A Walk Down Memory Lane

One of my favorite idioms of English language happens to be ‘taking a walk down memory lane’. I wonder if it is any coincidence that the article for this week’s class discussion allowed me to experience it firsthand. Too many memories that involve overcoming challenges in learning a new language rushed through my mind as I read the article Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World by Paul Kei Matsuda. It was as if my entire background in second language acquisition summed up in that single article.

I do not find myself overwhelmingly inspired by articles that I read but I feel compelled to bring my ‘A-game’ in composing this particular blog entry because it is as if an implicit challenge was made and I would like to believe that I possess the level of proficiency to face it.

In his article, Paul Kei Matsuda presents the notion that “no one is the native speaker of writing”. The ability to write is not exclusive to a nation but the language used in writing could very well be. As we have discussed in our previous class, the construction of voice in composition is influenced by culture and it is one of the key aspects that bridge the gap between the minds of the writer and the reader. I believe the influence of culture do not only shape the analysis of the writer but the cognition of the reader as well. Thus, it is crucial for a writer to meet that certain set of expectations in order to accomplish an authentic communication.

It is not easy to incorporate a culture into a language born in another. A cultural experience attached to a word or a phrase can be lost in translation and it may not necessarily represent the true feelings of the writer properly. In her article, War in Translation, Lina Mounzer expressed frustration with her attempt to convey certain emotions in English language. This has been a topic of discussion in many of my English and literature classes as it is now. The paranoia “about the English-language reader’s judgment” is a real concern for many second language writers. Utilizing an introspective approach and present it in an intuitive way tends to be the only option in most cases.

Lina Mounzer also presented the notion that circumstances in which a person learns a new language affects that person’s attitude toward it. Luckily, my personal experience was a positive one. My earliest interactions with English language included import comic books. I was an avid comic book reader when I was much younger. There were many international comic books translated and sold by local publishers but my impatient nature provoked me to seek out more obscure ones that were not given the chance to shine on international market. I needed to learn English in order to follow the compelling stories in those books. It was fun. It was exhilarating. I was also exposed to the culture as comic books not only illustrate but also describe the norms through language.

Paul Kei Matsuda states that writing classes specifically designed for ESL students should be optional in order to avoid any implication of identity positioning. I do not recall ever attending an ESL class that was not mandatory. In my high school, the non-native students were required to take the ESL courses as prerequisites to ENG courses down the line. They were tremendously helpful though, as my skills in writing were sharpened. I was better prepared for the academic language which was the next major step in communication. The ESL courses of my high school built a solid foundation for me to step onto and reach it.

A solid portion of my training in formal composition occurred in college. Though I had to suffer through nights of never-ending aggravation with assignments, I managed to acquire a level of proficiency that I am content with. There is still much to learn, much to improve. I have said that I felt “compelled to bring my ‘A-game’ in composing this blog entry” but I honestly do not believe this is my best. A little more time for revision would go a long way. The time might easily be the biggest challenge in writing, after all.

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