ESL students vary in terms of backgrounds and reasons for studying at YSU. ESL is used to refer to a number of distinct populations, including the two large categories of immigrant and international students. While ESL refers to English as a Second Language, many of these students speak more than two languages and English may well be their third or fourth language.
Immigrants may include students who are here as permanent residents, waiting to become citizens, or others who already have citizenship. Many ESL students are refugees from areas where war and social upheaval have caused emigration while others have chosen to come to the U.S. for family or economic reasons.
International students are in the United States to get an education. They must be full-time students to maintain their visa status. These students will return to their home countries after getting their degrees.
All students who enter YSU have to take an English Placement Test. Students educated in the American system are tested at the Writing Center. Students educated outside the American system either take the standard placement exam, or are tested independently at the start of the semester by the ESL Director. This placement test is in addition to the TOEFL test. International students and non-native English speakers in the country for less than one year must score the university standard on the TOEFL test in order to be admitted to YSU in the first place.
We are flexible with the students who have gone to U.S. schools for a few years. Many of these students would benefit from ESL instruction, but others have been here so long their problems are not ESL problems. Because they have an American diploma, they take the regular placement test and may be assigned to English 1540 class or to an ESL class, depending on the sorts of errors they make. Moreover, students who grow up in an English-medium education system such as that in India may indeed have native-English-speaker errors that can be best remediated in 1540.
Consult with the Composition Directors and with the ESL Director as soon as possible. Be sure to get writing samples from your students as early as you can. It is much easier to move people right at the beginning of term.
Students who need ESL developmental work enroll in English 1509. Placement is based on the writing sample. Upon successful completion of the course, students go to English 1550. In (almost) no case does the student enter 1540 from 1509, because similar things are done in both courses. However, in some cases, this may be appropriate when the student needs more work.
Three concepts are useful:
Interlanguage: It is taken as a given in ESL and SLA (Second Language Acquisition) research that the old model of behaviorist transfer of habits from the first language to the second does not accurately describe the process of learning a language. Students instead go from their first language to their second/third, etc. through an interlanguage, a natural language that has its own rules. Whether the first language is Chinese or Spanish, all learners go through the same processes and stages, though first language may affect the length of stay in each stage. ESL makes a distinction between "errors" and "mistakes." Errors are glimpses into interlanguage. They are consistent and stage sensitive. Mistakes are slips, performance errors. So you first have to see if the student really knows the rule, but isn’t using it right now (a mistake) or if the student has a different conception of the rule (an error).
Transfer: While transfer is not the whole story, some things are indeed transferred from the first language to the second. Russian and Japanese speakers will have trouble with articles because they do not have articles in their native languages, for example.
Contrastive Rhetoric: Robert Kaplan began the field of Contrastive Rhetoric almost forty years ago. He claimed that different language families had different rhetorical structures. While written American English goes from point A to point B, Asian languages, he argued, are more likely to "go in circles." This claim has been accepted in outline, though most people feel students write the way they do because of their schooling, not because of some mysterious Sapir-Whorfian structure in their brain. The specifics have been argued extensively. Many would claim that the classic patterns are being abandoned and that most people are taught to write in a linear fashion in high school throughout the industrial world.
Theoretically, yes. Students need to be able to participate fully in the university, and specifically in their 1551 class. You need to make the determination that when they leave your 1550 class, they are fully competent to go on. Having said that, you need to be aware of the research done by Jim Cummins in Canada and California. Cummins says there are two kinds of language proficiency: BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) and CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). BICS is the ability to speak and listen about daily topics. It’s why we often say, "He sounds just like an American! Why can’t he write?" CALP is what we are trying to teach all our students: the ability to read and write academic prose critically. You need to make the determination whether the "noise" that’s still in the system (lack of articles, problems with prepositions) is serious enough to affect comprehensibility. Another way to think about this is: How stigmatized are these errors by the academic community?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Is this important? Does it affect communication? Is it stigmatized? Is it going to bother readers?
2. Is it consistent? Is this something the student doesn’t know, doesn’t understand or is it a slip of the pen?
3. Can I do something about it? Can I offer a rule, examples, or an explanation that will help? It’s better to focus on a few problems than go off in twenty different directions. You have a shot at punctuation and subject/verb agreement. It may take a while to remediate articles and prepositions.
Several editing checklists are available on this site. You should diagnose for yourself what individual students need help on, but the lists give you and your student some information about common errors made by writers of a particular language.Editing Check: South Asian Editing Check: Romanian Editing Check: Arabic Editing Check: Spanish Editing Check: Chinese Editing Check: W. African Editing Check: Japanese Editing Check: Thai Editing Check: Korean Editing Check: Turkish Editing Check: Russian Editing Check: Malay Editing Check: French
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