Canagarajah Toward a Writing Pedagogy of Shuttling between Languages

Canagarajah Toward a Writing Pedagogy of Shuttling between Languages
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  Toward a Writing Pedagogy of Shuttling between Languages: Learning from MultilingualWritersAuthor(s): A. Suresh CanagarajahSource: College English, Vol. 68, No. 6, Cross-Language Relations in Composition (Jul., 2006),pp. 589-604Published by: National Council of Teachers of English Stable URL: . Accessed: 02/02/2014 16:46 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  .  National Council of Teachers of English  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to College English. This content downloaded from on Sun, 2 Feb 2014 16:46:56 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  589 Toward a Writing Pedagogy of Shuttling between Languages: Learning from Multilingual Writers A. Suresh Canagarajah The dominant approaches to studying multilingual writing have been ham pered by monolingualist assumptions that conceive literacy as a unidirec tional acquisition of competence, preventing us from fully understanding the resources multilinguals bring to their texts. In this essay, I attempt to change the questions and frameworks of such inquiry in order to do justice to the creativity of multilingual writers.1 How do teachers and researchers of English writing orient to linguistic and cultural difference in the essays they read? In what I will call the "inference" model, if they see a peculiar tone, style, organization, or discourse, many teachers instinc tively turn to the first language (LI) or "native" culture (CI) of the writer for an explanation. This was the practice of some early versions of contrastive rhetoric (see Kaplan). Even now, sympathetic scholars in our field seek explanations from LI or CI for what they perceive as difficulties for multilingual writers in composing an essay in English (see Fox). Among other problems, the writer is treated as being conditioned so strongly by LI and CI that even when he or she writes in another language, those influences are supposed to manifest themselves in the new text. There is also the misleading assumption that one can unproblematically describe the tradi tions of LI literacy by studying the English essay of a multilingual writer (even if the writer is a student in a developmental writing program). While the inference model fails to acknowledge the different types of media tion that can complicate the realization of texts in different languages, some scholars have now slightly modified their approach in what I call a "correlationist" model. They study the texts in LI descriptively before they draw on this information to A. Suresh Canagarajah is professor of English at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He taught in Sri Lanka before moving to New York. He edits the TESOL Quarterly. His Geopolitics of Academic Writing (2002) won the Olson Award from the Association of the Teachers of Advanced Composition. College English, Volume 68, Number 6, July 2006 This content downloaded from on Sun, 2 Feb 2014 16:46:56 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  590 College English explain the writer's peculiarities in L2 (see Indrasuta; Kubota, "An Investigation of Japanese").2 However, here again, we must be careful not to consider texts written in any genre, by any author, to any audience in LI as suitable to produce generaliza tions about a language, and then apply those generalizations to explain problems in texts of any genre, author, audience, or proficiency level in English. How these dif ferent variables will create different realizations of the text is often not taken into consideration. This form of essentialization doesn't seem troubling to a monolingualist orientation, which assumes that each language has an invariable dis course that will express itself in texts written by any author in any genre or context. Though there are a few rare cases where multilingual scholars have been able to study the same author writing a college-level essay in a classroom setting, the im portant variable is still considered to be language rather than the many other medi ating factors and negotiation strategies at play. Marjorie Cook, Helene Dunkelblau, Gehan Kamel, and Ryuko Kubota ("An Investigation of L1-L2") have published studies that compare the writing in LI and L2 of the same set of students. However, the large subject pool and/or quantitative modes of analysis don't permit these re searchers to ask the questions related to specific strategies of negotiation that I pose in this essay. The above two approaches can be presented visually as follows: a_L L2 LI C _J Inference Model LI 1 y \ 1 L2 L2 Correlationist Model The model I am proposing, the negotiation model, considers how multilingual writers move between texts: <?> I LI N ^ L2 Negotiation Model I don't want to conflate the identity, agency, discourse, and competence of multilin gual writers with the characteristics we see within a single text or language. The third model is different from the first two in many respects: rather than studying multilingual writing as static, locating the writer within a language, we would study the movement of the writer between languages; rather than studying the product for This content downloaded from on Sun, 2 Feb 2014 16:46:56 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  A Writing Pedagogy of Shuttling between Languages 591 descriptions of writing competence, we would study the process of composing in multiple languages; rather than studying the writer's stability in specific forms of linguistic or cultural competence, we would analyze his or her versatility (for ex ample, life between multiple languages and cultures); rather than treating language or culture as the main variable, we would focus more on the changing contexts of communication, perhaps treating context as the main variable as writers switch their languages, discourses, and identities in response to this contextual change; rather than treating writers as passive, conditioned by their language and culture, we would treat them as agentive, shuttling creatively between discourses to achieve their com municative objectives. As a precondition for conducting this inquiry, we have to stop treating any textual difference as an unconscious error. We must consider it as a strategic and creative choice by the author to attain his or her rhetorical objectives. This methodological change is inspired by a broader movement in psycho linguistics and second language acquisition (see Grosjean). Scholars now realize that a bilingual person's competence is not simply the sum of two discrete monolingual competences added together; instead, bilingual competence integrates knowledge of two languages and is thus qualitatively different from monolingual competence. Needless to say, to adopt this orientation to multilingual writers, we have to study the same writer composing in multiple languages, shuttling between one language/ context/discourse and another. Ideally, we should study the author writing in rela tively the same genre though for different audiences and languages. Of course, to conduct such a study the researchers themselves have to be multilingual. Only scholars who are proficient in both (or all) the languages an author is using will be able to undertake this kind of study meaningfully. Without this bilingual (or multilingual) proficiency, the best that we can do is to compare the descriptions of writing in one language by a researcher with one's own study of someone else's writing in English, leading to the limitations of the first two models. Background to This Analysis In the following discussion, I compare writing samples from the same writer in the same genre (research articles or RA) in two different languages (English, or L2, and Tamil, or LI) in three different rhetorical contexts: RA in LI for local publication (LILP); RA in L2 for local publication (L2LP); and RA in L2 for foreign publica tion (L2FP). The writing samples are from a senior scholar in Sri Lanka. Professor K. Sivatamby has considerable exposure to the scholarly communities in the West.3 He obtained his doctorate in drama at the University of Birmingham and has held fellowships in foreign universities, including UC Berkeley. At the time of writing these papers, Sivatamby was a faculty member in the departments of Tamil and drama at the University of Jaffna. This content downloaded from on Sun, 2 Feb 2014 16:46:56 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  592 College English In order to keep this discussion within a manageable level, I focus mainly on the introduction in the research article. The introduction is the most widely studied and described section in the RA genre (see Swales; Mauranen). This is also the sec tion that receives the most rhetorical effort and composing time, as emerges from ethnographic studies (see Knorr-Cetina). The introduction is the most discursively sophisticated and strategic section in the article, as the methodology and results sections have become more impersonal and stereotypical. I will invoke Swales's ty pology of opening moves here, in what he calls the Create a Research Space (CARS) model. I use this model only for heuristic purposes, bearing in mind that RA dis course conventions vary across disciplines and communities, if they can be regarded as stable at all. Acts of Representation All three of Sivatamby's articles are on roughly the same topic: his position on the ideological character of Jaffna Tamil society. Sivatamby is perhaps the only local scholar who has written extensively on this subject. The similarity of subject across the articles thus helps us control this analysis for topic as well. How does one present the same topic in research articles in different languages for different audiences and publishing contexts? For readers in Western scholarly communities, Sivatamby's article in Tamil (LILP) will be striking for its casual and relaxed opening. The author seems to be under no pressure to create a niche for this paper in the scholarship relating to this subject (move 2 in Swales's CARS typology, after the opening move of "establishing the territory"). This peculiarity can be explained by the fact that one doesn't have to market a scholarly paper aggressively in the local academic community. There is no urgency to fight for publishing space, earn academic credit, or attract reader interest here, the reasons that compel Western scholars to adopt in their openings a "mar keting discourse" (in Mauranen's apt terminology). In the local context, academic publications are few, and the oral construction of knowledge?in colloquia and pub lic lectures?earns as much credit (see Canagarajah, Geopolitics). What local scholars must adopt, instead, is what I have called a "civic ethos." Scholars must show what important service they are performing for their community by writing this paper and/or constructing this knowledge. One doesn't write papers simply to develop an srcinal viewpoint and earn professional or personal credit. Scholarship has to be socially responsible. Therefore, Sivatamby opens by arguing that it is unwise and unhealthy not to discuss the ideological character of our society?controversial though it may be?as Tamils are living in a time of ethnic conflict and identity poli tics that demands a reflective understanding of their own social formation. In fact, This content downloaded from on Sun, 2 Feb 2014 16:46:56 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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