Let’s Talk! ESL Students’ Needs and Writing Centre Philosophy (Reading 4)

Going to school at such an accepting campus like Oxford Emory, we have a lot of international students that come to the writing center asking for help. They often have issues converting their thoughts into coherent words and sentences and thus ask writing tutors to help correct their basic sentence structure. This is the issue discussed in Lucie Moussu’s article Let’s Talk! ESL Students’ Needs and Writing Centre Philosophy. Moussu states that ESL (English as a Second Language) students are often stuck between two vastly different educational frameworks. Their teaching practices stress form over content, Moussu states, and therefore come to writing centers to primarily fix their grammar instead of looking at the larger picture. However, as a writing tutor, we are expected to instruct students to understand the topic of the assignment first and make sure their ideas fit with that topic before looking at grammar mistakes. These opposing goals can lead to frustration when tutoring ESL students causing both parties to leave unhappy.

For this reason, whenever I tutor an ESL student, I am sure to make it clear that I am not only going to check their grammar but am also going to make sure their arguments make sense. This gives them the reassurance that their technical and grammatical mistakes will be corrected, while also allowing me to provide feedback on the content of their writing.

However, due to huge language barriers, the writing arguments of ESL students often not coherent enough for me, as a tutor, to understand. Thus, a large part of the tutoring session goes in the student just trying to explain what exactly it is they are writing. For this reason, an hour often is not enough time to correct all the grammatical and technical mistakes AND check for fluency and coherency in writing. This is something that tutors can only improve with time and practice (just as stated in Reading 3). I hope to be able to better help ESL students next semester due to my experience working with them this semester.

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1 thought on “Let’s Talk! ESL Students’ Needs and Writing Centre Philosophy (Reading 4)

  1. I am just grateful for this entry, Pari. We’ll make sure we hold an ESL workshop next semester to better address this issue. We should also hold a write-in event for ESL students. Thank you for your hard work and your thoughtful reflections.

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