"Contexts of L2 Writing"
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana, USA
September 15-16, 2000


[ Home | 2000 | Keynote | Program | Abstracts | Presenters ]


Keynote Speakers

George Braine Chinese University of Hong Kong
Linda Harklau University of Georgia
Ryuko Kubota University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
John M. Swales University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

George Braine

Overcoming Barriers to Academic Publication: Hong Kong’s Success Story

Based on a survey which found American and British scholars to be the least internationally minded, it has been stated that researchers from other parts of the world may find it quite difficult to gain acceptance in the competitive and insular world of (Western) academic publications. Nevertheless, a glance at TESOL Quarterly, English for Specific Purposes Journal, or the Journal of Second Language Writing shows the emergence of Hong Kong as a leading source of research in English language teaching. The concentration of eight universities within a narrow radius, the availability of generous funding and excellent research facilities, the presence of renowned ELT specialists, the pressure to conduct research and publish, and the open-mindedness of ELT journal editors and reviewers may have contributed to this phenomenon. Nevertheless, in the case of research and publications on writing, Hong Kong’s rise to prominence has been doubly challenging because of the low status given to writing instruction in local primary and secondary schools and the general resistance to writing in most content courses at tertiary level.

This presentation will summarize the recent publications on second language writing to emerge from Hong Kong, and analyze how the writers have succeeded in overcoming barriers to academic publication. It will also point out existing conditions in Hong Kong which, behind the facade of success, prevent changes in the writing curriculum at primary and secondary schools and obstruct the implementation of Writing Across the Curriculum programs at tertiary institutions.

George Braine is an associate professor of English at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, and has taught writing in ESL and EFL contexts for nearly 30 years. He has researched and published on engineering and scientific writing, the placement of students in first year writing courses, and writing on local area network (LAN) computers. He is an editor of the Asian Journal of English Language Teaching and the founding chair of the Nonnative English Speakers Caucus in TESOL. His publications include Academic Writing in a Second Language (1994), with Diane Belcher, and Non-Native Educators in English Language Teaching (1999).

Linda Harklau

Writing Literacy into Second Language Acquisition Theory:
Lessons from U.S. High School Classrooms

Reading and writing play a prominent role in school-based learning. As early as second grade, literacy passes from being the object of instruction to a medium of instruction. By the upper grades, reading and writing permeate every aspect of students' academic and language learning experiences, becoming tightly integrated into communicative practices. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that since its inception, the field of second language acquisition has tended implicitly to assume that learning a language means learning to speak it.

In this paper I argue theoretical perspectives on second language acquisition that do not incorporate reading and writing as modes of language learning are seriously incomplete. I illustrate how the lack of attention to the role of literacy in second language acquisition can be traced to historical circumstance and the ways in which the field has evolved over the past three decades. Using examples from my research with adolescent second language learners in American high school settings, I identify ways in which reading and writing should take a more explicit and prominent role in second language acquisition theory. I argue that literacy is not an auxiliary issue of pedagogical interest, but rather that is it central to processes of second language acquisition in older children and adults in most contemporary societies.

Linda Harklau is Assistant Professor in the Teaching Additional Languages Program at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on the second language learning experiences of adolescents in U.S. middle and high school settings. Her work has appeared in TESOL Quarterly, Linguistics & Education, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, and Educational Policy. She is co-editor of a recent volume, Generation 1.5 meets College Composition: Issues in the teaching of writing to U.S.-educated learners of ESL.

Ryuko Kubota

Politics of Cultural Difference in Second Language Writing

The role of culture in various facets of second language writing, from textual characteristics to ways in which students approach writing groups, has long been a research and pedagogical topic of investigation. While this exploration reflects a well-meaning effort to recognize, instead of ignore, cultural difference, it has essentialized cultural differences and viewed students from the same culture as a homogeneous cultural product. Although this essentialist view of culture has been recently criticized, the critique tends to simply swing the pendulum to the opposite end by arguing that students should be seen as individuals and that cultural similarities should be explored, downplaying cultural differences. The field needs to move beyond this binary argument and politicize cultural difference by viewing culture as a discursive construct. In this constructionist view, cultural images reflect discursive construction implicated in power, politics, and ideology rather than objective truths. This view allows us to see cultural differences not as fixed, monolithic, and neutral but dynamic and ideological, situated in particular relations of power. This view also allows us to see the multiplicity of motivations and consequences of cultural essentialism as a strategy to exercise, resist, or negotiate power, without essentializing essentialism as an inevitable problem. In this view, students are both cultural products and cultural agents. A new approach to second language writing research should take into account the discursive formation and transformation of students’ identities by focusing on how students create, interpret, appropriate, resist, or negotiate cultural and linguistic norms in cross-cultural writing.

Ryuko Kubota (Ph.D. from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto), has taught EFL in Japan and Japanese as a foreign language in American and Canadian institutions. She has also been a teacher educator for ESL and foreign languages. Her research interests include issues of culture in second language teaching, multicultural education, and critical pedagogy. Her articles have appeared in journals such as Canadian Modern Language Review, Foreign Language Annals, Journal of Second Language Writing, TESOL Quarterly, and World Englishes. She currently teaches in the School of Education and the Curriculum in Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

John M. Swales

Further Reflections on Genre and ESL Academic Writing

Although many would likely concur with Bakhtin's dictum that "The better our command of genres, the more freely we employ them," operationally genre remains a disputed framework for ESL writing courses and approaches. Controversies polarize around repression versus expression, individual voice versus conventionalized pattern, imitative play versus contextual realpolitik, specific guidelines versus general principles, and cultural subordination versus cultural resistance. Recent work confirms the contested nature of the theoretical ground. On the one hand, Johns (2000) offers several example of genre-based approaches in effective action; on the other hand, Freedman (2000) questions whether EAP instructors can sufficiently escape their own classroom contexts to offer real assistance with the genres of the wider academy. In this presentation, I discuss these controversies through the lens of new advanced materials for NNS graduate students (Swales & Feak, 2000) premised on cross-disciplinary "difference," participant disciplinary analysis, genre systems, and a task taxononmy privileging rhetorical reflection. I argue that while border crossings may be hazardous with undergraduate "school genres," and certainly in preparing students for writing at work (Freedman, 1993), they are less so in research genres. Reasons for this include the public nature of many research genres, the established evaluative processes that adjudicate them, and student capacity to assess the appropriacy of any advice offered.

John M. Swales is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan, where he was also Director of the English Language Institute from 1985 to 2000. In Winter 2000 he was the Velux Visiting Professor in the English Department at the Business School in Aarhus, Denmark. His latest book-length publications are Other Floors, Other Voices: A Textography of a Small University Building (Erlbaum, 1998) and, with Christine Feak, English in Today's Research World: A Writing Guide (University of Michigan Press). His current interests include genre theory, NNS writing, textual silence, and corpus linguistics.


Second Language Writing Research Network Forum
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