Saturday, October 25, 2008

English 101

I had a nice evening chatting with Martha. She found me on the computer and so we started in and kept it up for about half an hour. Martha is a teacher of English at a university and so I've been interested in her observations about college students and about their English assignments. Especially with Leiya now in American college and seeing her struggle with completing English assignments, I was very interested in what Martha had to say.

Leiya was never much of a "language" student when she was in Japanese school and when she went to America English class was beyond challenge, it was almost an impossibility! Actually I don't know how she got through it all but the English as a Second Language class helped and her host mother put in HOURS (and hours and hours....) of time helping Leiya with homework assignments. Tetsu and I were so pleased though that the high school didn't focus on what Leiya couldn't do but rather on what she COULD do and she was encouraged in art. This is her major now.

In college though, there are no more English as a Second Language classes for Leiya and so she is drowning in English assignments and for all her time and effort, so far the results haven't been too favorably accepted. I tell her...

"It's okay. So you don't get great grades in English. Just try and pass. No one is expecting you to become a journalist or a writer."

So she is doing the work and I am correcting major problems in her essays. Isn't the computer and Internet world wonderful! And no, I am not doing her homework for her. I'm not sure how long she'll need my help, but I started out helping Takumi too when he went to college and nowadays I don't get asked to look over things for him much anymore.

I think my kids asking for help in English when they've become college kids is rather funny. They shunned my help when they were in jr. high. I would say,

"You have a speech to write? Let me see what you've written so far and I'll correct it for you."

Even the neighborhood English students would ask me to look over their English speeches but my kids? No way! So though they could hold a fairly decent conversation in English with their cousins, when it came to class assignments they were writing things like...

"I always thinks about making American friends. I think I can make Japanese friends better then American friends. Becouse, in Japan, I can representation my self better. In America, I don't know how to representation. An answer is "I should talk to people positively". I know but, I cant. I have no confidence. My English is horrible, and I will be a quiet girl."

(This was an actual composition of Leiya's in jr. high, no correction.)

So what am I saying? I'm saying that Leiya's English, though FAR from perfect and still very stilted, has improved hugely and she just doesn't realize it. Often we can't see the differences from close up. We need to to step back, take a new perspective, find a new time frame.

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

Truman Capote

Hang in there Leiya! You are doing just fine!!!


Kathie said...

Just wanted you to know most colleges have writing centers where the students can go for help. When we looked at colleges this was one of the top questions I asked! Of the 14 colleges we went to only one did not actually have a writing center. They had tudors that met other students in the library. They are other college students that have been recommended and had to pass a test to become tudors.
These students get paid to help the other students.
My daughter is not the best writer and finally last year as a sophomore she started going to the writing center and gets help with her grammar and essays. Have Leiya look into this or you email the school and find out.
This will be a godsend for her.

Feather on a Wire said...

She might do better at an English University. Our country is far more cosmopolitan and we are used to people with other languages and accents.
As an English woman, I was once told in the USA that my English was good for a foreigner...... And some had difficulty understanding my BBC accented laguage, so if your DD has English as a 2nd language in the US, heaven help her.