies in Student Persuasive Writing: Differences between Native and Non-Native English Speakers." Research in the Teaching of English 28.1 (1994): 45-65.

This study analyzed 60 persuasive texts by university freshmen composition students, half of whom were native speakers and half of whom were non-native speakers of English. The results showed clear differences between the essays of native and non-native speakers. These results and their implications for second language composition are discussed.

Ferris, Dana R. "Student Reactions to Teacher Response in Multiple-Draft Composition Classrooms." TESOL Quarterly 29 (1994): 33-53.

Reports the results of a study involving 155 students in two levels of a university ESL composition program who responded to a survey. Students pay more attention to teacher feedback provided on preliminary drafts than to final drafts, and they also appreciate encouraging comments. Furthermore, students find feedback useful in helping them improve, but sometimes have problems in understanding the comments. Teachers can overcome these problems by explaining their responding behaviors to students.

Gumperz, J. J. "Interethnic Communication." Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1982. 172-186.

Analyzes parts of an interview between a NS and a NNS; shows how each participant's (inaccurate) inferences about what's going on lead to inabilities to negotiate common topics for conversation and shared expectations.

Hartford, Beverly S., and Kathleen Bardovi- Harlig. "Closing the Conversation: Evidence from the Academic Advising Session." Discourse Processes 15 (1992): 93-116.

Describes the closing conversations of academic advising sessions with native speaking and non-native speaking grad students. Contrasts "felicitous closings" (of both NS and NNS) with "infelicitous closings" of NNS; also contrasts advising session conversations with natural conversations.

He, Tung-hsien (Tony). "Genres and Strategies: How Skilled and Unskilled ESL Writers Compose." unpublished research paper prepared for L530: Critical Writing for Academic Purposes. 1998. 31 pp.

This pilot study addresses two related questions: do skilled and unskilled ESL writers demonstrate different behaviors in responding to essay and personal writing genres, and what are the different and identical strategies employed by both types of writers when these behaviors are categorized into strategies? The pilot described the processes of two male Taiwanese graduate students. Results indicate that both writers did demonstrate different strategies for the different genres and that each writer used fewer strategies for the personal writing than the essay writing. In general, however, the skilled writer used more strategies than the unskilled.

Janopoulos, Michael. "University Faculty Tolerance of NS and NNS Writing Errors: A Comparison." Journal of Second Language Writing 1.2 (1992): 109-121.

Study of faculty (in)tolerance of NNS errors. Faculty given 24 sentences that contained common NNS errors to rate for acceptability. Half of faculty were told they were rating NNS sentences, the other half NS sentences. Results suggest that faculty were slightly (but not significantly) more tolerant of NNS than NS errors.

Kaplan, Robert B. "Contrastive Rhetoric and the Teaching of Composition." TESOL Quarterly 1.3 (1967): 10-16.

Compares rhetorical and syntactic styles of English and Arabic (e.g., in English, subordination is considered more elegant than, and hence preferable to, parallelism, while the opposite holds for Arabic). Conclusion: rhetoric is culturally determined and bound, just as syntax is.

Kaplan, Robert B. "Cultural Thought Patterns in Inter-Cultural Communication." Readings on English as a Second Language. Ed. Kenneth Croft. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980. 399-418.

Discusses the connection between logic and grammar, and describes typical linear, inductive or deductive paragraph development in English. Contrasts this with rhetorical patterns typical of Arabic, Korean, French. Concludes that each language has a paragraph order unique to itself, and that part of the learning of a language is learning the standard paragraph order of that language. Gives the "movement of paragraphs in the various languages" diagram that is reproduced in Muriel Harris's book. Also gives exercises to teach American English paragraph order.

Kroll, Barry, and John C. Schafer. "Error-Analysis and the Teaching of Composition." College Composition and Communication 29 (1978): 242-248.

Discusses the connection between error analysis--using errors as indicators of mechanical or conceptual patterns--and a process approach to writing. Discusses the possible sources of errors in ESL writers and shows how an understanding of the source of an error can be applied to helping the writer move toward the correct form.

Leki, Ilona. "Coping Strategies of ESL Students in Writing Tasks Across the Curriculum." Tesol Quarterly 29.2 (Summer 1995): 235-260.

This study follows 5 ESL students in their first semester at a U.S. university in a variety of courses across several disciplines to identify 10 strategies these students use to complete their writing assignments. The bulk of the article presents specific examples from the students' experiences to illustrate the strategies.

Masiello, Lea. "Diversity in Language and Writing." Write at the Start: A Guide to Using Writing in Freshman Seminars. Charleston, SC: South Carolina UP, 1992. 15-25.

Discusses issues raised by slang, dialects, nonstandard usage, and informality in writing. Lists proofreading strategies that can be taught. Discusses how to deal with international students.

Matalene, Carolyn. "Contrastive Rhetoric: An American Writing Teacher in China." College English 47 (1985): 789-808.

Summarizes the author's experiences as a composition teacher in China. Outlines differences between Chinese rhetorical conventions (importance of indirect approach, rigid format for argumentation, flowery prose, importance of reading and citing the classic literature, etc.) and American rhetorical conventions.

Matsuda, Paul Kei. "Composition Studies and ESL Writing: A Disciplinary Division of Labor." College Composition and Communication 50 (1999): 699-721.

Although ESL students constitute a significant number of students enrolled in writing classes, these students are often overlooked in composition studies. One reason for this oversight stems from the historical development of both disciplines. TESL grew out of the "scientific" work of applied linguists, while composition studies grew out of a "humanist" tradition. As a result of the two different institutional paths, compositionists fail to see the importance of incorporating insights from ESL writing into their research and theories.

Powers, Judith K. "Rethinking Writing Center Conferencing Strategies for the ESL Writer." Writing Center Journal 13.2 (1993): 39- 47.

Describes difficulties encountered in tutorials with nonnative speakers at the University of Wyoming's writing center. With nonnative speakers, tutors were more directive, didactic, and intrusive, than with native speakers. This was seen as a problem because of the center's Socratic, nondirective philosophy. Solution: accept that nonnative speakers need more and different things from tutors; that their questions do not stem from laziness, but rather from a lack of knowledge; that nonnative speakers may have learned different rhetorical strategies in their native languages; that they may not be able to benefit from the methods of teaching editing used with native speakers.

Schall, Jane. "Unbeatable Ways to Reach Your LEP Students." Instructor 105.1 (July 1995): 54-59.

This article summarizes the strategies of four elementary school teachers who teach second language learners. All of the teachers emphasize the importance of building a community of students in addition to working on language skills. This article also provides a list of the four stages of language acquisition and a glossary of second language teaching approaches.

Schleppegrell, Mary J. "Grammar as Resource: Writing a Description."Research in the Teaching of English 32.2 (1998): 182-211.

Uses a study of the writing produced by 128 middle school students in order to argue that functional grammar analysis can help teachers identify which grammatical structures are useful for a specific writing task. Teachers can use this information to draw students' attention to the range of grammatical choices available in order to accomplish the task. The explicit instruction in the grammatical structures present in specific writing genres can help ESL and non-standard dialect speakers make their work fit more closely with socio-cultural expectations of academic writing.

Segedy, Julie. "Lessons through Letters: Using Tutor-Student Correspondence to Foster Learning." The Writing Lab Newsletter 23.9 (1999): 12-15.

Describes Lit Pal, a letter writing project targeting the ESL student population in which ESL students were matched up with a peer tutor. ESL students and peer tutors exchanged a series of 6 letters focused on specific literary issues associated with the required reading for specific literature courses. Both students and instructors reported that they felt the program was a success. Some pointers about how to set up a similar program and how to focus the letters are included.

Thomas, Jenny. "Cross-Cultural Discourse as 'Unequal Encounter': Towards a Pragmatic Analysis." Applied Linguistics 5.3 (1984): 226-235.

Describes inappropriate use of certain language features by NNSs. These features are used, in conversations among NSs, by dominant speakers to subordinates. Suggests that when NNSs don't know that these features suggest dominance in a conversation, the use of them by NNSs leads to misunderstanding by NSs.

Thompson-Panos, Karyn, and Maria Thomas- Ruzic. "The Least You Should Know About Arabic: Implications for the ESL Writing Instructor." TESOL Quarterly 17.4 (1983): 609-623.

Discusses feature of Arabic language that could lead to difficulties in writing English: formal vs. colloquial Arabic; Arabic writing goes right to left, has different phonemes; Arabic dictionary is organized differently; differences in syntax (verbs, relative clause formation); stylistic differences (repetition, exaggeration); use of coordination rather than subordination.

Thonus, Terese. "How to Communicate Politely and Be a Tutor, Too: NS-NNS Interaction and Writing Center Practice." Unpublished paper. nd.

In college and university writing centers, native English-speaking (NS) tutors working with nonnative speakers of English (NNSs) face a series of dilemmas in their practice. First, what is effective tutoring may not be comprehensible. Second, what is comprehensible may be neither polite nor good tutorial practice. Whereas tradeoffs between communicative success and linguistic and pragmatic form also occur in interactions with NS tutees, the hazards of such negotiations are considerably more marked in tutorials with NNS writers. Results suggest that communication breakdowns of these types seriously threaten the tutorial context. (Abstract provided by author)

Thonus, Terese. "'Let Me Suggest Something': Variability of Tutorial Discourse with Native and Nonnative Writers." No citation.

Compares tutorials with NS and NNS students at WTS. Tutors talk more than students in both types of tutorial; this is exacerbated in NNS tutorials. In NNS tutorials, tutors make more suggestions, more direct suggestions, and fewer indirect suggestions than in NS tutorials.

Thonus, Terese. "The Present Perfect Puzzle: Acquisition by English L2 Learners." No citation.

Investigates the use of English present perfect tense in the written essays of NNSs. In these advanced NNSs, use of present perfect is correct nearly 90% of the time. The use of the tense, and errors in its use, are characterized in the paper.

Thonus, Terese. "Tutors as Teachers: Assisting ESL/EFL Students in the Writing Center." The Writing Center Journal 13.2 (1993): 13-26.

Discusses differences in rhetorical strategies and writing processes that might be used by non-native speaking students (specifically Japanese and Arabic students) who visit a writing center.

Thonus, Terese. "Variability in Native and Advanced Nonnative Speaker Usage of Present Perfect." No citation.

Used a controlled elicitation task to investigate the use of present perfect tense in NSs and advanced NNSs. Results very variable between groups, within groups, and within each subject.

Vann, Roberta J., Frederick O. Lorenz, and Daisy M. Meyer. "Error Gravity: Faculty Response to Errors in the Written Discourse of Nonnative Speakers of English." Assessing Second Language Writing in Academic Contexts. Ed. Liz Hamp-Lyons. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation 1991.

Two hundred and ninety faculty responded to a questionnaire to determine reader response to three specific errors in the written work of nonnative speakers of English. The authors hypothesized that readers would have a hierarchical pattern of error acceptability, and that reaction to errors may be predicted by the reader's characteristics including academic discipline, age, gender, etc. Results indicate that the hierarchy of acceptability is complex, yet not random. Academic discipline is a predictor of response, although other factors are weaker. Furthermore, although faculty operate with a hierarchy in mind, no standard sense of this hierarchy exists, which suggests that ESL instructors need to be careful about claiming that certain specific errors are more acceptable than others.

Wilson, Nancy. "Writing Center Counselor Training and the ESL Student." The Writing Lab Newsletter 23.3 (November 1998): 1-3.

Offers an outline of one writing center's steps in conducting ESL tutorials.

Woken, Miles D., and John Swales. "Expertise and Authority in Native-Non- Native Conversations: The Need for a Variable Account." Variation in Second Language Acquisition (Discourse and Pragmatics, vol. 1). Ed. S. Gass, C. Madden, D. Preston, and L. Selinker. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters, 1987. 211-227.

Examines role of expertise in determination of who is dominant in a conversation. Previous studies show that NSs are usually dominant; this study shows that when NNSs have domain-specific expertise that is needed in the conversation, they dominate over NSs.

Zuengler, Jane. "Performance Variation in NS-NNS Interactions: Ethnolinguistic Difference, Or Discourse Domain?" Variation in Second Language Acquisition (Discourse and Pragmatics, vol. 1). Ed. S. Gass, C. Madden, D. Preston, and L. Selinker. Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters, 1987. 228-244.

Similar to Woken and Swales; shows that NNSs are not automatically subordinate to NSs in conversations. When NNSs have more expertise, they dominate; even when expertise is equal, sometimes the NNS can dominate if negotiations result in making the NNS into a "knower."

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