In general, what do I need to know about ESL writers?
Learning to communicate effectively in a different language is a challenging task. It becomes even more challenging in a university setting, where students are asked to read and write complex and often culturally and discipline specific texts. Consider the following:
1. English (with its 500,000 words, irregular grammar patterns, many idioms, and ever-changing slang) is a difficult language to learn.
2. Real language aquisition can take six to ten years.
3. ESL students will likely always write "with an accent."
4. ESL students may not have developed a writing process, understanding the brainstorming, drafting and revising steps of writing.
5. American definitions of plagiarism are not universal, and citation of sources is not important in other cultures.
6. American organizational patterns (with the linear rhetorical construction of thesis, main points, and conclusion) are not universal; some cultures prefer inductive rhetorical construction (with several points leading to a thesis or claim).
With this in mind, we need to be thoughtful in responding to ESL student writing.