If you have ever learned another lan­guage, you can appreciate just how hard it can be to translate that knowledge into written form. This is a problem that many students struggle with. But what is mul­tilingualism? Well, scientists struggled with this for a while. Some considered that to be multilingual, a person had to be able to function in more than one language perfectly. That is, you would need to essentially be a native speaker in two or three different languages.

However, new definitions have sug­gested that multilingualism can be de­fined as utilizing any form of multiple languages. This can mean speaking French and writing in English, yet not speaking it. Now that we have a better understanding for the definition we can grasp what these students are struggling with.

Imagine speaking Spanish your entire life and then being asked to write a sci­entific paper in English with proper grammar. Problems like this are exactly what Dr. Dana Ferris, a Writing Professor and the University of California, is ad­dressing in her lecture series. Some people believe that the errors in multi­lingual papers are nothing more than arbitrary rules created when learning languages in a specific way. Yet, others argue these errors should be corrected like any other mistake.

Dr. Ferris leans toward the latter. She suggests some ways that we can work to help adjust the issues with multilingual writing and grammar. By using Focused Corrective Feedback (FCF), she says that tutors and teachers can establish better grammar skills. FCF is essentially focus­ing of a particular group of grammatical errors in a student’s writing, rather than just working on a group of different er­rors. Another way that she seeks to im­prove multilingual writing is Indirect Corrective Feedback (ICF). This form of ICF places more responsibility on the student to correct their errors, instead of leaning on the teacher to fix the error.

These new approaches have been sup­ported by research as well. According to University of California’s website, both FCF and ICF were proven to have posi­tive effects on multilingual student writ­ing grammar and sentence structure. With these new tools we may be able to help strengthen the writing skills of these students and perhaps even improve mul­tilingualism as a whole.

For more information about Dr. Ferris and her mission, visit:
http://writing.ucdavis.edu/faculty-staff/directory/drferris

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