It seems as if Plangere’s basic tenet was lifted right from Harris’ opening paragraph. Tutors are supposed to move writers and “help the student become a better writer”. I know that’s stated word for word somewhere in the packet, but it’s all the way upstairs and I’m too comfortable. However, it has to be much more difficult when dealing with students whose second language is English – the language is such a mutt, with exceptions to exceptions present for every rule, and just strange qualities all around. I don’t remember learning the reasoning behind why, when using a conditional, such as “if”, you must follow through with “were” instead of “was”, and I would have no idea how to explain that to a student.
A little interesting bit of Harris’ piece was how he portrayed speech versus writing. Specifically, how students were more honest when writing anonymous suggestions, or even ones that were signed, as opposed to telling what they really thought face-to-face. That’s true regardless of the reasoning – we are much more honest in what we write than in what we say. Speech is much more contained than inked responses; the problem students face is tending to write in the same manner they speak, thus leading to restricted pieces. Thus, an oral argument or debate would be sloppier and less organized than a written one.
That being said, the differences Harris describes regarding ESL students are pretty astonishing. In other cultures, personal opinion and question-asking are seldom, if ever, seen. I can see why switching cultures would lead to a diminished writing ability (especially in such a me-first, argumentative culture like America) – if students are used to keeping quiet and not resolving issues with the professor, how can they improve lacking areas of education? Apparently, with the help of tutors. Overwhelmingly, students of other cultures said that tutors are there to help and assist – a perception I sometimes note as different from American students, who are, I’ve noticed in some experience, lazy to a damaging degree. They want a fail proof formula, or for the a tutor to tell them exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it. ESL students prefer to be on the same plane of respect and be helped in areas they feel they are lacking in – vocabulary, sentence structure, et cetera. Some, that is. Not all.