Week 1

ALL RIGHT THEN. I was so glad to meet you on Tuesday, and I’m for-real excited to talk to you about these things.

The readings for this week lay out some of the central ideas for English 110 as we teach it at QC, which is to say: they lay out some big challenges that we face and propose some ways to face them. So, then: What are those challenges, as you see them, and what proposals do you glean from these readings that seem most attractive/intriguing/life-saving/perplexing for you?

The article about translingualism (by Horner and company) may seem, on the face of it, disconnected from the rest, which are more practical, perhaps, and more oriented toward the writing and scaffolding of assignments. What do we get by reading them together?

I put them together, right at the beginning of the semester, to posit this question:

Could assignments that are well written and constructed give us access to the vast translingualism of our student body as a “resource” as well as a “right”– not a “problem”?

If we agree for the moment that this ^^^ is a desirable goal (we may not), how do you see it met in the syllabus that you’re using this semester? Is the logic of  these articles written in the syllabus as you understand it–and what questions do you have about the practical application of these principles in your class?

How, for example, do you see a “ballroom” (cf. Gaipa) constructed in your syllabus, and how could you use this metaphor to help your students “enter the conversation”?

As you think about these questions in the comments below, I hope that you’ll quote from the articles to identify passages that we should discuss when we meet, and also that you’ll raise questions/concerns/objections/dilemmas from your experience in the classroom as well as your reading.

The first week of teaching is intense! So, congratulations, and welcome to the other side of the desk.

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16 Responses to Week 1

  1. gfisk says:

    You can post your comment below!

    • I certainly agree with the “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach” article. I would expand this idea to those that believe that “varieties of English other than those recognized as “standard” are defective” as having an imperialistic, not just discriminatory, point of view. The main reason English is so widely spoken is because the Industrial Revolution occurred in England instead of any other country and the ensuing power of commerce stemming from British industry forced other countries to learn English language for trade. I cannot help wondering what language we would be speaking now if the Industrial Revolution had taken place in, let’s say Nigeria, where one of my students is from and who told me on the first day of class outside in the hallway that English was not his first language.

      In terms of teaching though, the key problem I see in students having the right to use “varieties of English,” is not so much how we, as teachers, can change our ways of thinking and teaching, since the authors of the article explain this quite well in detail and in general “a translingual approach requires that common notions of fluency, proficiency, and even competence with language be redefined.” The problem as I see it is: will the students even WANT to use varieties of English? After all, they come to higher education to learn practical ways to deal with everyday life and communicate with others. Will they be able to do so if taught with a translingual approach? I can only speak of my own experience as a non-English native speaker who at the age of eight decided that French was no longer going to be my primary language and forced myself to read in English, think in English, and write in English (I still have somewhere a red binder with handwritten English words and their definitions that I looked up in a dictionary). If taught with a translingual approach would not the students (and their parents, family, relatives) feel slighted and confused to be exposed to varieties of English. And how would the students then be able to continue their studies toward a Master or Doctorate? Which Ph.D. program would accept students that don’t write and/or speak the “King’s English?” (Or, at least, our Americanized version of it.) The article’s authors themselves state that “taking a translingual approach goes against the grain of many of the assumptions of our field and, indeed, of dominant culture.” This will not be an easy sell…

      Though they have a very good point, I think that the authors’ translingual approach theory is more of a utopia than a real possibility on a wide scale at least. It might just be easier for all of us, around the world, to actually get on board and learn Esperanto…

    • I completely agree with Weiheng that one of the main principles Horner and the other contributors of this piece are encouraging is awareness. What I will add, is their expression for a need of acceptance and a recognition of agency. This must be a collaborative effort, “teachers (and students) need to be more humble about what constitutes a mistake (and about what constitutes correctness) in writing, rather than assume that whatever fails to meet their expectations, even in matters of spelling, punctuation, and syntax, must be an error” (309). Rachael mentioned the importance of our classrooms being “safe spaces” for our students, allowing them to feel comfortable to express themselves in our discussions and in their writings. I’ve already noticed how self conscious some of my students are in both of these regards. Thus far, my students have been assigned two forms of informal writing: freewrites and Blackboard posts. I explained to them these assignments would not be judged or penalized for structure, syntax, punctuation, etc. As Bean puts it, they seemed to find this freedom “debilitating” (75). I find their reaction ties in to our discussion on translingualism. There’s an apprehension that their use of English, their writing will be viewed as “defective” or “substandard” (304). There was a similar hesitation during our course discussion. Horner brings up the compartmentalizing of language: home language, street language, academic language, and work language (306). As a first time instructor, I’m still learning how to draw lines without creating barriers during course discussion. How our class discussions pan out undoubtedly trickles down into their writing and their perceptions of academic writing.
      I understand why translingualism can be viewed as possibly utopian or ideological rather than practical; however, I also remember being a freshman at Queens College who was corrected and subsequently embarrassed for using words like rhymestones, Valentime’s Day, and expresso. As an instructor, I do not want to feel obligated to penalize students in similar situations. I mentioned the term agency earlier in the post, to point to our individual agency as much as our collective agency as an academic community. Like Horner and the other contributors, I agree certain structural changes should be made within graduate programs to encourage multilingualism and exposure to varieties of languages. In addition to this, graduate programs and instructors need to emphasize the importance of accessible language, accessible to us, our students, and a larger audience. There is the question of whether our student would benefit from a translingual approach. Would this approach hurt their chances on the job market or their pursuit of graduate and postgraduate degrees? No one can answer this question. But I have noted within academia, the embracing of more accessible forms of scholarship. This is promising, an effort to make academia more inclusive rather exclusive.

  2. PS. The time stamp of the blog seems to be 3 hours ahead…

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Alain. While, yes, the idealism in the “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach” article is one with which I agree on a philosophical level, it is still somewhat impractical inside academia, specifically outside of English and language departments, and outside in the “real world.” Though we as writing teachers may agree upon a translingual approach because we want our students to feel free to express themselves, what will happen when they move on to a history or science class or when they apply for a job and the expectation is “standard edited English?”

    We code switch multiple times every day to be understood, or in some cases, such as in college or at work, to reach an objective (get an A or get a job). We are, whether we realize it or not, translingual. Rather than taking the holistic translingual approach suggested by the authors, it seems more practical to consider that there are specific ways for us to be translingual in our teaching practices. For example, we can help students cultivate their ability to understand and recognize the varieties of English, along with associated discrimination and sociopolitical power structures. We can make sure that they understand that while we don’t necessarily value one variety of English over another or English over another language, that the expectation in the academic arena is of a specific variety. Most importantly, we can make our classrooms “safe spaces” in which students are able to balance their own unique voices with the expectations of academic vocabulary without being made to feel as if their variety of English is “defective” or “substandard.”

    As we discussed in our first practicum class, the language we use as teachers differs greatly from the one we use as “people” outside of the classroom. In my class on Wednesday, I communicated this to my students, and knowing their answer, asked if they spoke differently with friends outside the classroom. Of course they do. They understood that one way of speaking was not better than the other—just more appropriate to a situation. (I wondered afterward if they were more conscious of their speaking outside of the classroom after our discussion, as I was after our practicum class. Maybe a few of them?) If we practice metacognition with our students, let them in on the “secret” of the power structure of language that “exclude[s] voices and perspectives at odds with those in power,” and encourage them to use their unique viewpoints to participate in discourse, we can make them aware of the possibilities to “fight the power” so that they can walk into any space (or ballroom) and enter a conversation with confidence. Our goal should be to empower our students with practical systems of understanding, not disempower them with ideologies that may sound helpful on the surface but may impair their ability to be successful inside and outside of academia.

  4. Weiheng Sun says:

    In Horner’s article, the authors are trying to deconstruct the notion of “Standard English,” pointing out that almost no one speaks perfect English and we should be more aware of the language difference we have among different people while practicing College Writing, as they consider the translingual approach as a practice that “teachers (and students) need to be more humble about what constitutes a mistake (and about what constitutes correctness) in writing, rather than assume that whatever fails to meet their expectations, even in matters of spelling, punctuation, and syntax, must be an error” (310). I think the authors’ point is the awareness of language difference and not to rush into judgment of what should be right or wrong. Compared to what Alain said “translingual approach theory is more of a utopia than a real possibility on a wide scale at least,” I think the approach is more about the awareness in our daily practice.

    In my syllabus (English 110 Creativity), I think a “ballroom” is constructed. Students are exposed to several articles that are related to the idea of “Creativity” in different aspects. Students will get a chance to read different views talking about creativity as the course moves forward. As students read new articles in the second half of the semester, I’m thinking maybe I’ll have them pause a while, reflect on what they have read in the previous essays on creativity and the main idea of them, and try to compare and contrast the ideas, perhaps map the ideas on a whiteboard so as to make it clear to them how the course reading materials are structured and help them enter the intellectual conversation.

    I also find the essay of “Formal Writing Assignments” helpful, for it provides many detailed and vivid examples and practical guidance for us instructors. For example, it shows how “slight variations in assignment design” will make a huge difference (75-76) and explains the strength and weakness of different options. It also argues for “preparing a student handout for a formal writing assignment” (83-84) and provides several advantages for doing so.

  5. Tyler Plosia says:

    Much of the emphasis in this week’s readings is on essayistic prose (for lack of a better term). While the students in my version of 210W will be writing responses and critiques that should incorporate this kind of prose, all of these short assignments will be in the vein of what is referred to in the Bean piece as “informal, exploratory writing aimed at generating, developing, and extending thinking on a subject.” (73.)

    These informal assignments – short responses to readings, peer critiques, reviews of performances/live readings – are assigned as parts of two broader aims: first, helping students develop a vocabulary for discussing the work of others; second, providing students a framework within which to consider the techniques and goals of their own writing. Despite the fact that more essayistic or, let’s say, “academic” writing is the subject of “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach,” I felt in reading this piece that much of the emphasis of embracing a more fluid, varied language in students’ prose could be applied to the more creative writing pursuits of students as well.

    I thought of the highly edited and standardized writing in much of the more well-known literary journals, especially when it comes to fiction and poetry. In teaching creative writing, my hope is to encourage students to find uniqueness and distinctiveness in their voices, regardless of how these voices may deviate from the more anodyne and acceptable ones which are so often the published ones.

    Horner suggests that focusing on “achieving correctness” in language “ignores significant differences between world Englishes and between writing practices with English in different genres, academic disciplines, work sites, and life worlds.” (306.) It isn’t difficult to consider this passage – and the larger point about “correctness” in language – in the context of creative writing. But this does raise a question (similar to the one Alain mentioned) about whether or not encouraging individualistic, distinctive and multilingual writing is in some way doing a disservice to students hoping to be published, performed or eventually accepted into MFA or PhD programs.

  6. Farrah Goff says:

    By reading the article by Horner and company together with the much more practical and instructional pieces assigned one is able to implement the methods demonstrated to readers in the more practical pieces while simultaneously allowing Horner’s ideology to guide us. I recognize that the pieces were posted simply in alphabetical order by author’s last names (MLA citation style) but I do think that there is a value to reading the Horner piece first. In reading Horner first one is exposed to an all around teaching theory or ideology and then as one reads the more technical and instructional pieces, the same person is able to apply the ideologies of a translingual approach to the pieces that provide clearer instruction on the mechanics of how to teach. Having read the more technical and instructional pieces and then read Horner’s it becomes apparent that as one moves forward in the construction of their teaching techniques and assignments, one should keep in mind what Horner’s establishment of a translingual approach means for one’s future lesson plans and writing assignments. For example, as one applies the key elements of an academic essay as laid out by Harvey one can think about the ways to understand how a translingual approach affects their implementation. Harvey tells us that “using these terms [thesis, motive, key terms, etc.] consistently when you comment on student writing will help your students see patterns in their own writing that might otherwise remain elusive” however the same could be said for how we, as teachers, comment on a student’s writing. So long as the terms are met, the difference in approach to how they are met opens up the chance for students to use their own lingual approaches to meeting these expectations.

    One of the privileges about being a part of a CUNY community is the extremely different backgrounds of the student body. CUNY prizes itself as one of the institutions with the most languages spoken on campus in the world. With that said, it seems apparent that implementing a translingual approach to the teaching of writing, especially the first year writing program would not only be beneficial to the exceptionally diverse student body, but to the educators as well. For example, Horner writes, “taking a translingual approach however, means that teachers (and students) need to be more humble about what constitutes a mistake (and about what constitutes correctness) in writing, rather than assume that whatever fails to meet their expectations, even in matters of spelling, punctuation, and syntax, must be an error.” This idea becomes extremely important especially as a new teacher begins on their path to give feedback and commentary on student’s writings. I believe that moving away from “accepted usages” towards understanding the difference between a deliberate different usage of a word or phrase and an actual loss of understanding at how the phrase or word should be used is vital to the student’s ability to write. This is where the time in the designated conference hour is useful. During this time, it can allow for students and teachers to discuss the usage of words or phrases. If a rough draft is presented to a teacher where the student commonly misuses a word, the conference hour presents the opportunity for the teacher and the student to discuss why. Is it because of a lack of understanding or is it due to an intentional different usage of the word, phrase, or punctuation?

    The importance of a Translingual approach to teaching writing feels inseparable to me from our praise of writers and their usage of dialect and vernacular. I can’t help but think of writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, prized for writing in dialect and how her literature may have been affected had she been forced to write in the commonly accepted “Standard Written English”.

  7. Jacqui Cornetta says:

    Because the last reading is particularly related to my own research and writing, I decided to do one of my semi-formal reading responses in reaction to the text.

    I’m really driving home one point below, but I look forward to touching on others in our class discussion. Lots of interesting points to discuss, especially how we can apply this kind of thinking to our teaching and connect it with some of the exercises and approaches referenced in the other readings for this week.

    Hope you’re all enjoying the long weekend.

    Best,
    Jacqui

    The authors of “Language Difference in Writing: Towards a Translingual Approach” readily admit that their argument is by no means “all-inclusive on the issues it does address, nor the final word.” (Horner et al. 315) The essay posits that “teachers and students alike and together” can take up a translingual approach, which may well be the only way to embark on an emerging project so antithetical to more conservative and prescribed classroom practices. The authors suggest that, “by changing the kind of attention we pay to our language practices, questioning the assumptions underlying our learned dispositions toward difference in language, and engaging in critical inquiry on alternative dispositions to take toward such differences in our writing and reading,” (313) a path to implementing a translingual approach in the classroom will make itself evident. While the essay invites the reader to imagine ways of applying a translingual approach to teaching writing—despite the applicable signposts it lacks—it first and foremost seeks to lay down an ideological groundwork concerning language in the classroom and in society as a whole in order to shift thinking, writing, and pedagogy towards a more translingual understanding.
    The translingual approach presented in “Language Difference in Writing…” must get over a significant hurdle in order to make its case. One way of phrasing that challenge might be: what is language difference in the first place? The authors assert that the very idea of a language as discrete and stable has to be brought into question in order to better understand language difference and to better utilize its inevitably as a resource in the classroom. Self-identified “monolingual” English speakers must realize that all “speakers of English speak many variations of English, every one of them is accented, and all of them subject to change as they intermingle with other varieties of English and other languages.” (305) The idea that there are many language variations in English, and especially many Englishes in any one person’s English—let alone that all languages are of equal importance—is likely challenging to digest for some readers. This and other representations of language difference are rephrased and rearticulated throughout the essay in reference to both students’ and educators’ roles precisely because it is so central to a translingual approach and so antithetical to previously-held ideas concerning language in the classroom.
    Some of the more concrete suggestions that the authors propose for implementing their approach highlight the necessity to overthrow previous ideologies about languages. The authors call for a shift at the level of educators’ training, which would include a greater seriousness in implementing second language requirements for graduates, an emphasis on incorporating multi- and cross- lingual work into graduate level study, and a renewed focus on the problematics of translation in the classroom (309). These ways of combatting established notions of language learning and teaching by first addressing the education of teachers are indicative of the essay’s focus on dethroning ideologies that reinforce misconceptions about language difference.
    The authors of “Language Difference in Writing: Towards a Translingual Approach” are well aware that problematic and deep-seeded notions about language difference must first be debunked in order to endeavor the important work they call for. They assert that the notion of monolingualism is not only a false one but a historically convenient one that has served to maintain sociopolitical hierarchies. Though its readers are likely left with a barrage of questions as to possible applied methodology—whether or not they agree—this essay stimulates an important conversation concerning the link between teaching writing and perceptions of language and language difference in the first place. As a starting point, the simple acknowledgement that students bring valuable skills to the classroom through language difference—their knowledge of diverse languages and language variations—may be a seismic shift in an environment where certain students’ experiences and backgrounds would otherwise be privileged over others. After all, we are, teachers and students alike and together, “all language learners.” (307)

    • Zeli says:

      Quick precursor: Somehow I arrived a little late to the syllabus and blog. I think, in my pre- first class jitters, I never picked one up… SO my responses and ideas here might not be fully fleshed yet… I’m kind of writing as I read this week. However, I’m clear on the structure of this blog now, I think! So here we go:

      ~~~

      I’m so glad you wrote this Jacqui! I feel more anchored in this writing now. The quote you ended with– that we are “all language learners”– seems to lean into that contested utopian striving that has been getting mixed reviews across this weeks thread so far. That “seismic shift” you believe could happen if students are expansively acknowledged for the skills and resources they bring vis a vis language difference + diverse language knowledge, to me, speaks directly to the potentiality of this argument by Horner and co.

      Given that I’m teaching english 210 this semester (and next semester, english 211), many elements of Horner’s argument that aren’t necessarily directly, or literally, related to linguistics (though language is, of course, the root here… ) resonated with me in terms of how a class might engage with one another as a collective committed to exploring creative writing. The writer’s state that “a translingual approach requires that common notions of fluency, proficiency, and even competence with language be redefined”(307). This, truly, is the only way I can imagine compassion, poetics, — new ideas, even–, manifesting in a classroom… Somehow, the acknowledgement that language(s) are always re defining themselves and, in turn, the merits through which language(s) are evaluated and granted worthiness, is crucial. In this way, I believe that a utopian striving that looks like Horner’s practical, yet lofty, argument is inherent to an commodious writing classroom of any kind. (Unless, I’m getting overly excited here!! ha…)

      Earlier in the thread someone brought up the word “lifeworlds.” I think it was Tyler who quoted the text, stating that the push for students to somehow ‘achieve’ something like correctness “ignores significant differences between world Englishes and between writing practices with English in different genres, academic disciplines, work sites, and life worlds.” Pooling in “work cites,” and especially “life worlds,” feels key here… It implies that we all hold crucial capacities for communicating, troubling and pluralizing english– or other languages–, and making language, that is uniquely bound up to the kind of life worlds we move through. A writing class, no matter how standardized, or introductory, should be in the business of not muting this given. At least I think so… It’s the biggest potentiality writing can have in a classroom or elsewhere.

  8. Woo Ree Heor says:

    I agree with the others that while “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach” offers a much-needed emphasis on divergent forms of English spoken in classrooms, it doesn’t really address how much of a “legitimacy” will be given, or not given, to them in practical contexts. In my class I have mentioned to my students that English isn’t my first language (somewhat casually joking about the fact that I’m their “English” instructor), and I’ve also emphasized that, although some of them might feel their English isn’t perfect, the strength of their writing will really show if it is carefully thought out and well-structured. What I didn’t mention, though, is that there will be (regrettably) circumstances where their writing will be considered substandard just because of their English – that the “strength” of a given piece will not always be judge based on the actual contents of their writing. At the same time, I wonder if I am being somewhat hypocritical by telling my students to not worry to much about these things when I do have to comment on English and/or grammar of their essays to some degree. Although students do need to pay attention to such technicalities to learn about appropriate tone/language for academic essays, I am still practically telling them the “right” way to write in English. I use a qwriting blog as a class website for my students to post comments on (as part of their homework), and I do see that students have varying levels of grasp on “standard English.” I wonder how, and to what degree, will I be able to help everyone write stronger essays while not making certain students feel marginalized or slighted in terms of language.
    Gaipa’s “Breaking into the Conversation” article was really helpful since it provided useful guidelines for incorporating academic discourse into an undergraduate literature class, although I’m not teaching a literature course in this semester. In my class (English 110, on the theme of Monsters), students will read a number of essays on the idea and representation of monsters, and use ideas from them to analyze a visual advertisement and a movie. I think making my students draw a “ballroom” of their own to visualize the relationship of their arguments with the authors of those essays will help them to better structure their own essays. As my syllabus includes this article as one of the readings on writing, my students will discuss their choice of writing strategies suggested in this article in relation to the essays we have read.

  9. Kate Bryant says:

    Coming off this first week I’m already reassessing some of what I’ve done and reformulating what I might do going forward, and I’m glad for these resources as theoretical and practical frameworks for my thinking. I read “Language Difference in Writing: Toward a Translingual Approach” as a useful continuation of a conversation that I feel like began in the supporting material for Teaching 110, though I nodded mmhmm at what Jacqui said: “Though its readers are likely left with a barrage of questions as to possible applied methodology…”

    On page 307, Horner et al say, “We call for working to achieve fluency across language differences in our reading and writing, speaking and listening, so that we can become adept at processes of making and conveying meaning– processes that, particularly when they belong to less powerful communities, sometimes appear opaque to individual readers and listeners.”
    I thought, of course I want to become more adept at making and conveying meaning to my students, and the question of how to do that feels particularly essential when I consider the students I have who are not native English speakers. This was already at the forefront of my mind this week after a conversation with Amy about how to assess (and help if necessary and generally be attentive to) a student of mine who seemed to be having difficulty with oral comprehension but also is very soft-spoken and shy, I think.
    One of the immediate adjustments I’m planning to make is to be rigorous in making sure that any writing prompts, even informal ones, are written down, either handed out or on the board. This should force me to workshop those instructions for clarity and give students an opportunity to refer and respond to something concrete.

    Towards the end of that same section the authors go on: “Writers’ proficiency in a language will thus be measured not by their ability to produce an abstracted set of conventional forms. Rather, it will be shown by the range of practices they can draw on; their ability to use these creatively; and their ability to produce meaning out of a wide range of practices in their reading.” (308)
    I’m craving specificity, methodology. What are examples of the things that make up this wide range of practices? Will I be able to discern them, do I need to, and if so what can I be doing, concretely, to get better at it?

    I think I have been focused on the classroom because that’s where my experience thus far is most intense, but one obvious answer to these questions about how to communicate meaning and recognize meaning-making is that it will happen in the writing; in my written expression of the expectations for assignments and the writing I get back. This is how it connects for me most usefully to the chapter about formal writing assignments, which helped to describe something I was already beginning to recognize in the syllabus– how to layer in opportunities for students to practice thinking and for me to observe how the meaning-making is functioning, in both directions.

    Re: Gaipa, I’m not sure how I see the ballroom constructed in the (Monsters) syllabus I’m using, so far. Students are close-reading a single academic text for the first assignment progression, so if we stick with the metaphor it could be like approaching a lone lofty stranger in an imposing room, early in the party. But we’ve discussed the idea that academic writing is joining an ongoing intellectual conversation, and that annotation/close-reading is a habit that can help a writer begin to engage in a dialogue with a text or writer, and with themselves. I assume the conference hour might be another logical place to talk about and model ways of entering the conversation, with the text and with one another.

  10. Zeli Miceli says:

    Quick Precursor: I arrived a little late to the blog somehow…In my pre first class jitters I think I bypassed picking up a syllabus (I was about to teach my 1st class Tues). I’m clear now on the structure of these blog postings! Since I arrived late, I’m sort of reading and writing simultaneously this week. Not sure if my thoughts + responses here fully fleshed, but it’s a start perhaps.~~~~ Alright, so here we go:

    I’m so glad you wrote this Jacqui! I feel more anchored in this writing now. The quote you ended with– that we are “all language learners”– seems to lean into that contested utopian striving that has been getting mixed reviews across this weeks thread so far. That “seismic shift” you believe could happen if students are expansively acknowledged for the skills and resources they bring vis a vis language difference + diverse language knowledge, to me, speaks directly to the potentiality of this argument by Horner and co.

    Given that I’m teaching english 210 this semester (and next semester, english 211), many elements of Horner’s argument that aren’t necessarily directly, or literally, related to linguistics (though language is, of course, the root here… ) resonated with me in terms of how a class might engage with one another as a collective committed to exploring creative writing. The writer’s state that “a translingual approach requires that common notions of fluency, proficiency, and even competence with language be redefined”(307). This, truly, is the only way I can imagine compassion, poetics, — new ideas, even–, manifesting in a classroom… Somehow, the acknowledgement that language(s) are always re defining themselves and, in turn, the merits through which language(s) are evaluated and granted worthiness, is crucial. In this way, I believe that a utopian striving that looks like Horner’s practical, yet lofty, argument is inherent to a commodious writing classroom of any kind. (Unless, I’m getting overly excited here!! ha…)

    Earlier in the thread someone brought up the word “lifeworlds.” I think it was Tyler who quoted the text, stating that the push for students to somehow ‘achieve’ something like correctness “ignores significant differences between world Englishes and between writing practices with English in different genres, academic disciplines, work sites, and life worlds.” Pooling in “work cites,” and especially “life worlds,” feels key here… It implies that we all hold crucial capacities for communicating, troubling and pluralizing english– or other languages–, and making language, that is uniquely bound up to the kind of life worlds we move through. A writing class, no matter how standardized, or introductory, should be in the business of not muting this given. At least I think so… The lifeworlds that underpin this idea of a ‘trans lingual approach’ is the deepest potentiality writing can have in a classroom or elsewhere.

  11. Caleb Fridell says:

    I should begin by saying that I do agree with the thrust of Horner et al.’s argument: of course, all languages are socially constructed, so “standards of written English are neither uniform nor fixed” (305); no teacher, therefore, should pretend that there exists an authoritative and universal standard of correct Written English. I further agree that the tolerant liberal stance often taken in acknowledgement of this position––appreciating “differences in language use; codifying these; and granting individuals a right to them”––is inadequate as long as it designates “certain English usages as appropriate only for a specific private sphere and thus inappropriate for public discourse”––an implicit hierarchy of “immutable categories and the groups affiliated with them” thereby reified (306-7).

    What I would like to draw out, however, is a disagreement with the account of the “dominant ideology” of linguistic prescriptivism put forward by the authors, who refer to a “political reality that posits and demands what is termed standard, ‘unaccented’ English,” enforced by “an industry of textbooks and mass media-style pundits, along with their followers” (305). The Standard Written English, or Edited American English, that this dominant ideology demands is a “bankrupt concept,” the authors argue, a “myth” whose claims are entirely invalid. But it seems to me pretty simple to offer a descriptive definition of SWE, or EAE: writing that conforms to the arbitrary guidelines of some widely accepted style manual––say, MLA. To recognize SWE as one dialect of English, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist, allows us to make arguments (for aesthetic, political, historical, communicative reasons; not from appeals to authority) about which usages we think ought to be practiced within our language communities; allows us to insist, for example, that “ask” not be used as a noun. But more importantly, I disagree with the implication that the right attitude from the English instructor, by default, is a kind of permissiveness in rejection of SWE. “Teachers (and students) need to be more humble about what constitutes a mistake” in writing, the authors argue, “even in matters of spelling, punctuation, and syntax,” because to understand “that the acceptability of notational practices is negotiable demands more responsibility, not less, from both writers and readers” (310). Ideology operates in precisely the opposite way, I think. It’s not the case that the unquestionable logic of capitalism depends upon an industry of textbooks or mass media-style pundits, whatever that might mean, to set a standard of written English essential to its functioning. Rather, that ideology is the stuff of everyday life, seeping in everywhere; in every imprecise or vague expression, or in every loosened expectation, what will be heard and understood will already follow its pre-existent pattern. Only precise, rigorous usage can suspend received opinion. Inasmuch as Horner et al. enjoin us to be self-conscious about our language practices, to remember that the rules we follow within whichever dialect we are speaking are arbitrary, I agree. But the “responsibility” the authors imply following this seems to me indistinguishable from the liberal tolerance they criticize elsewhere; that is, avoiding arguments about what kinds of language practices we ought to prefer implicitly endorses the existing dominant ideology that says whatever English usage you want to perform is permissible as long as it can be freely exchanged as an alienated commodity.

  12. The readings for this week were and are extremely helpful for myriad reasons regarding teaching. That said, while I did find much interesting in every article, like most other readers, I gravitated towards Horner et al. and decided to concentrate my lenses on that specific article. There is, certainly, overlap between these multiple articles, and it was in fact a slightly personal and esoteric connection between the Horner article and Harvey’s guide that set my mind down its path this week: a brief look at the struggle of incoming freshman, the very students many of us have this term.
    It was the Harvey article that instigated this concern. While perusing the article for use in my class, I realized that some of the terminology was slightly different from what I was accustomed to, nothing too major, but slight differences of terminology were a reminder of our and our students inherent differences, particularly our knowledge bases. This momentary glean from Harvey’s work was brushed aside but did return when reading the Horner article.
    Specifically, the question of: does translingualism mean there’s no such thing as error in writing.” This question seems a bit absurd at first glance, which could very well be the whole hyperbolic, absurd reason. Of course, there is error in writing. What this section on translingualism reinforced for me was the perhaps necessity of grading rubrics where the students can actually see what each aspect of their work will be worth. Through this, the student can see that, depending on the assignment, grammar and syntax issues would be less of an issue, grade-wise.
    It seems that translingualism, or at least reading and grading like one, is more sympathetic a process, in some ways similar to the reading done for writing tutoring. In a rubric one can, like the operative at a writing center, highlight how important higher order concerns are compared to grammar and syntax. And that really is the push in modern academia, isn’t it? Isn’t it more important that our students are creating new, interesting work?
    Indeed, not concentrating on what is important, but rather on style over substance is equally devastating for a student. I have read many papers whose writers, more than likely suffering from imposter syndrome and eager to sound more academic, have written some of the most worthless and awkward constructions in an attempt to “improve” their work. What often happens is a student ends up with passive constructions and such.
    These students, these freshmen, are coming into the university setting for the first time with their own keywords, techniques, and, well, languages. I can agree that the translingual approach (while I definitely need more articles to read) is worth considering implicating, if one does not already.

  13. saba says:

    Reading Gaipa’s model of “conference Ballroom” was extremely useful in imagining an arena in which students can explore various possibilities of positing themselves in a conversation, drawing on their own viewpoints along with that of established critics. That I find to be instrumental in building a connection with the material at hand (in case of 110), and serving as an entry point to the conversation for students, in addition to finding their footing in this so-called ballroom/ dialogue. I find Gaipa’s model to be a very well-refined one among many other possibilities: Gaipa’s Ballroom is vividly explained in visual terms and in that I find a certain clarity which turns participation and taking ownership of one’s language (authority) into a possibility.

    I read Gaipa’s following Kerry Walk’s “Teaching with writing” and Gordon Harvey’s “Elements of Academic essay” which are all detailed, instrumental and mechanical suggestions in clarifying the paradigms asserting the basis for student writing in English 110: Which brings me to the essential question in Horner’s article in translingualism: How does this arena (translingualism) appear in regards to language barriers/ offerings, that the diverse student body of QC brings as a gift really to classroom?

    As a non-native English speaker, the Horner’s approach in proposing a translingual discourse in dealing with varieties of English in class, certainly paves the way for a conversation in which I find many helpful yet debatable points. The point Jacqui made about “what is language difference in the first place?” brings me to the question of how “Linguistic heterogeneity” as mentioned in Horner and co’s is actually implementable in classroom. There are deep-rooted cultural biases we are dealing with as Caleb put it precisely: “Rather, that ideology is the stuff of everyday life, seeping in everywhere; in every imprecise or vague expression, or in every loosened expectation, what will be heard and understood will already follow its pre-existent pattern.“ The fluidity in this approach opens up space for more debates while it raises many questions in regards to its implementation. Does “creating safe spaces” (as Rachael mentioned) —including the whole debate around it— will help us realize this goal? What does “creating safe space” mean in practical terms? How do we build a foundation for a classroom that offers more than a monolingual and conformed way of approaching English? In my opinion the fluidity of this approach is a blessing and a curse with regards to the clarity of implementing it.

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