As new members of a team and relatively new peer tutors, Shelley M. and I (Emily Po.) reflected on some of our first shifts as UCWbLers, appointments with multilingual writers, and what inspired us in these past four months to be a part of the Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research (CMWR).
Shelley and I both had the majority of our shifts during our first quarter as peer tutors working in the Loop. The Loop writing center is where many multilingual writers schedule their appointments, largely because DePaul’s English Language Academy (ELA) is located on the floor above the UCWbL and the higher population of international students in the Loop. In the first few weeks of tutoring, Shelley was forced to reconsider how she approaches appointments with multilingual learners, and developed a heightened awareness of other languages and her own tutoring methods. In the first few appointments Shelley had with ELA students she found that the appointments focused on similar issues: Writers wanted instruction on their grammar and sentence structure. Soon after this, however, Shelley had an appointment with an ELA student who did not want to focus on these surface issues. He wanted help constructing an argumentative essay. His issues were different than the other ELA students Shelley had worked with.
Shelley realized her approach to this writer was unfairly based off of her experiences with other English language learners. Recognizing each writer’s specific needs is crucial for effective tutoring appointments, and especially relevant when discussing work with multilingual writers, where it is easy to fall into unfair assumptions about how much writers know and what they need help with. Experiencing for herself how easy it is to make limiting and incorrect judgments about writers’ knowledge, Shelley wanted to promote positive language and cultural awareness that helps tutors consider the individuality of each writer they work with.
I had a similar experience while taking a class on Global Englishes at DePaul. I learned about the different ways people around the world use English and I came to understand each of these English varieties as equally valid. I read Lippi Green’s writing on the different purposes of language, including judging others, placing ourselves socially, and understanding our own identities. As a peer writing tutor of a U.S. university, it bothered me to think that I might have promoted English in a way that rejected the kind of language diversity I learned about in this class. This, however, is not what we do. We help students with their writing and language acquisition at DePaul. We offer people one-on-one assistance that is often not as readily available in a classroom setting, and promote the success of writers by helping them gain access to an academic discourse that they otherwise might not have been able to achieve.
Shelley and I bring these experiences with multilingual writers and knowledge of the harm that language bias can do to our work with the CMWR. We hope to promote an appreciation and respect of other languages and culture, as well as an awareness of how language differences often lead to unfair judgments and assumptions. After our first team meeting with CMWR, we know these values align with what the CMWR aspires to do.
Written by: Shelley M. and Emily Po.