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Sound Writing

Subsection 6.4.3 What do I do as a Multilingual Writer If. . .

As the final part of this chapter, we would like to provide some advice to those who may be experiencing challenges within academia. This section of the chapter includes tips given by multilingual college students as well as some thoughts from the tutoring world.

What to do if you received negative feedback on writing.

Multilingual or not, receiving negative feedback on writing is something that almost every student will experience at least once during their academic career. Negative feedback is important to be understood as constructive feedback, as the teacher or professor most likely has good intentions behind their comments directed at making you, as a student, improve upon your writing. It is important to reach out to your professor and ask why you got marked where you did if you are confused about their comments. This conversation will better help you understand the areas where you need to improve. Reaching out to your teacher or professor to talk with them about your history with writing in English will also open up the conversation on how you two can work together as a team. Like most things, writing will get easier and become more fluid the more experience you have with it. Just because things may be rough at times does not mean that they always will be. Just remember to keep communicating and practicing!

Student Perspective 6.4.9. Practice Makes Perfect.

Sometimes I write a sentence that grammatically makes sense in Arabic but not in English and I’d get negative feedback for it. It’s best not to dwell on it and just try to learn from it. Like I said, practice makes perfect.

What to do if writing is taking a really long time.

Everybody writes at different paces. Some people are naturally fast at writing, while others may take a bit longer–this is not to say that one is better than the other, just that everybody is different! Although there is nothing wrong with taking a long time to write, there can be many frustrations that come along with slow writing, such as having a hard time meeting deadlines, or spending far longer on a given assignment than others. By practicing your skills via self-reflection, the writing process can begin to come along easier the more you practice. Another option is to practice outlining as a way to speed up the writing process. If writing is getting to the point where it is seriously causing trouble, you can always reach out to your teacher or professor for help. Letting your professor know about your struggles may help to forge important understanding between you two, allowing you to navigate academia with more ease moving forward.

Student Perspective 6.4.10. Writing Activities.

I really enjoy the planning stages, so just a lot of brainstorms, a lot of bullet points, lots of notes. Just like not really thinking too much, just letting yourself write whatever and that might help [you] get out of a rut.

What to do if reading is taking a really long time.

One multilingual student states that it is easy, while at the beginning of language learning, to read every word and immediately translate it into your native language; however, this method can be ineffective and frustrating. This same student was able to overcome their slow reading issues through practice: “I kept reading, reading, and reading. Once you get familiar with the words, you don’t have to translate them to understand them.” Another tip to speed up the reading process is to read the first and last sentences of each paragraph. Typically, these two sentences should summarize what the bulk of the paragraph is trying to explain. Once you get a general idea of what the paragraph is about, then it may be easier to understand the rest of the assignment.

Student Perspective 6.4.11. Alternative Reading Advice.

Sometimes it’s easier to hear things spoken than to read it. So if you’re able to highlight the text and do the right click to speak out loud while you’re reading, that can be good.

What to do if you are asked to do peer review but feel that you don’t have much to offer.

It is important to remember that everyone enters college with various English abilities. Each institution will prepare students for college in different ways. If peer review seems intimidating or you feel you do not have much to offer, just remember that your unique perspective and upbringing enable you to provide valid and distinct feedback to your peers. To conduct a substantive peer review, keep in mind two ideas: Higher-Order Concerns (HOCs), and Lower-Order Concerns (LOCs) (see Section 4.3). Additionally, keep in mind some of the key elements of a peer review, as recommended by Sound Writing (see Subsection 4.3.2)! One multilingual offers some advice on peer review, stating that sometimes it is helpful to pretend to be a teacher, especially if you are struggling to identify obvious issues. If you focus on HOCs before LOCs, it may be easier to locate some of the bigger problems within a given paper.

What to do if you find that your language skills as a heritage speaker are perceived differently than you’d expected in a language class.

This issue is common among multilingual students who enroll in language classes taught in one of their home or heritage languages. Sometimes, professors or language instructors may mark these heritage speakers down due to “informal” or “colloquial” speaking. Although your speech may be considered accurate in informal contexts, in an academic setting, there may be different expectations; in addition, sometimes people are fluent conversationally but not in writing. Definitely talk to your language instructor about your background. It is very important to be able to express yourself through language that is authentic to you while still meeting the needs of the course. Being able to communicate these differences with your language teacher is crucial to building common understanding.

Student Perspective 6.4.12. Self-Advocacy.

I think being able to really advocate for the way of speaking that you know and explaining that this is also a way that people communicate in real life. Just kind of standing your ground.

What to do if you find it challenging to learn a new language for the language requirement.

For multilingual and monolingual students alike, learning a new language can be challenging and frustrating at times. The first few steps are often the most difficult, but staying on top of your work, attending office hours, and communicating your issues with your language instructor are all very important tips to keep in mind. Besides the resources that you can find within your academic community, some students offer up different approaches to language learning. “I would say looking at popular media, like music and movies. I feel that they are very different than reading something academically because the difference is a formality. I feel it can change the language a lot,” says one student. Engaging with and immersing yourself into new forms of media can definitely help you get more comfortable with a new language. You may even find that your proficiency increases when you have more exposure to different uses of the language.

For monolingual readers–how to be aware/advocate/support multilingual writers.

As a monolingual reader, it is your responsibility as a peer on campus to be aware of, advocate for, and support multilingual writers both in class and beyond. In many ways, underrepresented groups rely on voices in power to listen. As a monolingual reader, respect your multilingual peers’ unique experiences and perspectives. Most importantly, celebrate the beautiful thing that is multilingualism. As this chapter wishes to highlight, multilingualism is an asset, not something that should be ignored or disrespected. For these reasons, being a friend and support system for your multilingual peers when they need one is critical. For more help in communicating with or about those with differences, peruse some of the other sections found in the Writing with Awareness chapter (see Chapter 6).
If you want more in-depth information on multilingualism, here are some recommended videos and reading: