George Mason University vertical bar Valuing Written Accents: Non-Native Writers in the U.S. Academy

photo of DianaProfile: Diana

Country: Colombia
First Language: Spanish
Education: Grad Counseling

~On what her teachers defined as good writing in Columbia:
To be original, creative… Reference, then develop the idea based on the idea of someone else and cite it, and, they said, do not use many words to describe one single event, but then use different examples. And not too many adjective, I guess, but the “don’t use many adjectives,” it’s different than here. In Spanish maybe we area allowed to use more even if they say we don’t have to use them.

I’m interested in copying; we didn’t learn like that in Columbia.  Here, professors give us sample papers, so you just follow the structure and what they’re supposed to look like, but not like copying word for word. I appreciate the sample papers; I think it’s a great idea to really understand what they want for the paper.

How it should be written is how you think.  That’s the difference, the main difference between writing in English and in Spanish; it’s not the grammar and just follow the structure and the subject and the verb and the complement.  That’s something that’s still the same thing in Spanish.  But the structured thinking and the process of how you think is the difference.  Because I can write something in English that it makes sense, like grammatically, but it has no sense here, because they have a different structure of thinking.

Here, I really appreciate that they take the time to actually check what I did not good, ideas that I omit, the comma, the semi-colon; I really appreciate that they take their time to do that.  And also I appreciate the sample papers; I think it’s a great idea to really understand what they want for the paper.

In Spanish, I always have good comments on how I write. I never got a problem in writing in Spanish. My strengths in Spanish, I would say, there is like a personal style of how to write and I guess that’s something that people like.

Now that I am thinking about it and now that I have to write in English, I realize that in Spanish, we write really romantically, so we used to take long, long sentences and use complex words and try to have examples and metaphors, and that kind of thing; but, they’re not working here.

I guess that “specific” was not one of the words I should use to be like a good writer in Columbia, especially because you have to explain, and we explain and give examples.  The word that comes to my mind is very romantically and politically correct and long, long sentences, a lot of paragraphs, and give an idea and then bring it back in the next paragraph, and if something needs to be added, you can bring it in the last part of the essay; it’s not like organized or as structured as it is here; very philosophical, I guess.

Here it’s very structured and very organized and sometimes I think that too much structure maybe don’t allow students to think really, because everything is on the paper and you have to follow it. And sometimes I feel like, “stop it,” I want to do something else but I can’t because it’s off of the rubric.  But they’re very organized here and they have everything written and everything’s described as you have to do it and what you should do: set page limits, and points for your grammar, and points for the rules, and points for the creative ideas, and how many ideas do you have to add to your paper, and how many weaknesses and strengths do you have to mention.  It’s very, very, very specific.

On what her teachers defined as good writing in the U.S. academy:
Very, very precise.  Very, very organized.  Develop the ideas, have an outline of what you want to draw, to explain, and get your ideas specific, and develop them; do not jump from one paragraph to another. If something concerns an idea, it should be in that paragraph and not in another, that kind of thing.

I would like to have more vocabulary, and of course when I don’t know a word, I just try to describe it with a sentence, what I meant.  So that makes it longer and hard to read.  Not good.