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Understanding the Challenges our NNS Students Face in College Classes Leigh Anne Sippel, Faculty – Skyline College Faculty Flex Day Presentation, January.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding the Challenges our NNS Students Face in College Classes Leigh Anne Sippel, Faculty – Skyline College Faculty Flex Day Presentation, January."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding the Challenges our NNS Students Face in College Classes Leigh Anne Sippel, Faculty – Skyline College Faculty Flex Day Presentation, January 19, 2011

2  No magic bullets ◦ There is no “single fix” that helps NNSs achieve greater skill in English  The goal of this presentation ◦ To better understand factors in NNSs’ struggles with English in our classes ◦ To better conceptualize our own classes in order to provide better support to NNS students  With exception of cited material… ◦ All ideas herein are those of the presenter

3  NNS, ESL/EFL, ESOL, EL, LL, L1/L2 ◦ NNS – Nonnative Speaker ESL – English as a Second Language (U.S.) EFL – English as a Foreign Language (outside U.S.) ESOL – Skyline College’s version of ESL EL – English Learner (high school designation) LL – Language Learner (foreign language designation) L1/L2 – 1 st language/2 nd language  An ESL/ESOL student is a student taking ESL/ESOL classes  A NNS is not necessarily an ESL student (i.e., s/he may not be taking any ESL classes at all)  Types of NNSs (presenter’s terminology) ◦ Traditional ◦ Young Immigrant/International Student ◦ US-high school educated ◦ Low-skilled long-term resident ◦ Refugee or underresourced

4  Traditional – middle aged, educated ◦ Assets: intellectual capital, resources, motivation ◦ Challenges: inflexibility, limited patience/receptiveness, don’t blend in to student culture  Young Imm/Int. Stu. – usu. early 20s ◦ Assets: age, family support, blend in to student culture ◦ Challenges: lack of affinity/identity with host culture, bound to 2 cultures in different ways, some translation dependence, affective issues impact motivation  US-high school educated – ◦ Assets: acculturated, positive affect, flexible learner ◦ Challenges: ingrained linguistic habits (ear-learner), lack of foundation in 1 st language affects dev. of 2 nd language, lack of awareness/gravity towards language

5  Low-skilled long-term resident – usu. over 30 ◦ Assets: Motivated, high affinity for U.S. culture ◦ Challenges: fossilized linguistic habits, weak learning skills/intellectual capital, inexperience with academic discourse, dependence on translation  Refugee or under-resourced ◦ Assets: usually highly motivated ◦ Challenges: range from education to health to legal status to personal issues; often employed in a low- wage job; frequently subject to worker exploitation

6  Discuss: what does SLA entail? ◦ Grammar: Form, Function, Phonology*Form, Function, Phonology ◦ Acquisition of vocabulary ◦ Language morphology and word families (success/succeed/succeeds/succeeded/successful) ◦ Register and situational appropriateness (e.g. academic language vs. language for work interaction) ◦ Emotions, insinuations, attitudes, expressions ◦ Culture, history, pop-culture influences, slang, applied theoretical lenses (e.g. feminism) ◦ Affect and identity as a speaker of the language *Larsen-Freeman 2000

7  Language Processing Time, Resources, and Accuracy  Input > Sounds are selected > Translation > Association of multiple meanings, nuances, and contexts > Appropriate meaning extracted > Response formed > Response self-evaluated, affective filter adjusted > Response emitted > Reaction to response evaluated  TIPS:  Don’t assume that Ss understand the lecture 100%. Notes and clearly written assignments provide support.  Consider writing the agenda and HW on the board each day in the same place.  In 1-to-1, always ask a S what s/he understands of the assignment before moving forward.  Allow time for questions.

8  Cultural differences The U.S.Almost every other culture  low-context (relies on explicit information over context)  monochronic (time is measured, takes priority over all)  linear-thinking  focus on exact words, exact meaning, ambiguity not tolerated (“say what you mean”)  litigious and rigid  blunt, direct, self-advocating  writing begins with the central point, then explains it explicitly  high-context (relies on context, implied information)  polychronic (time is fluid, secondary to human concerns)  nonlinear-thinking  focus on emotional content and imagery; ambiguity preferred (“don’t dumb it down for me”)  negotiating, flexible  polite, indirect, face-saving  writing may not state a central point until the end, or perhaps never at all Resources: Iowa State University 2005 Pistillo 2003

9 *Source: Lee and Lee 2009

10  Arabic cultures  Image is more important than meaning; style is more important than accuracy.  A negotiating culture; polychronic, high-context culture  Writers tend to speak in vague, repetitive terms because the point is to create the image and feeling, not to put all the meaning into individual words. Writers often want to argue all angles of a topic instead of focusing on one single angle so as to give a more complete picture. Descriptions can be lurid and sometimes emotionally charged. *Source: Zaharna 1995

11  Latin cultures  Collectivist values over individualistic ones; family over independence  High-context culture  Writers do not always elaborate on what they feel should be universally understood. Inexperienced in argumentation. Values can appear to be the product of lack of examination or critical thinking when actually they reflect the comfort of being in a group and the absence of a need to be independently recognized for one’s thinking. *Source: Lee and Lee 2009

12 ◦ TIPS:  Remember: The English academic style is just a style, not the only style. Don’t devalue other styles.  Reassure: Ss’ thinking or value system is not wrong, but gets interpreted a certain way by American academic writing and reading.  Clarify goal: to become bicultural in writing rather than feeling the need to adhere to rules that make no logical sense.  “This probably sounds great in your language, but in English, it sounds like xyz… What do you want to say?”

13  Think about one NNS you have encountered who might exhibit any of the traits discussed so far. ◦ What were the challenges? ◦ How successful was the student? ◦ What could you do/have done to help the student see the differences between his/her culture and American culture, with respect to writing English?

14 Resources: Iowa State University (2005) Cultural Differences html Lee, J. and K. Lee (2009) Facilitating Dynamics of Focus Group Interviews in East Asia: Evidence and Tools by Cross-Cultural Study 51/ /238 Pistillo, G. (2003) The Interpreter as Cultural Mediator Zaharna, R. S. (1995) Bridging Cultural Differences: American Public Relations Practices & Arab Communication Patterns

15 Leigh Anne Sippel Associate Professor, English for Speakers of Other Languages Coordinator, English Language Institute Skyline College 3000 College Dr. San Bruno, CA (650) sippell at smccd dot edu

16  I have never visited Chicago.  Form: subj + aux + adverb + verb past participle + object = present perfect tense in the negative  Function: time frame and meaning (general life experience, negative)  Phonology: I’ve /ive/ visited /visitid/ back back


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