ESL Student Tutoring

Bruce’s examples bring to light concerns and difficulties shared to a certain extent by all writers, but especially those from cultures different from that of the United States. Those difficulties included

  • Privacy: ESL students often are embarrassed of having to ask someone for help, fearing that they may appear weak (especially in a public setting where anyone can come and see a student asking for help)
  • Fear of being judged for studying in the United States yet needing writing help (as in Jung-jun’s case)
  • Not having faith or trust in the abilities of the writing tutor (for reasons such as age and background level)
  • Potentially different value systems that may lead to misunderstandings (such as an intent to insult versus an intent to advise frankly)

As a result, it is imperative for any tutor to be aware of these differences in dealing with each student. However, all of the takeaways from these experiences are in fact good practice in dealing with any student. For example, being kind and remembering to smile goes a long way for any student, regardless of culture. Giving a student full attention (and respecting their privacy wishes by asking them right from the start) is another practice that would be well-used for any and all students. The fundamentals of making sure a student in comfortable and feels free to ask questions consist of mostly-universal guidelines, with small case-by-case tweaks to match the current student. Of course, it is likely important to remember that different cultures may require or prefer varying levels of the above qualities, and it is important to keep this level in mind whenever the student happens to come from a culture with a different value system.

Alborz Bejnood, Stanford University ’13

Source: Shanti Bruce, “Listening To and Learning from ESL Writers”



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