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By: Mai-Thu Pham

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By: Mai-Thu Pham

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  1. Cultural and Academic Informant By: Mai-Thu Pham

  2. Special Menu Click on an item for fast service • Is Culture Really at Issue? – When Culture Affects Writings • Citation of Sources – Acknowledge Individual Achievements • Hesitation for Questions – Question to Obtain Information • Tutee Unrealistic Goals – A Realistic Goal • Time to Edit? – Tutors as Editors

  3. Is Culture Really at Issue? Situation: Tutor noticed tutee writes in a particular pattern not familiar to English writing system. Example: An Ecuador student presents an argumentative essay with lots of background information rather than getting to the point and says she learned how to show things both she and the readers can agree on first before starting her arguments. Go Back

  4. When Culture Affects Writings From the first sign of an unfamiliar writing style on a student’s paper, tutors should take the time to ask if the student had been taught to write that way. Try to ask a number of different questions about why they chose to write in that particular format and whether if it is something they learned from their country. Then explain to student the American way of writing, but be sure to be patient because the American preferences may seem as a whole new writing system that the frustrated international student has to adapt. It is important to go over this since the student might find the new system as something that will opposed to what he/she thinks is a good paper. Go Back

  5. Citation of Sources Situation: International students having trouble with the American standard for citing sources. Example: A Chinese student putting information in her paper from different sources but did not quote them. She tells the tutor that in China, citing sources is not necessary since there are so many people and they all share the sources. Go Back

  6. Acknowledge Individual Achievements Some students have difficulties with citing sources because they came from different backgrounds and learning systems. Especially international students who came from countries where citing sources is not important. Tutors should not be shy to address issues of plagiarism to students. Both should talk about how to paraphrase from original ideas and transforming them into new ideas on student’s paper. If the student wants to use the original idea, tutor should explain the MLA format for citing sources. Go Back

  7. Hesitation for Questions Situation: Student feels reluctant to ask tutor questions and to question tutor. Example: A Japanese student is unclear and uncertain about what the tutor just said but is afraid to speak up or question his tutor because he thinks that is disrespectful according to his native country. Go Back

  8. Question to Obtain Information To the international student, questioning a semi-authority figure, a.k.a the tutor, might seem inappropriate, whereas in America, it simply means to obtain more information. Many of the cultural differences exist between the students and the American conventions. Tutors need to acknowledge this kind of problem when they notice the situation by observing what the tutees say and do. In this case, tutors should encourage tutees to ask more questions. Explain to the tutees that it is not considered as disrespectful in our culture and it will only help them to learn more. This will help to improve tutor-tutee relationship. Go Back

  9. Tutee Unrealistic Goals Situation: Tutee is unable to distinguish the differences between a tutor and an editor. Example: An ESL student comes into the Tutoring Center with the expectation of leaving with a perfect paper and believes that the tutor is suppose to correct grammatical errors on paper. Go Back

  10. A Realistic Goal Most students come into the Tutoring Center with hopes of turning in a perfect paper after getting help from their tutors. What might surprise them is that the job of the tutor is to help the tutee “improve” the paper and produce better writers, not perfect ones. Tutor needs to be clear with students on their roles, identify students’ problems, and use different teaching methods to reach the goal of improving student’s writing together with tutee. “Sharon Myers, an ESL scholar, for example, recommends a flexible approach in which tutors work back and forth between global and local errors, noting that there are connections between the two. Of course, particular emphasis should be put on talking about errors that affect meaning. It is also productive to address errors that are patterns or that students can learn from. What we need to keep clear, however, is that our purpose is not to scrub the paper so that it sounds like a native speaker has written it. Small sentence-level errors that constitute what Silva terms as accent shouldn’t take up much session time” ( Go Back

  11. Time to Edit? Situation: Student want to submit a statement to the graduate program he/she is applying for and needs help to make paper sounds like a native speaker wrote it. Example: An international student asking her tutor to edit her finished paper so it can be “perfect” before turning it in. Go Back

  12. Tutors as Editors Tutors should remember that editing for student papers will not help improve the writers. The two most pressured situations that tutors are put on the spot as editors are: 1) when a student is working on a piece of writing that needs to be very well written to submit to graduate schools or journals and he/she had worked with another writing assistance through writing issues. 2) when the student’s instructor has an unrealistic expectation for perfection from the paper. These are the only times when tutors should do more than just pointing out tutees’ weaknesses. They can help student to express ideas clearly and make sure the writing reads smoothly, but not to address another issue into the piece. Go Back

  13. For more useful sources, please check out the following: Cultural Conflicts in the Writing Center: Expectations and Assumptions of ESL Students by Muriel Harris Go Back