ENGLISH 343Week 6: Cross-cultural differences in writing, culturalrepresentation constructed by dominant discourses
Agenda Your Voices: General discussion on three articles Kubota’s work1) Japanese culture constructed by discourse2) Unfinished Knowledge: The story of Barbara Connor’s article on CR Documentary: Writing Across Borders Discussion and group work on responding to an L2 writingREMINDER: Please double check if your individual blog is visible onthe class blog.
The goal of today’s class is To understand the influence of cultures on our writing To understand and go beyond cultural relativism in writing classrooms. And, to understand cultural representation as constructed by discourse. To come to an understanding that cultural differences are constructed by discourses rather than existing a priori (notion of culture as a discursive construct) To problemitize binaries in Japanese culture (as an example) To discuss various approaches to ESL teaching (specifically on writing): Acculturation model, pluralistic and critical literacy. To understand what CR is and how we can apply this knowledge to ESL/EFL teachingSee the video by Edward Said:
Orientalism_Interview with Edward Said http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwCOSkXR_Cw
Initial Discussion on CR Consider your criteria of “good writing”. In what ways do your criteria reflect norms of your native language and academic culture? In what ways may your own criteria differ from those of someone from a different country and language background? As a teacher, how could you begin to understand the writing styles and norms of other cultures? As English becomes more and more a language used all over he world among native and non-native speakers alike, discuss your opinions on the importance of teaching and expecting proficiency in the norm of the dominant mode? Who establishes these norms and for whom are they most relevant? How important is it to uphold those norms in the academic setting?
Alexis says According to Kubota, “ESL teachers need to ensure that their students have opportunities to develop skills that allow them to participate fully in the dominant society” (p. 30). Also, teacher and learners need to develop a critical awareness of the social-cultural consequences of using the dominant language and to find ways to incorporate the dominant language to create different meanings. I agree with this statement. Teachers need to help ESL students develop those skills in order to be successful in society but make sure that they preserve their culture differences. My question is how do teachers find this balance of teaching English writing to speakers of another language and help them uphold their voice in their own culture? Also, how do teachers of ESL students not stereotype a cultures writing when teaching a student about writing in English? How do you learn about a student’s writing culture without being stereotypical?
Joe says… I am in complete disagreement with Atkinson’s belief that “critical thinking is a social practice unique to western cultural traditions (11). Dangerous assumptions like this are what often limit ESL students and coerces them into negative self-fulfilling prophecies. As we have discussed in this class many times, each distinct culture is also completely filled with individual differences and variety. It is simply wrong to say that an entire culture is incapable of critical thinking. However, I enjoyed reading Kubota’s narrative about Barbara. Barbara’s story should inspire those teachers that feel they are not “diverse” or have never had an opportunity to travel outside their own culture. Without ever leaving the country or learning another language, Barbara transformed from a culturally unaware teacher to a complete advocate of multicultural education. With the help of her colleague Carol and her love interest David, Barbara changed how she ran her classroom. For example, she phrased questions and comparisons to avoid making American culture seem more sophisticated or superior to other cultures. Even something as simple as a teacher’s word choice can change the comfort level of the students in the classroom.
Emily says… According to Kubota’s 1999 article, people define cultures with labels, whether or not they know them to be true. However, because the labels are distinctive, the labels are perceived as correct. This knowledge is not true, scientific, or neutral. It just allows groups to have power over each other. When people continue to use the labels, it enforces the different levels of stereotypes and power. For example, many people say “no homo” as if there is something wrong with being homosexual. The more that people use this phrase, the more it is reinforced as a norm and as an accepted stereotype. Kubota states, "It is in discourse that power and knowledge are joined together," which means that through discourse, power is spread. Labels create difference instead of aiding the togetherness of cultures. Concepts of certain groups are constructed by others; it does not define the group because the labels are not self- reflective.
Alice says… Cultural understanding cannot exist outside of discourse, yet we can critically examine this discourse in order to understand power relationships among cultures. With an awareness of discourse, we can start to combat colonial mindsets, such as Otherness. (I also found it interesting to learn that cultural groups can also use discourse to their own advantage, as illustrated by Japanese theories of nohonjinron and nihon bunkaron. I was aware that colonizers used discourse to maintain power, but I was surprised to see that discourse was also used in response to Western dominance.)
Alice continues… I agree with Kubota that English teachers need to be careful about connecting their students’ actions with social and ideological values of a certain culture. Kubota maintains that “power…is not unidirectional, nor is discourse monolithic” (“Japanese Culture Constructed by Discourses” 22). In other words, discourse is multi-facted. As English teachers, we should feel challenged to help our students develop awareness and think critically about the functions and purposes of cultural discourse. We should respect our students’ linguistic backgrounds in order to help create equality. We should give students an opportunity to critically analyze their own languages, as well as English. I believe that if we help them, they can develop an understanding of the discourse of power in order to negotiate and create their own individual identities in the midst of (and perhaps in spite of) cultural determinism and Orientalism. I think this is where the idea of contrastive rhetoric can come into play. If we, as teachers, can understand some of the differences in writing across cultures, then we can help our students write to an English-speaking audience with specific expectations while still respecting various writing styles.
Tomas says… I guess before that and since then I havent much considered or entertained the idea that individuals from other cultures will approach communication differently. I feel like contrastive rhetoric is an off-shoot of discourse analytics, but in a different form. I suppose were all kind of familiar with the notion that people approach communication in different ways, and that misunderstandings typically arise from a lack of understanding between interlocutors. So I see how it is important for us as future educators of English as a second language to be cognizant about these issues that will inevitably arise with teaching the rhetorical stylings of English. It is a delicate balance between helping students maintain their identity and voice while also successfully using the rhetorical strategies and devices of their L2.1. Is anyone else becoming really, really hyper-critical of theconversations they have with others? 2. Why isnt there more of anemphasis placed on educating people about this stuff earlier in life? Itseems like this knowledge would be valuable to more than just futureESL teachers.
Kubota, R. (1999)Japanese culture constructed.
Kubota (1999) What are the goals of Kubota’s 1999 article? What does she do in this article to convey her arguments? What are some of the rhetorical strategies she uses to convince the readers?
Her arguments She problematizes taken-for-granted cultural labels found in the applied linguistic literature by taking Japanese culture as an example. She critiques essentialized representation of Japanese culture found in various articles and moves us beyond the binary definitions.e.g. Asian culture values collectivism and discouragescreativity and critical-thinking. She finds out how these arguments are a reflection of the constructed Other in colonial discourse. She defines cultural difference as involving complex issues that require critical scrutiny. She claims that Japanese identity and national character was defined by “nihonjinron”
Kubota argues…(p.15) The argument here is not that cultural differences and human agency do not exist. The way people think, speak, write, and behave is certainly influenced by culture in which they are brought up, and certain cultural differences indeed exist. Nor do I reject the notion that people as human agents have individual lived experiences and voices that may not be shared by other members of the same culture. Although cultural similarities, diversities and individual factors as well as cultural differences are worth exploring, instead I attempt a critique from a different perspective, namely, a critique of cultural representation from the concept of discourse and power/knowledge
Group work In your groups, identify the essentialist and determinist cultural assumptions that exist about Japanese culture.
Theories on the Japanese Nihonjinron (gained popularity in 60s and 70s)—the notion of cultural uniquenessThe characteristics of Japanese identity (like many othernationalities) are ideological constructs.Japan went through an economic growth and westernization in60s and 70s. To explain this economic success, theoristsclaimed that Japanese people exhibit unique characteristics(e.g. groupism, homogeneity). This ideology emerged from thesentiment that Japan has lost their traditional values during therapid postwar industrialization. Since then, Western style hasbeen dominating both public and private sphere (they wantedto reclaim their identity). This notion has served the interest ofpolitical leaders. The concepts of harmony, groupism andhomogeneity reduce conflicts in the society (pg. 20-21)
Criticism of Nihonjinor Monolithic, essentialist and reductionist view of Japanese culture—promoted as a form of cultural nationalism (Yoshino, 1992) Befu (1987) says that this ideology (the notion that Japanese people and culture are unique) works to rescue a Japanese identity threatened by Westernization, which manifests power relationships between Japan and West. It was used as an excuse to legitimate Japan’s position in the event of political and economic conflict.“The soil in Japan is unique” “The quality of snow in Japan isunique:
Researchers often characterize Japanese culture as traditional, homogenous, group oriented, collectivist whereas western cultures are defined with labels such as individualism, self-expression and critical thinking. Japanese written discourse as indirect, implicit and inductive as opposed to English discourse , which is described as direct and deductive.Examples from research: Carson (1992) says schooling in Japan values group goals overindividual interests. Teaching techniques emphasizes memorization, repetition and drilling.Similar cultural image was presented by McKay (1993)—writes about ideologies in teachingof writing. Asian cultures value conservation of knowledge and favor reproductive mode oflearning that stress imitation and memorization. In contrast, western cultures favor extendingknowledge emphasizing critical thinking and hypothesizing.Atkinson (1997) points out that the concept of critical thinking presupposes individualism andis incompatible with Asian cultural values.Fox describes the Japanese written discourse with labels such as “politeness”,“indirectness”, “vagueness” and absence of critical thinking.
Group work What are the counter knowledge/case against cultural determinism that she discusses in the article?
The case against deterministic thinkingRecent educational research show that Japanese preschooland elementary school curriculum does promote creativity,original thinking and self-expression Spack (1997) problematizes the static image of ESL students as bound by their native culture. Zamel (1997) emphasized the complexity, idiosyncrasy and unpredictability of L2 writing. Lewis (1992) “first grades were observed in an animated discussion” during the reading lesson. He also reports that Japanese elementary school teachers recognized various approaches that students used to solve problems (p. 23)
So, how should we approach such cultural representations? It is important to understand the meaning of such cultural labels (where do they come from, what do they do to people) Such representations need to be viewed as particular knowledge rather than objective truth (p. 25) They also need to be reevaluated from the point of view of a discourse in which power relations construct and legitimate such beliefs.
Pedagogical issues/three approaches to ESL teaching The acculturation model The pluralist model Critical multiculturalism
Critical literacy approach Both affirms and critically interrogate what is perceived as the authentic student voice Legitimizing the vernaculars of minority does not exclude their need to acquire the dominant codes. The cultural and linguistic codes of the dominant roup needs to be demystified so that the subordinate students “can use the dominant knowledge effectively in their struggle to change the material and historical conditions that enslaved them” (Freire, 1993, p. 135) Lisa Delpit also argues for the need to both maintain cultural heritage and develop skills necessary for success in mainstream society.READ THE QUOTE ON PAGE 29
Barbara’s story The main points1) Teachers usually have good intention while reflecting cultural differences instead of denying them.2) However, this liberal view of cultural difference tends to fall inyo cultural relativism essentializing cultures and creating a dichotomy between “us” and “them”3) The liberal view of cultural difference also FAILS to examine how cultural differences are constructed by discourses and how power is exercised in perpetuating such differences.4) In order to understand the cultural differences critically issues of power and discourse need to be examined (p. 12)
SummaryNARRATIVE, DRAMATIZE, WRITE DOWN, DRAW A STORY BOARD ETC: Who is Barbara? What were some of her initial thoughts on her ESL students? What are some of the dilemmas she experiences? Who is Carol? What are her views on culture? What are some of her suggestions to Barbara? Who is David? How does he conceptualize the notion of culture? What are some of his suggestions to Barbara? What did Barbara realize after her conversations with David? What changes did she apply to her ESL teaching?“Barbara would emphasize that the students need not abandon their ownculture—they simply need to acquire new cultural conventions in order tosucceed in the academic community” (p.14)—What pedagogical model in Kubota1999 does this fit in?
Contrastive Rhetoric/Intercultural Rhetoric Interdiciplinary domain of second language studies and applied linguistics that deals with examining differences and similarities in writing across cultures. The assumption is: any language includes written texts that are constructed using identifiable rhetorical features Raises teachers’ awareness on cultural differences in writing. Helps L2 students to explore cultural differences in L2 writingContrastive Rhetoric/Intercultural Rhetoric: What is the impact ofculture on writing? How do students negotiate the composingconventions in their own L1 literacy practice and the writingconvention of the target language? (Atkinson, Enkvist, Hinds, Connor,Kubota, Kaplan, Matsuda, Nelson )
Examples by Connor Compares and contrasts a Flemish applicant’s and American applicant’s cover letters.What are some of the rhetorical and lexical differencescan you identify in both letters?
Robert Kaplan’s Contrastive Rhetoric argument: CulturalThough Patterns in Intercultural Education (also referred as “doodles article” First study/a pioneer work by a U.S. applied linguist to explain the written style of ESL writers (as opposed to patterns of speech!) Explored the links between the culturally specific logic/thought patterns and paragraph structures in English essays written by NNES students. Came up with five lingua-cultural groups in rhetorical structures of a piece of writing in students’ cultures- He claims that Anglo- European expository essays follow a linear development; Oriental languages prefer an indirect approach and come to the point at the end; Romance languages employ extraneous material p. 223 “The patterns of paragraphs in other languages are not so well established, or perhaps only not so well known to speakers of English” 30
Early Criticism to Kaplan’s doodle article: Flows in his arguments The generalizations about student’s culture based on the rhetorical and cultural through patterns has been contested by many scholars.Fault # 1: Essays were collected as class exercise, students did not havecomparable language skills (they were all developmental writers)Fault # 2: He was making assertions about one’s L1 writing rhetoric andthought patterns based on a general L2 essay structure. Other factors such astopic knowledge, language proficiency, educational background also influencesstudents paragraph developmentFault # 3: Rhetorical deviations he found in NNES students were similar to therhetorical errors made by NS studentsFault # 4: Considering standard English speaking NSs as the norm-overlooks the plurality within language groups! Native English speakers do notall write in linear, straight line paragraph development. Members of differentdiscourse communities write in different genres.
Faults in argument continuedEthnocentric view of culture: The worldview of a group of people using the same language is determined by that single language and culture? (strong version of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis)
STILL… He drew teachers and scholars attention to linguistic differences in ESL students’ writers “Writing is culturally influenced” The study of writing is seen as a cultural-educational activity.Also, see the various domains of studies within the field ofcontrastive rhetoric (p. 226)e.g. text linguistics, classroom-based collaborative research,genre-specific contrastive investigationsSee examples of studies on pg 230-232.
Approaches to apply CR in the classroom Teachers should encourage their students to analyze the purpose of their writing and analyze their audience carefully: This kind of investigation involve breaking down students’ stereotypes of their L1 and L2 and helping them come to a more complex understanding of how their L1 rhetoric creates meaning (p. 46) Teachers can ask students to compare L1 and L2 texts with regard to paragraph and discourse-level organization (preferably with intermediate and advanced level students). The comparison of comparable L1 and L2 texts can be taken to full text levels (analyzing letters, research articles, books). Teachers can involve students in examining audience and reader expectation in different cultures. What is good writing in China vs U.S. in different academic discourses? Casanave suggests that students in classes could react to texts written for the same purpose in L1 and L2 and discuss cultural expectations for certain types of writing.
ESL Assignments/Notes based on CR/IRAs a way to focus on rhetorical strategies, ESL instructorsin Indiana unv. Try the following assignments:Chose two magazine advertisements that sell the samekind of product but appeal to audiences in differentcultures, but have similar socio-economic classes (luxurycar ad in Germany and a secondary luxury car as aimedat people in the U.S.(You may try this ad analysis assignments targetingdifferent audience “in the same culture” man vs women)
Writing Across Borders: Intercultural Rhetoric The role of culture in writing Culturally sensitive ways of assessing students’ writing Struggles that international students face while writing in American colleges. The teaching and assessing practices that disadvantage international students 36
Introducing the documentary Made over a three period at Oregon State University Features interviews with international students, second language scholars addressing various writing issues in the college context. Strategies used by faculty to work with cultural writing differences 37
Questions to keep in mind while watching How does culture play out in writing, and how are our expectations shaped by cultural preferences? How do we assess international student writing when we have to grade it alongside the writing of native speakers, and how can we think about surface error in a fair and constructive manner? What kinds of teaching and testing practices disadvantage international students and which help them improve as writers?
Three approaches in reading and responding to ESL writing 1. Assimilationist The goal is to help L2 writers write linear, topic-driven, idiomatic and error- free papers 2. Accommodationist The goal is to teach academic discourse without letting the student lose their L1 linguistic and cultural identities. It’s up to the reader “how much like a native speaker” she wants to sound. 3. Separatist/Multicultural writing The goal is to preserve support the student in maintaining her linguistic identity separate. You help the student preserve the difference. Looking at writing as an “act of communication”Source: Matsuda, P. & Cox, M. (2004). Reading an ESL writers’ text. In S.Bruce &B.Rafoth. ESL Writers: A guide for writing center tutors.
Responding to a student writing Imagine that an ESL students submits this essay. Read and respond to one ESL essay in your groups. How would you respond to this essay? Provide both marginal and end comments to this student.
Good responding strategies Respond student writing as a work in progress rather than judging it as a finished product. Respond to patterns of errors rather than individual errors. Focus on errors that impede meaning rather than errors in idiom. Ask questions to clarify meaning. Less is more. Ensure your comments reflect your priorities. Engage in dialogs about students’ writing process instead of the writing product only. Inform L2 writers about the academic writing conventions and genres in English. Encourage them to visit the writing center. 41
Marginal and End Comments Marginal comments These comments are best suited for giving feedback on specific sections of the text. End comments These comments are usually more lengthy and are saved for more global concerns affecting the whole essay. Here is where you point out the patterns you noticed in the student’s paper. Find a manageable set of issues for the student to work on for the next draft or paper 42
Successful classroom pedagogies while responding to ESL writing Ask students’ believes and expectations on good writing. L2 students becoming “ethnographers” of their own writing. Research students’ writing experiences both in L1 and L2. Awareness building activities of audience, expectations of rhetorical features: Educate students about different genres, expectations of readers and the social purposes of writing. Raise students’ awareness on readers’ expectations. Refrain from perpetuating stereotypes when talking about student writing. Teachers need to be cautious in essentializing languages and cultures (“reinforcing the cultural uniqueness” Kubota, 1998) 43