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English for Speakers of Other Languages

Barbara Britt-Hysell
315-859-4150

Writing Tips


ESOL COMMON ISSUES IN STANDARD ACADEMIC WRITING

“Language shapes the way we think and determines what we think about”
         -B.L.Whorf

As a development factor of composition, a nonnative speaker’s pervious English language instruction program may facilitate or hamper the cross-cultural similarities and differences in rhetoric and style found within his or her academic writing. Reformulation is a tutoring strategy that enables learners to hear the differences between their version and the native speaker’s version, to see the similarities, and to learn from realizing the discrepancies.

In a Writer’s Reference Sixth Edition, (Bedford/St. Marin’s) Diane Hacker advocates that both native (NS) and nonnative speakers (NNS) of English share similar challenges with verbs:

• making subjects and verbs agree
• using irregular verb forms
• leaving off verb endings
• choosing the correct verb tense
• avoiding inappropriate use of the passive voice

For a native speaker, most sentence level skills such as spelling, punctuation and grammatical accuracy are established early in life and the awareness of them declines as they become relatively automatic.
For a nonnative speaker, systemic issues relate to innate skills and characteristics of a native speaker such as the grammatical and mechanical practices:

1. American English, vocabulary, word choice
2. articles; count and non-count nouns; when to use and omit “the”
3. prepositions and idiomatic expressions
4. agreement/modals
5. pronouns and their respective possessive adjectives
6. using the wrong part of speech
7. active and passive voice (form and function)
8. sentence structure/boundaries
9. gerunds and infinitives
10. punctuation, quotation marks