Writing Perspectives from Eastern Europe: Blog Three

Personal Reflections on Writing Instruction in Russia

By Natalia V. Smirnova MA

PhD Student, Open University, UK/ State University of St. Petersburg, Russia

Deputy Head of the Department of Foreign Languages

National Research University Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg

My purpose is to provide a reflection on writing instruction at present and current approaches to integrating writing instruction in Russian universities. In Russia, writing in Russian (L1) has been studied in a number of disciplines: Literary studies, Linguistics and Teaching Foreign Languages, Education and Pedagogy, Philosophy though few pedagogical implications have been made for the university context. Writing instruction has been mostly developing in the field of English as Foreign Language (EFL). Russian tradition of EFL treats writing as a skill (competence) and teaching writing is based not only on the UK EFL pedagogical tradition but is deeply rooted in the L1/L2 writing instruction scholarship of the 19th century (Smirnova, 2015a). As a result, while there is a systematic approach to teaching writing in English (L2), university curriculum seems to lack sufficient L1 writing instruction.

Teaching L1 writing in disciplines is mostly an individual teacher stance on what/how to teach, and perhaps on whether to teach L1 writing. Despite the fact that a majority of university teachers agree that L1 writing is not a naturally developing skill, its instruction seems to be too fragmented and too localized (Shchemeleva & Smirnova, 2015). Moreover, there are almost no forums for disseminating teaching/researching L1 writing experience (in contrast with L2) that could serve as a platform for developing a local model of writing instruction.

Given that L1 writing instruction is fragmented and localized, I would like to illustrate the university writing context by sharing my experience of working in one Russian research-intensive university. Writing instruction in L1 is provided only at the entry level when freshmen students undertake a course in Philosophy. This course is rooted in rhetoric and theory of argumentation as a part of philosophy and aims at providing students with disciplinary argumentation and research skills rather than general writing skills.

Last year, we (me as an EFL instructor and a teacher of Philosophy) ran a redesigned course for students majoring in history. A series of lectures were ran in L1 and focused on theory of argumentation and logic, while a series of seminars were ran in L2 and trained students in applying the new concepts to their writing (Smirnova, 2015b). When students undertake the 2-4th years of their study, there is no course in disciplinary writing. Disciplinary writing is seen as something which develops naturally within the process of communication of academic advisors with their students when they are writing their theses and research papers. Our redesigned course is different in that it addresses disciplinary writing through L2.

Unlike L1 writing instruction, teaching writing in L2 is systematic across the four years of study (writing is taught as one of the four skills). During the first two years students learn general academic writing skills. During the 3rd and 4th years of study students learn the basics of disciplinary writing. This emphasis on teaching L2 writing can be explained by the status of English as the global language of science (Lillis, 2001). Yet, the focus is primarily on writing to produce (essays, research articles, theses) rather than on writing as a process. As a result, students seem to not acquire necessary and wide range of writing sub-skills (planning, drafting, revising, editing, expressing writer’s voice etc.) (Smirnova, 2015c).

It seems that writing in L1 has a strong theoretical base and is closely-related to meaning-making, though it lacks proper pedagogical models. In contrast, while L2 writing instruction is systematic, it treats writing as a technical skill only and ignores some theoretical assumptions that writing is a social practice and is a key element of literacy (Lillis, 2001; Lillis & Curry, 2010).

Overall, Russian writing instruction tradition seems to be hidden (underexplored) in a great variety of local contexts (high schools, universities, regional educational standards) across Russia and there is much which international scholars can learn from (e.g. Butler, Trosclair, Zhou & Wei, 2014). This locality can be seen in contemporary local writing instruction that seems to be shaped by three traditions. First, there is currently a call for researching writing as a social practice by taking a UK perspective in which writing as a mode of meaning-making empowers learners to succeed in university studies and in their future careers (Shchemeleva & Smirnova, 2015). Second, there is also a call for integrating writing instruction in the university curricular and adapt experience of the USA approach (Shchemeleva & Smirnova, 2015; Smirnova, 2015c). Third, increasingly there is more attention given to providing writing instruction both in L1 and L2 and developing bilingual writers within disciplines (Smirnova, 2015b).


Butler, D.B., Trosclair, E., Zhou, Y., Wei, M. (2014). Student and teacher perceptions of academic English writing in Russia. Teaching English for Academic and Specific Purposes, 2(2). Retrieved December 15, 2014, from http://espeap.junis.ni.ac.rs/index.php/espeap/article/view/132

Harbord, J. (2010). Writing in Central and Eastern Europe: Stakeholders and directions in initiating change. Across the Disciplines, 7. Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/articles/harbord2010.cfm

Lillis, T. & Curry, M.J. (2010) Academic writing in a global context. London: Routledge.

Lillis, T. (2001). Student writing: access, regulation, desire. Literacies. UK: Routledge.

Smirnova, N.V. (2015a) History of teaching writing in Russia: key approaches and methods (from 17th to 20th century) (forthcoming).

Smirnova, N.V. (2015b). Writing-to-learn instruction in L1 and L2 as a platform for historical reasoning. Journal of writing research. (forthcoming)

Smirnova, N.V. (2015c). Writing-for-publication: Online pedagogy for post graduate research writing. Edited collection Post/graduate writing pedagogies and research literacies in the 21st century, editors Badenhorst, Cecile and Cally Guerin, Emerald (forthcoming).

Shchemeleva, I., Smirnova, N. V. (2015). Academic writing within a university setting: challenges and perspectives (The case of Russia). In edited collection based on the AWEAST conference in Romania (forthcoming)

Academic Writing in Russia: A Writing Center Perspective

By Ivan Eubanks, Ph. D.

New Economic School

Assistant Professor of Humanities & Languages

Director, Merrill Lynch Writing & Communication Center

Chief Editor of the English Division, Educational Studies / Voprosy obrazovania

Editor in Chief, Pushkin Review

As for the growing interest in academic writing in Russia, I believe there is a specific reason behind it. Russia has no universities ranked in the top 100 worldwide, and only a handful in the top 500. The reason is not that Russian institutions are less valuable, but that faculty in Russian institutions less frequently publish in English-language international venues and less frequently work on international collaborations than colleagues from many other countries. Thus a lot of good Russian research may be published mainly in domestic Russian-language journals, many of which are not indexed outside of Russia and therefore don’t have great impact factors. In response, the Russian minister of education has become interested in educational reform, and the Russian government has provided incentives for universities to get their faculty to publish in international venues and top ranked journals, many of which are in English.

This has led to two problems.  One is that faculty need training in genre awareness, information literacy, and other aspects of academic writing. What passes for a decent article here, for example, might be viewed as disorganized (structurally deficient) if it were translated into English and submitted to an American journal.  Similarly, using evidence, responding to other sources, and citation are all things that are done differently here. Thus a large part of the new interest in writing instruction is therefore concentrated on faculty training.

But training faculty is only a short-term solution. The impetus to offer writing classes to students and graduate students comes, in my opinion, from an altogether appropriate long-term strategy. If those students learn to write well, and if they learn to adapt to different discourse communities early in their careers, the ones who go on to become academics should feel more comfortable writing for international audiences.

Writing instruction is only one small part of this whole trend in Russia. Other parts involve hiring faculty from outside Russia, setting up exchange programs around the world, offering dual degree programs (e.g., students at St. Petersburg State University who study in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences get a degree from SPb State and Bard College, who helped set up the program), and encouraging collaborative research among Russian academics and those from other countries. Also, the old degree system (specialist, candidate of sciences, doctor, professor) is giving way to the American model (bachelor, master, doctorate), as several high profile institutions are beginning to adopt it.

In summary, I think the emergence of writing instruction in Russia is part of a more comprehensive and aptly conceived movement for educational reform, which involves moving away from the German model that Russians initially adopted and toward an Anglo-American model.

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Writing Perspectives from Eastern Europe: Blog Two

The Importance of Writing Instruction: A Lithuanian Perspective

By Monique Yoder

M.A. TESOL – English Instructor

LCC International University

LCC International University in Klaipėda, Lithuania has developed significantly since Harbord’s 2010 survey of writing within Central and Eastern European institutions. Today, LCC has about 500 students with an international student population hailing from nearly 25 countries. About 50% of the student body is Lithuanian while the rest comes from Latvia, non-EU nations, and Central Asia. An Intensive English Program (IEP) was established in 2007 to support in-coming freshmen whose academic English proficiency level does not meet admissions standards. By taking one or two semesters of IEP, students are able to gain basic academic communication skills needed in order to function in an English-medium university. At the post-undergraduate level, two graduate programs have also become available: M.A. TESOL in 2008 and a dual M.A. in International Management / M.B.A. in 2014.

Founded by North Americans (from both Canada and the US) in 1991, LCC maintains its identity as a North American-style liberal arts university with a mission to teach through a Christian worldview. The majority of faculty has received higher degrees from North American institutions. Faculty members are mostly from Canada, the US, or Western Europe; however, one-third of faculty members are from Lithuania. Considering its founding purpose to offer a North American-style university, LCC will continue to instruct academic writing within a North American framework.

Since the 2012-13 academic year, Lithuania now requires its undergraduate students to write an undergraduate thesis in order to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. Washback from this national policy has forced LCC to evaluate its composition and content courses across the disciplines in order to equip students with the tools necessary to perform and write up original research.

As a result, first-year composition courses at LCC now require students to write an annotated bibliography on self-selected research topics for their argumentative compositions. In second- and third-year instruction within disciplines, students are taught how to write a literature review within a content course. These literature reviews are specific to the discipline and follow APA or MLA guidelines, depending on the student’s major. In the year before their final year of study, students take a research methods course specific to their discipline. This course not only teaches students research methodology, but also reinforces annotated bibliography, literature review, and research writing learned in previous courses. In students’ final year of study, they take two semesters of Thesis. The first part of Thesis requires students to do preliminary research using peer-reviewed publication sources, accompanied by an annotated bibliography, and draft a research proposal introduced by a literature review. The proposal then undergoes a preliminary defense in front of a faculty panel as a sort of quality control check. Students who receive a satisfactory assessment in the defense then move on to second semester of Thesis and can then execute their research study, analyze data, write their thesis, and then defend before graduation. Students are paired with a faculty mentor throughout this process to help guide students’ research and writing.

EFL writing instruction in Serbia: One perspective on emerging trends

By Brooke Ricker Schreiber

PhD Candidate, Pennsylvania State University

My comments here are based on my experiences both as a foreign instructor teaching EFL writing in Serbia, and as a researcher in the English departments of two universities there. While writing instruction and assessment practices vary, it is clear that writing is a deeply entrenched component of English language education at the university level. As Harbord (2010) points out, writing in Eastern and Central Europe tends to be taught as a means of developing students’ linguistic proficiency in English rather than as a skill in its own right. This is certainly traditionally the case in Serbia, where writing instruction takes place most visibly each semester as part of sets of “practical” courses designed to improve students’ language competence. Writing is thus taught in parallel with translation and grammar courses, and like them is assessed by timed exams, a structure shaped by custom, by university policy, and by participation in the Bologna Process. These courses tend to focus on expanding and improving students’ vocabulary and syntax, and rely on typical five-paragraph essay types, such as compare and contrast and opinion essays. The pedagogical materials used in these courses are almost exclusively North American or British, although instructors selectively adapt these materials for their own purposes, and are beginning to produce their own EFL textbooks for their students. The ultimate focus of these courses is on preparing students for their eventual work as teachers and translators, and improving students’ abilities to both use and talk about the language.

However, within these “practical” courses (and in additional elective courses), the trend seems to be for individual instructors in Serbian universities to find ways to integrate both practical (business) genres and sourced-based writing into their practice. For example, at both universities at which I conducted research, in the fifth semester of the practical writing course, the midterm examination task is for students to write a cover letter for a job application as a timed essay exam. After several weeks of classwork on curriculum vitae and cover letter writing, for the exam, students are given both an invented student resume and a job description, and must write a one-page cover letter which draws on the information provided. This task, while faithfully adhering to the length and time requirement of the exam structure, gives the students a writing task with a clear audience and purpose, one which aims to be as authentic as possible within the given constraints. In another semester, a group of instructors have developed an exam task which incorporates academic citation. Students spend class time reading and discussing a set of academic sources around a chosen topic, and in the final exam must answer a question about that topic relying on the sources for support.   There also seems to be a new (or perhaps renewed) interest in the use of technology to facilitate interaction around writing; Serbian writing instructors are increasingly turning to class blogs on which students post their writing and receive teacher and peer feedback as a means of promoting the potential for a community of writers inherent in the practical writing courses.

In the Serbian university, EFL writing pedagogy is arguably an emerging hybrid, one which works to fit audience-driven and source-based writing tasks into both the examination system and the overarching goals of language instruction.

Perspectives on Writing from Romania

By Ligia Mihut

Assistant Professor, PhD

Barry University, Miami Shores, FL

(this section is a brief summary of a more comprehensive article, “Academic Writing: Global Views and Romanian Trends” (2004) written by Sonia Pavlenko, Cristina Bojan, Andrei Kelemen, and Mihaela Aluas, TRANSYLVANIAN REVIEW 23.1, 259-270)

Concerns with academic writing in Europe emerged in the 1990s. Pavlenko et al. introduce Dirk Siepmann’s classification of Anglo-Saxon style (covering both UK and the US), the French intellectual style, and the German style. The distinction between them resides in heightened attention to theory, data analysis, or ornate language.

Since a significant portion of the article is devoted to definitions of academic writing but also to distinctive writing traditions—the Anglo-Saxon, French, and German—it is notable that scholars in this region, in this case Romania, seek to situate their current practices relative to other historical traditions. These intellectual traditions, as noted earlier, involve writing in a different language but they also emphasize a distinct intellectual way expressed through logical processes, data analysis, and purpose—to advance a theory, to engage in dialog, or to display eloquence. Such an orientation towards established writing traditions/ histories may seem necessary since Romania, and many other countries in Southern and Eastern Europe occupy a small territory and their languages are only used by a small number of people. I call this scholarly positioning present in other scholars’ accounts from this region an orientation to dialog, a particular openness to engage other perspectives while simultaneously establishing a particular identity in the field of academic writing.

As Pavlenko et al. explain, Romania has a particular history that shapes writing instruction in higher education institutions. Notable is the censorship of written communication prior to 1989—the year that marks the end of the Communist regime. The suppression of writing was first accomplished through an increase of literature reviews, a writing genre that would increase the visibility of established, state-approve works rather than promote original ideas, and through the removal of research from higher education. According to Pavlenko et al., research activity was redirected to the so-called research institutes where control over this activity could be established more easily. Although Romanian universities underwent significant changes especially since Romania’s integration in the European Union in 2007, many obstacles remain standing. Financial difficulties represent a major impediment, but perhaps the most pervasive is limited training in rhetoric and writing conventions of advisors and faculty. In conclusion, the authors propose that writing instruction in Romania would best develop if academic writing courses would be incorporated in a bachelor degree, and specialized writing centers would serve the needs of graduate students and faculty.


Harbord, J. (2010). Writing in Central and Eastern Europe: Stakeholders and directions in initiating change. Across the Disciplines, 7. Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/articles/harbord2010.cfm

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Writing Perspectives from Eastern Europe: Blog One

    By Ligia Mihut, Ph.D.

   Barry University, Miami Shores

In the fall 2015, I was invited as a guest speaker in Dr. Shyam Sharma’s class, International Rhetorics. The purpose of this graduate seminar was “surveying a number of rhetorical traditions from around the world” through three lenses: historical, geo-political, and issue-centered (Sharma). The course also connected students to a number of composition and rhetoric scholars whose research or expertise centered on an international region. As a guest speaker, I shared my research as well as some observations about writing and literacy in Romania based on my ethnographic work with Romanian immigrants in the US and archival research in Romania. A question from a graduate student persisted in my mind weeks after our Skype conversation. “Can we talk about an Eastern European rhetoric?” It is a question that has preoccupied me for many years. The student’s question and a lack of visibility of scholarship from and about this region reiterated the significance of this question: “What writing practices and traditions have developed in this region? Even if we might not be entitled to call it Eastern European rhetoric, how can we account for certain particularities that emerge in this region?

With recent and persistent calls to turn toward writing instruction outside the US, one region in particular – Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union—remains quite obscure in terms of approaches and beliefs about writing research and pedagogy. In “Permeable Cosmopolitanism,” I underscore the fact that references to Europe often denote Western Europe thus ignoring the complexity of European languages and cultures. Such summative designation neglects the historical and cultural specificity of this region marked by distinct, albeit new, approaches to the teaching of writing. The purpose of this blog is to highlight new developments of writing instruction in Eastern Europe through a series of email conversations, blogs written by scholars from Eastern Europe, and articles about writing instruction/ scholarship in this region.

The following questions guided the email conversation I initiated with scholars teaching and doing research in Eastern Europe.

“Can we speak of an emerging Eastern European composition and rhetoric in the same way we identify a US composition or Chinese rhetoric, Latina/o rhetoric, and other Western or non-Western rhetorics? What specific trends/ traditions/ developments in writing instruction and research are emerging in this region?”

Highlights of our conversation:

As a region Eastern Europe is rather difficult to identify. Even more problematic is to define Eastern Europe as “homogenous writing culture.” (Kruse “Writing Perspectives”)

If Eastern European countries are compared to Western countries, we note a “transformation lag.” (Kruse)

But …

“Perhaps there isn’t a “homogeneous” rhetoric but perhaps, that is precisely what makes this region unique–that individual expression, personal or even ethnic identity in writing, is highly valued. This might be constitutive of the writing culture in this region. Certainly, if we consider solely academic writing, there is definitely a gap and delay in adopting academic genres at most higher education institutions in Eastern Europe.” (Mihut “Writing Perspectives”)

The German Humboldtian university model has established an institutional practice that shapes reading and writing practices in this region:

“What the former communist countries mostly had in common was an inherited German Humboldtian university model. As far as writing is concerned this seemed to be partly responsible for a mode of written academic communication that did not favor readability but rather relished complexity of phrase, wide vocabulary, virtuosity of language mastery and general features that were reader responsible rather than writer responsible.” (Harbord “Writing Perspectives”)

“Europe is Humboldtian meaning that seminar writing and thesis writing, both based on extensive source reading are quite common. The Anglo-Saxon tradition of essay writing (which is much more argumentative and communicative but uses less sources) is now slowly replacing these traditions.” (Kruse)

New developments since the fall of the Communist regime seem to be rather slow and differentiated:

“25 years after the fall of communism, and this situation has changed to a greater or lesser extent in different former communist countries. In those countries that see themselves as core (Russia as core of the Soviet Union, Serbia as core of Yugoslavia) the change has been rather slow, perhaps even negligible. This could be because people identify with the existing rhetoric as part of a culture they take pride in.” (Harbord “Writing Perspectives”)

Due to larger changes in higher education reforms in this region –the Bologna Process”—differences between writing pedagogical traditions will be blurred.

“The European reform program known as “Bologna Process” is currently changing teaching everywhere into the same direction so that in spite of differences traditions the current practices equal each other more and more.” (Kruse)

Writing in multiple languages and awareness of multiple writing styles/ traditions are dominant in writing instruction scholarship in Eastern Europe. I would argue that this preoccupation with writing in L1, L2, and other languages is a key feature of writing instruction developments in this region. Although academic writing culture (not writing culture in general) seems delayed compared to Western countries (Kruse), in terms of attention to language diversity, Eastern Europe is a forerunner. (Mihut)

Relationships established betweenL1 writing, L2 writing or writing in other languages are complex. At times, there is a need to preserve the national language, but there are trends of transfer, transplanting, or selective adaptions.

In “Writing in Central and Eastern Europe,” John Harbord shows that instructors teaching classes where the national language is the subject are preoccupied with language preservation as a way of protecting one’s national or ethnic identity. However, in disciplines unrelated to the study of language/ discourse/ rhetoric, or literature, scholars are more readily open to adopt and adapt writing practices from other Western traditions:

“Social scientists, in contrast to teachers of the national language, seem rather less concerned about cultural heritage and more interested in obtaining effective tools for doing their job. Which culture these tools come from appears less important to them. Marine Chitashvili, the distinguished Georgian psychologist who founded the Centre for Social Sciences at Tbilisi University, framed this very well when I raised concerns about imposing the norms of English academic writing on Georgian. She said:

Georgian doesn’t have its own culture of academic scholarship. The way we have written until now is the Russian way, which was imposed upon us as part of the Russian empire in the 19th century and the Soviet empire in the 20th. We have the choice to keep the Russian way of writing which is not ours, or exchange it for the Anglo-American way of writing, which is also not inherently Georgian. (personal communication, May 22, 2008).”

Although evidence is scarce, there seems to be a trend in emerging new “ways” of writing.

“This is especially interesting in the case of Serbia. Serbian rhetoric has customarily been seen as distant from English and very reader responsible; many of my students endorse this view (either with their opinions or their output). However, I had a student recently who commented that she attempts to write in the ‘new Serbian’ style. In her words, new Serbian rhetoric is influenced by English and attempts to be simpler and clearer, while traditional Serbian rhetoric is influenced by French (in the 19th century) and complex and baroque. Apparently there is a ‘school’ of younger Serbian scholars who see themselves as using the new Serbian rhetoric. Among the many fascinating issues raised by this anecdotal evidence is the fact that a writer-responsible style is not perceived as external (e.g. US style) but as ‘new Serbian’ thus making it possible to rewrite and preserve national pride and cultural identity. The new paradigm involve the perception that ‘we are all influenced by other cultures; our national culture was previously shaped by one external influence, now it is shaped by another, but it is still ours’.” (Harbord, “Writing Perspectives”)

As the above dialog illustrates, it is rather difficult to offer a definite answer to the initial questions: “Can we speak of an emerging Eastern European composition and rhetoric in the same way we identify a US composition or Chinese rhetoric, Latina/o rhetoric, and other Western or non-Western rhetorics?” Yet, these questions invite further research and conversations with scholars from this region. In the following blog post, I launched an open invitation from scholars from different Eastern European countries. With each account, we learn more about the teaching of writing in Eastern Europe as well as about these scholars’ perspectives on writing instruction and research (see Blog 2).

Works Cited

Harbord, John. “Writing Perspectives from Eastern Europe.” Message to Ligia Mihut. 16 Feb. 2015. Email.

Harbord, John. “Writing in Central and Eastern Europe: Stakeholders and directions in initiating change.” Across the Disciplines 7 (2010): n. pag. Web. 6 March 2015. <http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/articles/harbord2010.cfm>

Otto, Kruse. “Writing Perspectives from Eastern Europe.” Message to Ligia Mihut. 16 Feb. 2015. Email.

Mihut, Ligia. “Writing Perspectives from Eastern Europe.” Message to Otto Kruse and John Harbord. 17 Feb. 2015. Email.

Sharm, Shyam. “Courses.” Shyama Sharma, n. d. Web. 11 March 2015.


Mihut, Ligia. “Permeable Cosmopolitanism.” Mobilized Subjects: Knowledge and Cultural Transformations in the New Millennium. Eds. Cameron McCarthy, Nicole Lamers, Margaret Fitzpatrick, and Karla Parma. Champaign, IL: Common Ground, 2013. 86- 104. Print.

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Transnational Writing Blog Post

By Moushumi Biswas

Doctoral Candidate, University of Texas at El Paso

Key words: FYC, multilingualism, India, writing pedagogy, language practices

The question I have been asking of late is: How can we re-conceptualize writing pedagogy – and first year composition (FYC) in particular ­– to include the language practices of multilingual students from India?

Even as we speak for the cause of the many Englishes, I realize that those of us who are from other countries have tried to conform to the so-called standards of American English as we strove to succeed in the academy. Thus, despite the inclusive model of instruction that we have now in the face of a rising number of students (and teachers) of color, I feel the need to admit that for the simple purpose of effective communication, and good grades, non-U.S.-born students try to learn the lingua franca called American English. An example of that is the way I have spelled “color” in this article. I also remember the times I got funny looks in class for pronouncing “niche” as “neesh” and “pastiche” as “pasteesh,” which are the French ways of pronouncing them as I had “learnt” (not “learned”) in India. Then, as Victor Villanueva (1993) said in Bootstraps, have I become “raceless” through “concensus” when subjected to “acculturative and assimilationist forces” (113)? In a nation committed to diversity, especially on the threshold of the day when colored people will outnumber whites, how problematic is this practical need for a lingua franca? Does diversity, then, call for the inclusion of everybody’s languages, or in fact amplify the need for a lingua franca for the simple purpose of coherence and understanding each other?

It is interesting that even as early as the last century, right after the world wars, an apparent need to standardize college-level academic writing was felt in the American academy, and First Year Composition (FYC) was devised to meet this need. However, for students from India and other Commonwealth countries for whom English (the British form) is the first language, FYC is an unfamiliar thing. There is no formal writing instruction at the undergraduate level in their native countries and they are expected to learn to read, speak, and write the language during 12 years of elementary, middle and high school BEFORE entering college. Moreover, most students in India as well as the rest of the subcontinent learn two to three languages simultaneously (in my case, it was English, Bengali, and Hindi). Grammar instruction is mandatory just as literature and poetry classes are, for all the languages that students learn. It needs to be mentioned here that while grammar is often reduced to merely the mechanics of a language, I was fortunate to have an English teacher in fourth grade who actually explained the rhetorical aspect of grammar, including the purpose behind the rules and the exceptions! Not only did she teach us about the English language, but also the language itself and how it works. I believe in the universal relevance of this teaching strategy, particularly in the FYC classroom with a diverse student profile. When the rhetorical objectives behind the rules of grammar are grasped, grammar ceases to be a lifeless, mechanical thing; students understand the logos behind the structure of a language and it becomes easier for her to learn it and eventually, play with it. In fact, grammar becomes an aid to learning the nuances of a language. Insight into a language from such a mode of learning is the strength that students from India can bring to the FYC classroom, and share with other learners.

To my mind, learning the many nuances of a language, especially when it is a language with so many variations prevailing in the different parts of the world, is particularly useful. Growing up in a postcolonial country, I often heard about the social and educational capital that the English language carries since it would “enable me to communicate” in practically any continent. So I was taught English (British) alongside Bengali, which, by default, became my second language. But I did not lose my mother tongue because of this; rather, I gained a first language. In fact, straddling two cultures and continents was fun since it added variety to life, adding unique dimensions to my knowledge-making process. It helped widen my mind to the world beyond the immediate environment, not to miss the fact that it was not one-way traffic; the Indian languages added to English too. As it happens, India and other parts of the Orient contributed over 700 words to the Oxford English Dictionary, which are now part of regular usage. “Shampoo,” for example, is a Persian word while “guru,” “pundit,” “curry” and “bandana” are Indian. I think this global nature of the English language needs to be kept in mind when teaching writing in the U.S.

To return to the topic of students from the Indian subcontinent, or with roots there, I would include both students who come to the U.S. to get degrees and go back, and the 1.5-generation students who emerge from the American grade school system. The reason for including the 1.5-generation is that they are still very closely associated with the culture of their ancestors through their parents, an influence that is quite strong and sets them apart from other American students despite the fact that they were raised here. Under the circumstances, I believe FYC needs to examine the implications of teaching “standard U.S. English” to these multilingual students from the liminal space between native speakers and non-native speakers and also explore the pedagogical imperative of a monolingual system of learning and its impact on the composition process of multilingual students. If the key to composition lies in students’ local literacies, then FYC, as a matter of praxis, needs to ask if it should accommodate the literacies of multilingual students to facilitate the composing process. As a student from India, I can say that learning American English was an extension of my earlier experience of learning languages other my mother tongue, which later facilitated the process of teaching FYC in the U.S.-Mexico borderland classroom as I understood how bilingual students thought in more than one language, and sometimes translated from one language to another as they put their thoughts down into writing.

Even though English was my first language and I already had a master’s degree in English language and literature from India when I applied to graduate school in the U.S. (in 2008), I was advised to apply for a second master’s before looking at a doctoral program. I was told this would help me “test the waters in a different educational system and familiarize myself with the milieu of the American academy.” Six and a half years later, as I am working on finishing my doctoral dissertation, I have the chance to ponder over the grad school advisor’s words and look back at every new thing I encountered in the classroom here, particularly those related to language practices and expression of thoughts, the different Englishes spoken by students as well as teachers from different parts of the world, and the way my style of communication underwent changes – consciously as well as unconsciously – as I adapted to the academy in a different continent.

Scholars such as Alastair Pennycook and Suresh Canagarajah have theorized about the benefits of “code-meshing” and “translingualism” in teaching the English language, allowing non-native English writers to take a transcultural approach to text production. They say that such an approach makes space for multilingual students to have their local literacies inform their writing. Pennycook (2007) says in his book Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows that we can’t be proprietory about language because it is neither linear nor static. It is lived and enacted within culture, calling our identity into being as it helps us perform identity. Pennycook believes that a “lack of engagement with the global circles of flow (of language) limits its linguistic, musical and cultural possibilities” (117). While Pennycook is speaking in the context of hip hop, I think in a situation as diverse as the American classroom, there is a great opportunity to see the lived nature of language and its remixed flow, creating change through iteration even as we hear and read it.

In the essay “Toward a Writing Pedagogy of Shuttling between Languages: Learning from Multilingual Writers,” Canagarajah (2006) argues that “dominant approaches to studying multilingual writing have been hampered by monolingualist assumptions that conceive literacy as a unidirectional acquisition of competence, preventing us from fully understanding the resources multilinguals bring to their texts” (589). He asks, “How do teachers and researchers of English writing orient to linguistic and cultural difference in the essays they read?” (589). Referring to what he calls the “inference” model, he says that “if they see a peculiar tone, style, organization, or discourse, many teachers instinctively turn to the first language (LI) or “native” culture (CI) of the writer for an explanation” (589). I think Canagarajah brings into focus a very practical issue here. If the teacher is not familiar with the student’s tone, style, organization, or in other words, manner of expression, then obviously there would be questions about the viability of allowing “code-meshing” and “translingualism” in the FYC classroom. It would probably slow down the class as both teachers and students try to learn, absorb, and assimilate; and given the time limitation of a 16-week semester, the class might not be able to complete its coursework.

On the other hand, one would argue, this joint-learning exercise of the teacher and students might bring forth such rich learning moments in culturally relevant and responsive learning/teaching that it would still be worth it. Considering both the pros and cons then, should FYC adopt this approach and incorporate the notions of “code-meshing” and “translingualism?” I would say that adopting such an approach when teaching composition would ultimately help students gain their right to their own languages, while using language differences as resources for knowledge making and knowledge gaining. Then, how do we adopt this approach?

A TED Talk video dated June 2014 (posted earlier on the Transnational Writing blog), shows in a very “articulate” manner how “being articulate” can be the key to achieving “translingualism” and being understood across continents and cultures, regardless of a speaker’s “enunciation and diction.” “Tri-tongued orator” Jamila Lyiscott, who is a doctoral candidate and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, explains in her spoken-word essay, “Broken English” (link provided below) how she celebrates as well as challenges the three forms of English she speaks: with her friends, in the academy, and with her parents.

Lyiscott’s aim is to help strengthen the connection between the academic world and communities of color outside, and the example she sets in mixing and meshing the codes of three Englishes in the essay could well show the way to express oneself “articulately” to be understood by any kind of audience. When her father asks her, “Wha’ kinda ting is dis?” she answers in the academic tone, “father, this is the impending problem at hand.” On the other hand, sometimes in class she pauses “the intellectual sounding flow” to inquire, “Yo! Why dese books neva be about my peoples.” While declaring that she treats all three of her languages “as equals” because she is “articulate,” Lyiscott asks, “But who controls articulation?” This question is especially relevant in light of the fact that “the English language is a multifaceted oration/ Subject to indefinite transformation.” In her characteristic humorous tone, the tri-tongued orator points out that “even ‘articulate’ Americans sound foolish to the British.”

I think the “being articulate” approach employs Canagarajah’s code-meshing and code-mixing approaches very well without running the risk of code-mangling as might be feared when speakers of different Englishes – and other languages – try to incorporate their various forms of communication in individual expressions. Such democratization of expression through “articulation,” which harkens back to Nietzsche’s notion of language as something “unconsciously rhetorical,” recognizes the subjective aspect of truth/knowledge and embraces perceptions that emerge from different socio-cultural and political constructs while still being accessible to everybody. Furthermore, I think one significant aspect of such an approach is that it would work for students from India, whose language practices were my concern as I started writing this post, just as much as it would for students from anywhere else. In that sense, the “articulation” approach might well lead to a path of effective communication for all, while including their individual language practices. Equally important, too, is the fact that the “being articulate” approach will enable students to succeed in civic life after they leave the academy, no matter which part of the world they choose to go to.

  • Jamila Lyiscott’s essay “Broken English” can be accessed at:


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


by Transnational Writing SIG Social Media Gruop

KEY WORDS: #transnational, #international, #global, #[other countries], #translingual

This is the second part of a two-part list, which is the result of a quick search on 2015 CCCC online program using the above key words. The actual number of international presenters and sessions with transnational, cross-cultural, and multilingual themes is evidently much larger. We hope that this two-part blog post will save you some time toward finding interesting events to go to. Part I is here.

  1. Katie Gindlesparger Philadelphia University, PA, Writing Abroad: The Risk and Reward of Teaching and Learning in Non American Settings
  2. Katja Thieme University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada – Indigenizing Canadian Higher Education: Shifting Writing Assignments in Indigenous Studies Courses
  3. Kirk St. Amant East Carolina University, Greenville – Achieving Intercultural Competency through Glocal Media Innovation Addressing Communication Requirements
  4. Kirk St. Amant East Carolina University, Greenville – Virtual Communication Across Real Borders: How Geographically and Culturally Dispersed Writers Collaborate and Interact
  5. Kurt Spellmeyer Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ – Buddhist Rhetoric in East Asia
  6. Lacey Beer University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada – Translingual Directions for Technologically Mediated Composing Platforms
  7. Lama Abdo Lebanese American University, Byblos, Lebanon – Multiple Intelligences in English College Writing Classes
  8. Laura Pigozzi University of Minnesota – Taking risks with the upper division writing curriculum–visualizing rewards for domestic students and teachers
  9. Leigh Ann Dunning Indiana University of Pennsylvania – Translingual Strategies to Enact an International Vision for Writing Centers
  10. Leslie Seawright Texas A&M University at Qatar, Risking our Foundations: Transnational Research and Teaching at an IBC in the Middle East
  11. Levent Balcioglu Istanbul Sehir University, Turkey – Longitudinal Tracking of Turkish L1 University Preparatory Students Writing in English: A Two-Year Retrospective Study with Implications for Teaching and Curricula
  12. Lia McCoskey Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey – Assessing Gaps in Student and Instructor Perceptions to Facilitate Teaching in the ESL Classroom
  13. Ligia Mihut Barry Univeristy – Escritura en and con las comunidades | Writing in and with communities | Scrisul cu si in comunitati
  14. Lucia Thesen University of Cape Town, South Africa – Risk in Postgraduate Writing: Working with Dilemmas in the Writing of Research
  15. Luís Barbeiro Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal – Research on Academic Writing in Portugal – Different Paths, Multiple Problems Characterizing Writing Practices
  16. LuMing Mao,Miami University, Ohio – Respondent: The Emergence of Global Rhetorics: from Local to Cosmopolitan
  17. Margaret Willard-Traub University of Michigan-Dearborn – The Action Potential of Transnational Writing in the Corporatized University
  18. Maria Jerskey LaGuardia Community College/CUNY, Sea Monsters, Writing Whisperers, and Literacy Brokers: The Risks and Rewards of a Translingual Orientation in College Composition
  19. Marina Fedosik New York University, NY, Seeking Sources: How International/ELL/SLW Students Search, Read, and Write from Sources
  20. Martha Townsend University of Missouri, Columbia, Writing Abroad: The Risk and Reward of Teaching and Learning in Non American Settings
  21. Mary Scott University of London – Chronicles of Time and Place: Learning from Transnational Postgraduate Students’ Reflections on Writing Academically
  22. Marylou Gramm University of Pittsburgh –Beyond the Monolingual
  23. Meghan Hancock University of Louisville – Innovative Responses to Struggling Graduate Writers: Reexamining the Genres We Teach and How We Teach Them
  24. Melanie Brinkschulte Goettingen University, Germany – Multilingual Writing for Students in Natural Sciences
  25. Melanie Carter American University in Cairo – But Is It Revolutionary? The Politics of Risk in an Egyptian Classroom
  26. Michael Bernard-Donals University of Wisconsin-Madison – Jewish Rhetorics and/as Global Rhetoric
  27. Michael Charlton Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph – Crossing an Ocean: The Risks and Rewards of Developing an International Graduate Program Collaboration
  28. Michael MacDonald University of Michigan-Dearborn – Contact and Commodity: Teacher Practice in Transnational Contexts
  29. Michelle Cox Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, Teaching for Agency: The Risks and Rewards for Multilingual Writers
  30. Ming Fang Florida International University – Rewarding yet risky: training the mainstream composition faculty to work with multilingual students
  31. Mohammed Al Alawi Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman – Decision Making during Assessments of English Writing in a University Context in the Sultanate of Oman
  32. Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar – Who Holds the Pen? Feedback and Writing Instruction
  33. Monica Tapia Ladino Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepcion, Chile – Main milestones of academic reading and writing in Latin America: A study from eight leading scholars
  34. Mudiwa Pettus The Pennsylvania State University – Rhetorical Archaeology: Recovering Sutton Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio as a Site of Rhetorical Education
  35. Mysti Rudd Texas A&M University at Qatar, Risking our Foundations: Transnational Research and Teaching at an IBC in the Middle East
  36. Nancy Small Texas A&M at Qatar/Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Risking our Foundations: Transnational Research and Teaching at an IBC in the Middle East
  37. Natasha Chenowith Kent State University, OH – Preparedness for Academic Writing in Doctoral Studies: English Language Learners as Scholarly Writers
  38. Nick Vagnoni Florida International University – From risk to rewards: Engaging academic writing tasks to sensitize students to multilingualism
  39. Olga Menagarishvili Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta – Audio Self-Reflection in an Advanced Technical English Course at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden
  40. Patricia Warman-Cano Florida International University – Problem solving with Paulo Freire: Promoting global citizenship and improving critical-thinking skills through themed, research-based projects
  41. Pavel Zemliansky University of Central Florida – Virtual Communication Across Real Borders: How Geographically and Culturally Dispersed Writers Collaborate and Interact
  42. Pearl Pang Are you more like Fan Shen or Min-zhan Lu? And does it matter? Attempting translingual practice where monolingual beliefs rule
  43. Pravin Soni University of Tampa, FL – Motivating Basic Writers: A Non-Apartheid Approach
  44. Rachel Griffo Indiana University of Pennsylvania – Translingual Practice: From Theory to Pedagogy, A Response
  45. Rebecca Fremo Gustavus Adolphus College – Business as (Un)usual: A Grassroots Approach to Supporting Multilingual Students
  46. Rebecca Lorimer Leonard University of Massachusetts, Amherst – Literate Resources and the Value of Language
  47. Rich Rice Texas Tech University, Lubbock – Teaching Composition in Diverse, Global Contexts through Agile Growth Design
  48. Robert Affeldt Adams State University, Alamosa, CO, Multicultural Rhetorics: Locating Habitus in the Spaces between the Words
  49. Rochelle Gregory North Central Texas College, Gainesville – “Project Xtreme”: Transforming At-Risk Students’ Academic Behaviors and Creating Contextual Learning Environments Composition I
  50. Ruilan Zhao The Ohio State University, Columbus – Understanding multilingual students’ experiences with academic synthesis writing: From a translingual approach
  51. Sandra Gollin-Kies Benedictine University, Lisle, IL – Development of specificity in first year writing through elaboration of the nominal group.
  52. Shawna Shapiro Middlebury College, Teaching for Agency: The Risks and Rewards for Multilingual Writers
  53. Shereen Inayatulla York College, CUNY – Contact and Commodity: Teacher Practice in Transnational Contexts
  54. Shurli Makmillen University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada/University of Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada – Indigenizing Canadian Higher Education: Shifting Writing Assignments in Indigenous Studies Courses
  55. Soyeon Kim Korea Institute for Curriculum and Development, Seoul – Multilingual writers’ voices in poetry as a research method: Meaningful literacy in Sijo, a Korean poetry genre
  56. Steffen Guenzel University of Central Florida, Orlando – Revisiting the Prussian Education Model Two Centuries Later: How Do Longstanding Practices and Values Impact Writing Instruction In Germany Today?
  57. Steven Alvarez University of Kentucky, Lexington – “Mexington, Kentucky”: Toward a Culturally Sustaining Composition Pedagogy
  58. Swantje Lahm University Bielefeld, Germany – Metaphors We Teach and Learn By: Their Impact on Implementation of Writing-Intensive Teaching in German universities
  59. Thomas Lavelle Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden – Risky Dispositions
  60. Toni Francis The College of The Bahamas – Critical Literacy in the Postcolonial Caribbean: Assumptions, Approaches, Assessment
  61. Vassiliki Kourbani Hellenic American University, Athina, Greece – Writing Center (WC) Synchronous Online Feedback: Discovering Ways Tutors and Tutees Co-Construct Their Roles within Multimodal (WC) Tutorial Sessions
  62. Vivette Milson-Whyte The University of the West Indies, Mona – Writing Abroad: The Risk and Reward of Teaching and Learning in Non American Settings
  63. Wei Cen Bowling Green State University – Lessons for Whom? Lessons from Whom?: A Second Look at Pan Chao and Lessons for Women
  64. William DeGenaro The University of Michigan Dearborn – Risking A Transnational Ethos in a Basic Writing Program
  65. Yunye Yu Georgia State University – Beijing Mongolian Language and Culture School Project: A Case of preserving and promoting “minority” culture through literacy movement in a multi-cultural society
  66. Zsuzsanna Palmer Old Dominion University, Monolingual ideology and translingual practice in multimodal classroom spaces
Posted in Translingual Practice, Transnational Writing | 1 Comment


by Transnational Writing SIG Social Media Gruop

KEY WORDS: #transnational, #international, #global, #[other countries], #translingual

This two-part list is the result of a quick search on 2015 CCCC online program using the above key words. The actual number of international presenters and sessions with transnational, cross-cultural, and multilingual themes is evidently much larger. We hope that this list (and the next) will save you some time toward finding interesting events to go to.

  1. Alanna Frost University of Alabama Huntsvile, Translating Translingualism: A Contribution and a Critique of the Translanguaging Approach with Translocal Cases (with Patricia Fancher Clemson University, Kirk Branch, Montana State University, Bozeman, Sonja Wang, Michigan State University, East Lansing)
  2. Alyssa Cavazos The University of Texas-Pan American – First-Year Composition Multilingual Students: Perceptions of Language Difference and Academic Writing Experiences
  3. Amy Hodges Texas A&M at Qatar – Risking our Foundations: Transnational Research and Teaching at an IBC in the Middle East
  4. Amy Wan  Queens College, CUNY – When the Local is Global: Literacy Learning, Language Diversity, and the Persistence of Monolingual Policy
  5. Andrea Williams University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Writing to Learn Activities in a First-Year Anthropology Course: An Examination of Student and TA Perceptions…
  6. Angela Dadak American University, Washington, DC – Putting the “E” in Agency: Multilingual Students in Online Writing Courses
  7. Anna Wärnsby Malmö University, Sweden – EFL Students’ Acquisition of Metalanguage for Academic Writing
  8. Anne Lazaraton University of Minnesota – Specific risks/indefinite rewards: Domestic student & teacher discourses that make international students “problems” to be “dealt with”
  9. Anne Ruggles Gere University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – Disciplinary Writing at a Mexican and a US University
  10. Annual Meeting, Annual Meeting of the International Network of Writing-across-the-Curriculum Programs
  11. Asko Kauppinen Malmö University, Sweden – EFL Students’ Acquisition of Metalanguage for Academic Writing
  12. Bobbi Olson Grand View University – Translingualism as an Institutional Initiative
  13. Brian Larson University of Minnesota – Great expectations: Learning what writing teachers and students want from/for international students
  14. Brian Ray University of Nebraska at Kearney – “Oni One English Meh?” Student Research and Writing on WE and Translingualism
  15. Brian Schwartz New York University – Seeking Sources: How International/ELL/SLW Students Search, Read, and Write from Sources
  16. Carmeneta Jones (with Annife Campbell, Deidrea Dwyer Evans & Marilyn Hall Ricketts), The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica – Taking Risks to Help At-risk Students in Academic Writing in a University in Jamaica: Transnational Connections to the 2013 NCTE-sponsored Listening Tour
  17. Carolina Pelaez-Morales Columbus State University, GA – Faculty Response to the Presence of Multilingual Writers in the Composition Classroom
  18. Carrie Kilfoil University of Indianapolis, IN, Preparing Teachers for a Globalizing World: From a Multilingual to a Translingual Approach to Language Difference in Composition Teacher Training
  19. Chenchen Huang Pennsylvania State University, State College, Lend Me Your Ears: Listening to A Non-Native Instructor in A First-Year Writing Classroom
  20. Cheryl Caesar Michigan State University, East Lansing – Forging Partnerships: Risks and Rewards of a Cross-Classroom, Cross-Cultural, Cross-Lingual Curriculum
  21. Christiane K. Donahue Dartmouth and Université de Lille III, VT – Deep Rewards and Serious Risks: Working Through International Higher Education Writing Research Exchange
  22. Christine Gregory Florida International University – Redefining the mainstream: Serving a multilingual population through universal design
  23. Christine Gregory Florida International University – Risks and rewards of redesigning FYC curriculum for the multilingual reality
  24. Connie Kendall Theado University of Cincinnati, OH – Reframing Resistance: Negotiating Pedagogical and Curricular Change in a US/Kurdish Transnational Partnership
  25. Cristine Soliz Fort Valley State University, GA – Using Storytelling and Traditional Values to Transfer Knowledge, Reduce Stress, and Improve Self-Confidence in English Writing
  26. Damian Finnegan Malmö University, Sweden – EFL Students’ Acquisition of Metalanguage for Academic Writing
  27. Dan Bommarito Arizona State University, Tempe, Cultivating Reflective Translingual Practice in Composition Pedagogy
  28. Daniel Kies College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL – The acquisition of hypotactic structures in first-year composition
  29. David Albachten Istanbul Sehir University, Turkey – Longitudinal Tracking of Turkish L1 University Preparatory Students Writing in English: A Two-Year Retrospective Study with Implications for Teaching and Curricula
  30. David Cregar New York University – Seeking Sources: How International/ELL/SLW Students Search, Read, and Write from Sources
  31. Deborah Carmichael Michigan State University, East Lansing – Using Familiar Genres to Explore Localized Cultural Experiences
  32. Deborah H. Holdstein Columbia College Chicago – Global Diaspora as Assimilation: Jewish-to-Jesuit Rhetoric and its Implications for Composition
  33. Diana Mónica Waigandt Universidad Nacional de Entre Ríos, Argentina – ESP hat trick: reading, writing and entrepreneurial skills for engineering and technology undergraduates
  34. Einat Lichtinger Oranim Academic College, Kiryat Tivon, Israel – The Challenge of Advancing Writing Skills among College Students
  35. Eli Goldblatt Temple University, Writing Abroad: The Risk and Reward of Teaching and Learning in Non American Settings
  36. Elif Guler Longwood University – Teaching Turkish Rhetoric through Ataturk’s Nutuk
  37. Eliot Rendleman Columbus State University, GA – Kung Fu and Mapping the Dynamics of Hierarchy in a Deliberate Collaboration among Writing Programs
  38. Elizabeth Matway University of Pittsburgh, PA – The Child in School: Why Primary Teachers Need History of English
  39. Emily Cooney Arizona State University, Cultivating Reflective Translingual Practice in Composition Pedagogy
  40. Emily Simnitt Boise State University, Idaho – Multilingual Student Agency and Academic Discourse in the Twittersphere
  41. Enzu Castellanos Florida International University – Rephrasing the obvious questions: Why we research ideas instead of subjects to push past the obvious answers
  42. Eric Kehoe The University of Maine – Enacting Translingual Pedagogies: What a Translingual FYC Classroom Might Look Like
  43. Erik Mortenson Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey – Collaborating Across Cultures: The Results of a Shared Assignment between Two Undergraduate Classrooms in Istanbul and Chicago
  44. Erin Frymire Northeastern University, Boston, MA, ‘Assimilation Warriors’ and ‘Multi-Culti Whiners’: The Layered Rhetorical Strategies of ProEnglish’s Official English Advocacy Website
  45. Fatma Dreid University of Tripoli, Libya – YouTube in the Libyan English Language Teacher Education Programs: A Potential Gap Bridging Tool
  46. Federico Navarro UBA; UNGS; CONICET – What citations tell us about an emerging activity system
  47. Gail Shuck Boise State University, Teaching for Agency: The Risks and Rewards for Multilingual Writers
  48. Geeta Aneja University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia – Disinventing the Native Speaker and Reconstituting Language in TESOL Teacher Education
  49. Geoffrey Huck York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Will a Reading Program Designed to Produce Avid Readers be More Successful than a Writing Program in Developing Good Writers?
  50. Gita DasBender Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey – Teacher and Student Perceptions of English Writing Instruction at a Teacher Training College in Vietnam
  51. Gloria Ginevra Universidad del Aconagua, Argentina – MA in Higher Education
  52. Iklim Goksel Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne – Teaching Turkish Rhetoric through Ataturk’s Nutuk
  53. C. Lee California State University, Northridge – Rhetorically Situated Rules: Standard English Policies in International, English-Language Forum Writing Communities
  54. James Austin University of California, Santa Barbara, University of Arizona, Tucson – The Literacy Learning Experiences of Public High School Graduates at Two Private Universities in the Middle East
  55. Jane Greer University of Missouri, Kansas City – If these Dolls Could Talk: B’nai B’rith Women and the Rhetoric of the Intergroup Relations Movement, 1951 to 1976
  56. Jennifer Craig Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge – Success and Lack of Success in WAC/WID Project: MIT and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
  57. Jenniffer Lopera Universidad del Rosario – Bogotá, Colombia – Impact of Pedagogical Strategies for Supporting Students with Academic Difficulties Regarding Reading and Writing in Higher Education
  58. Jim Bowman John Fisher College, Rochester, NY, Writing Abroad: The Risk and Reward of Teaching and Learning in Non American Settings
  59. John Brereton University of Massachusetts, Boston – Global Rhetoric and the Jesuits: A Four Hundred Year Tradition
  60. John Brereton University of Massachusetts, Boston – Global Rhetoric and the Jesuits: A Four Hundred Year Tradition
  61. John Stasinopoulos College of DuPage – Using learner corpora in the ESL writing classroom
  62. José Brandão Carvalho University of Minho – Research on Academic Writing in Portugal – Different Paths, Multiple Problems Characterizing Writing Practices
  63. Joyce Meier Michigan State University, East Lansing – Risk into Reward: Enacting Translingual, Transcultural Pedagogies Among Diverse Student Learners
  64. Judith Livingston Columbus State University, GA – Kung Fu and Mapping the Dynamics of Hierarchy in a Deliberate Collaboration among Writing Programs
  65. Judith Szerdahelyi (with Tatjana Schell), Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green – SIG for Teachers who are Non-Native Speakers of English
  66. Justin Sevenker University of Pittsburgh, PA – Literacy, Language Policy, and the History of English
  67. Kacee Belcher Florida International University, Miami – Entering global discourse through a translingual lens: Helping students find their voice through a universal approach
  68. Karl-Heinz Pogner Copenhagen Business School, Denmark – Text Production in the Professions as Acting in the Workplace.
  69. Kathleen Hynes Indiana University of Pennsylvania – Rethinking the Rubric: Assessment in the Translingual Composition Classroom
  70. Katia Morais Universidade Federal do Pampa – English without Borders at Brazilian Universities: Metanoia and the Creation of Internacionalization Policy

For even more, see Part 2.

Posted in Translingual Practice, Transnational Writing | 1 Comment

Part II: Translingual, Transcultural, Transnational — From Buzzwords to Teaching Strategies

Shyam Sharma, Stony Brook University (SUNY)

In part 1 of this post, I shared assignments and activities that I use for teaching and promoting translingual skills, incorporating transnational issues, and fostering cross-cultural communicative competence in an undergraduate special-topic seminar titled “Global Citizenship.” In part 2, I would like to share how I try to do the same in a more more conventional first-year writing course, titled “Intermediate Writing Workshop,” one that is required of all students across the university. The lack of curricular space makes it relatively harder to achieve the same goals in mainstream writing courses, but I have been inspired by how well students have responded so far.


Activities/Discussions: Words, Idioms, world Englishes— Critical language awareness is important in any writing class. So, when discussing cultural/contextual meanings/connotations of complex terms, I introduce words and idioms from other languages and help students compare the social/cultural construction of their English translations/equivalents in the US. I also encourage students to share words and concepts from other societies/cultures where they see fit. Here are some of the resources that I used to facilitate classroom discussions: this hilarious failure of machine translation,

this list of un-translatable words in other languages, this clip from the movie Outsourced where Indian English and American English clash! Introducing unique words/idioms and language variations prompts great discussion of usage, appropriateness, political correctness, etc; it also promotes the discussion of “standard” English in academic writing in terms of context, genre, convention, and power dynamics.

Assignment: Discussion/Review Essay Exploring Multiple Perspectives— This assignment requires students to write about a contested issue “without” taking a position on it, instead viewing it from the perspectives of different stakeholders (possibly in different contexts, cultures, or countries). I also call this the multi-dimensional research argument. For this assignment, students have written about topics like socialist healthcare system, gun regulation, and the benefit of nuclear weapons (!) by studying how they are understood or practiced/implemented in different countries around the world. Through this assignment, they not only learn the essential skill of “literature review” but they also deliberately diversify the perspectives instead of finding whatever supports (or helps develop) a singular thesis/position of their own.

Assignment: Research Paper on Global Issues— In my experience, one of the best ways to make writing assignments most engaging and educational is by asking students to research and write about an issue of global/transnational significance. Students want to learn about broader issues in the world, and while doing so, they develop not only knowledge of the subject but also develop complex perspectives, understand contexts, and appreciate different value systems. For this research paper assignment, students have written on topics like human trafficking, unfair trade treaties, social change, the role/influence of emerging technologies, and cross-cultural conflicts. I must add that the engagement and sophistication of papers my students have written so far have also had to do with the appropriate terms, frameworks, and guidelines that I provide them in the process of learning and presenting ideas. As students connect text to self and text to world, I make sure that they go beyond the more common, superficial, or stereotypical patterns of thought that they may have adopted from society. I design activities and assignments like this so as to nudge students in the direction of recognizing complexity, embracing different perspectives, and cultivating a sense of global citizenship.

Assignment: Academic Transition Narratives— In classes with newer international students, I assign an essay that asks students to describe and reflect on an incident or issue from/about their first entry into the American university. Some students write about how they learned the terms, concepts, and conventions of academic writing; others go on to describe the underlying epistemology and ideology of university education and academic disciplines. Local students write about their “transition from school to college,” but in addition to that, the “wash back effect” of this assignment on them is tremendous: working with international students helps them to look at the local academic culture from fresh new perspectives where they have taken things more for granted.

Activity: Peer Feedback— In classrooms that are diverse, commenting on one another’s work is a perfect opportunity for practicing translingual, transcultural, and transnational communicative/social skills. Even more importantly, it is an opportunity to learn what “not” to do when they are working across language, cultural, and epistemological borders/barriers: for instance, I ask domestic students to NOT focus on grammar and syntax in international, nonnative English speaking students’ drafts until toward the end of the writing process. I also remind domestic and international students to try to look at things from one another’s perspectives, to have follow up discussions about the broader social, cultural, and historical/political contexts underlying their writing, and so on. And I encourage students to suggest different perspectives, challenging each other to best account for the complexity of the issues they are researching and writing about.

As I hope the activities and assignments above have helped to highlight, teaching translingual skills enhances the teaching of writing and communication as a means to achieve the broader goals of education: promoting students’ appreciation of complexity of issues; preparing them to successfully communicate with diverse audiences; encouraging them to cultivate open minds about differences, conflicts, and possibilities for transnational and cross-cultural understanding; and improving their chances of being socially and professionally successful in an increasingly globalized world. Incorporating diversified knowledge and awareness further helps our students interact, live, and work in harmony with people from or in other cultures and countries around the world. In our time, that world is already with us, and our students need translingual, transcultural, and transnational skills, knowledge, and awareness in order to survive and thrive in it.

Posted in Teaching Tips, Translingual Practice | 3 Comments

Part I: Translingual, Transcultural, Transnational — From Buzzwords to Teaching Strategies

Shyam Sharma, Stony Brook University (SUNY)

When reading the increasingly rich scholarship on translingual, transnational, and transcultural issues in the teaching of writing, I can’t help thinking that these terms, too, will soon be replaced by newer ones—criticized as insufficient, rejected as counterproductive, avoided as too political or impractical. As scholars have started emphasizing (at conferences, calls for proposals, and publications), if our discourse about teaching translingual skills, promoting transcultural/cross-cultural communicative competence, and incorporating transnational/global issues into the curriculum remains too abstract for too long, I think that it will backfire. We must complement the necessary theory-building with concrete pedagogies, practical applications, and accessible language if we want to engage fellow writing teachers, members of other disciplines, and administrators in conversations about curriculum and higher education at large.

Fortunately, in the last few years, it also seems that when we return from conferences to classrooms, we have started testing, adapting, and developing more concrete strategies for teaching the above skills and knowledge. In this post, I would like to share a few activities, assignments, and teaching ideas that were inspired by professional conversations in our field. Taken from two specific courses I teach, one in the Writing Program and one in a different department, these are works in progress and I would appreciate your comments and feedback on them.


The course where I have most explicitly taught the above skills/issues is “Global Citizenship,” which I developed for the department of Global Studies and Human Development at my university. This special-topic undergraduate seminar not only provides the curricular space I need but also requires/allows me to foreground transnational socio-political issues (which students research and write about), cross-cultural rhetoric and communication (which they draw on), and translingual skills (which they practically learn).

Class Activity: Image-Search for a “Universal” Idea— I use this activity in order to convey the significance of appreciating the complexity of language, embracing different societies’ and cultures’ perspectives on seemingly straightforward issues, understanding the specific context of any problem or discourse, cultivating empathy with those who may have different worldviews, and being an informed citizen of the world (as well as that of one’s particular nation). I start the activity by asking students to write down a word/concept that they think is “absolutely universal.” For demonstration, I use the word “beauty” and do a Google search, then click on the “image” tab on the result. Then I ask what students see on the screen in order to create a list of constitutive terms on the board: students point out women, young, skinny, wearing makeup, almost exclusively white … Students also go on to share their reactions like these: “somehow terribly sad to look at,” “wow, that’s what the internet thinks ‘beauty’ means!” and “I don’t think this is what beauty means everywhere in the world.” I don’t even need to wait to ask probing questions for sophisticated reactions from students. Often, the conversation becomes long, complicated, and even controversial (involving issues of racism, sexism and objectification of women’s bodies, homophobia, etc) before I ask students to go to the next step: “Now, add a word, such as a country/culture or some kind of qualifier, and see what images come up.” The last time students did this activity, a Taiwanese-American student pulled “a lot of snakes” from the internet by using the word “Taiwan” alongside “beauty”; I couldn’t stop him from starting to research the reasons because he said he had no clue about how beauty was associated with snakes in Taiwan. Another student who had combined the words “beauty” and “men” was prompted to share some very interesting responses, and so was her friend who had added “Africa.” This activity helps students to truly open up and have fun, while learning an important lesson about different cultures.

Assignment: Essay Based on a Seemingly Universal Idea— In the weeks following the above class activity, students write a short research essay on the “seemingly universal concept,” exploring how the concept they choose to research is contingent in or varies by cultures and contexts. The best part of this assignment is that most students do not conclude that their term is understood in a singular/particular way even within a particular culture or context—not to mention how un-universal the understanding/interpretation and application of the term can be when they consider different cultures and contexts.

Assignment: Multimodal Group Assignment on Communicative/Rhetorical Practices— The next assignment in this course is a collaborative multimodal presentation in which students interested in related issues form groups, research, write, and share their findings with the class. Focusing on an issue of language, writing, or rhetoric, they study communicative practices in different countries/cultures. Last year, students also presented their works at the university’s “Undergraduate Research and Creativity” (URECA) fair, which brings in a crowd of about 3000 visitors during the day. The topics of their presentations included “how cultures shape our expression of emotions,” “food as a means of expression in different countries,” “positive stereotypes about East Asian students on campus,” and “complexities of greeting in different cultures.” As it was also typical of all groups, the last project started from an attempt to find out what was generally the most common form of greeting in home cultures of the group’s members: India, Guatemala, and the US (Pennsylvania in this case). As they researched and discussed their own experiences of Namaste, verbal greeting, and shaking hands respectively, these students decided to discuss how complex the practices of those greetings were in actual contexts. The second generation Indian-American student who was in this group, for instance, shared the experience of getting extremely confused about whether to touch the feet of a relative whom he had gone to pick her up at the airport: he didn’t know what exactly the relation itself was, what educational and social backgrounds his relative came from, and whether she would care about the awkward looks they would get from people around if he touched her feet. He was sure that doing Namaste wouldn’t be enough, so he awkwardly bowed his head and put his hand across his chest, causing a communicative failure in effect. “Don’t tell me that everyone does Namaste in India,” concluded this student.

Assignment: Reading Response on Rhetorical Traditions— Focusing on “transcultural” knowledge and communication, students read texts on, research, and discuss in class their own experiences about living in “transnational” communities (or communities that constantly cross borders of language, culture, nationality, and identity). Based on readings about different rhetorical traditions, they write responses by comparing similar rhetorical themes and communicative practices in different cultures. Some of the rhetorical traditions/issues that students read and discuss/write about include the ancient Indian Nyaya Sutra tradition, the place of memory in Jewish culture, silence in Egyptian society, the use of classical texts in China, writing style in Japan, and repetition in Middle Eastern rhetorics.

The above activities and assignments have greatly helped my students to engage in what LuMing Mao calls the “reflective encounter,” or learning about rhetorical traditions beyond one’s local society/culture in order to reflect on the complexity of one’s own. Contrary to my initial concerns, students have done sophisticated research and are highly motivated to write and present their findings/ideas. Some domestic students have multicultural heritages, others are curious to learn, and international students are able to write about contexts and cultures they come from. All students anticipate navigating different professions, societies, and cultures in their lives. And they understand how such activities and assignments help them prepare for it.

—– part 2 of this blog can be read here ——

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Navigating US Academy

My personal experience as a student and a writing instructor at multiple sites in the United States and abroad tells me that transnational writing scholars and instructors are uniquely positioned to teach writing to a diverse body of students in the US higher education.

I am currently a full-time faculty at California State University, Northridge—a public institution located in Los Angeles. Before moving here in the Fall of 2014, I was a graduate student at Syracuse University, a research university in upstate New York. All my pre-doctoral education, however, was completed in a small South Asian country, Nepal. As an international multilingual student, I was one of the millions of international students in the US and one of the thousands at Syracuse.

In my early years as an international graduate student in a school in Louisiana (for a semester in the Spring of 2008) and then at Syracuse after that, I struggled to step up and participate in group discussions or seminar-format classes. I still remember that I never spoke up except as an in-class presentation leader in the first composition practicum I had to take in Louisiana, not because I had nothing to say, but because I could not follow the conversation and identify the right time to intervene or take turns, partly because I was not yet accustomed to an American accent and seminar class format. That had a direct impact on my grade, and overall performance in the class, and perhaps even on my learning. Even though the course instructor had forewarned me about the impact of my non-participation in the final grade, I remained silent the entire semester. In other lecture-based classes though, I could do pretty well because that format was something I was familiar with, and it did not require regular participation in conversation other than during occasional group projects inside and outside the class.

I should mention here that my story is not unique. Like me, many international students struggle to participate in class discussion, and group work not because they are incapable or deficient, but because US discussion-based classroom is different from that of their home countries. In their home countries, many of them are systematically discouraged from speaking up in classes. In lecture-based British model classes, particularly in Asian and African countries, speaking up or expressing different viewpoints in the class is often interpreted as disruption or, even worse, as a challenge to the teacher’s authority in the class; therefore, maintaining silence in the class is seen as a virtue.

Another challenge I faced as an international student was composing assignments in the style expected in the US academy. I had done a number of term papers and an independent study in my Master’s degree in Nepal, but those projects were not necessarily thesis-driven and based on appropriate source use. So, when I was required to produce thesis-driven argumentative essays with proper source documentation all at once, I struggled to meet the demands. It took me few years of training and immersion in the American academic system before I could compose something close to what professors saw as persuasive academic writing.

So, my cross-border academic journey has been characterized by learning by trial and error, and frequent intercultural, inter-linguistic and inter-academic adaptations. As a degree-seeking student away from my place of origin, I have been to the classes where the student population was very diverse, and I have also been to the classes where I was the only international student. As a writing instructor, I have had a similar experience.

I have taught classes with really diverse student bodies, and I have also taught classes with few international students or none at all. I believe that my positionality speaks particularly to the position of many international students in American higher education. My ‘double vision’—as an outsider and an insider in relation to the American academy—, however, can inform the struggles and challenges both domestic American and international students face in engaging various issues associated with writing in multiple mediums, for multiple audiences, and for multiple purposes. Based on my experience of schooling and teaching in multiple academic sites (Nepal, Louisiana, New York, and now California) and in multiple academic systems (British and American), and my reading and research into diverse but closely interconnected fields of globalization, intercultural communication, media/new media studies, literacy studies, World Englishes, and rhetoric and composition, I can say that there are plural forms of academic writing; there are multiple ways of organizing ideas in academic writing; and there are multiple forms of old and new media writing. Similarly, I can attest that writing is done in multiple languages and English varieties, and now increasingly in multiple media and modes, and that writing now crosses borders and cultures like never before.

In light of this quick overview of my experiences, it could be safe to say that the transnational writing instructors and scholars possess critical knowledge, and can serve as valuable resources within and outside the diverse writing classrooms. They can help students negotiate cross-cultural and cross-linguistic communication challenges; they can bring into relief the situated nature of writing; and they can discuss the expanded notion of writing with students–how writing is understood differently across cultures, how it is taught differently across institutions around the world, and how it has evolved with time and technology, but differently across regions of the world. In addition, these instructors can recognize the different writing needs of students, and respond promptly with appropriate resources, which can help make their writing better and effective. Such a scaffolding can also result into students’ understanding of writing across borders and their genuine appreciation of diverse modes of communication.

Santosh Khadka, PhD

California State University, Northridge

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What is this space all about?

This is a blog for the Transnational Writing Special Interest Group at Conference on College Composition and Communication. Facilitated by a group of Cs members who also maintain a Facebook group and a Twitter account, it serves as a platform for transnational writing scholars and teachers to explore ideas, integrate media, and create resources that can be useful for the future. It will feature regular blog posts–stories, reflections, essays, and interactive threads around questions and issues associated with transnational writing. A separate section of the blog will curate resources relevant to transnational writing, and publish or promote already existing resources that help the community learn about teaching, scholarship, and other activities in different contexts/countries. Therefore, we invite you all to contribute blog posts, share resources, and interact productively with scholars and teachers from around the world in this platform.

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