Writing Instruction in Algeria: A postsecondary context | October 2017 | Translation Journal

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Writing Instruction in Algeria: A postsecondary context

Abstract

This paper studied the issue of writing instruction at an Algerian post-secondary institution, which is the Institute of Interpreting and Translation (IIT), university of Algiers 2. It mainly focused on the challenges of teaching/learning writing, foreign languages instruction, writing instruction and translation’s impediments, and solutions that could be set in such an institute for a better teaching of writing instruction. The authors’ goal to relate this issue to other MENA region and US, or in other words, to “internationalize” writing instruction in post-secondary education, was to suggest that if more importance is stressed on writing instruction, language, and translation, this would also be of a great benefit for both students and teachers.

Keywords: Writing instruction, translation, social context, postsecondary context, foreign language instruction, language learning.

Introduction

            Donahue’s “Internationalization’ and Composition Studies: Reorienting the Discourse” calls to open the debate about what internationalization means, how to do it and what implications it would have. She believes that we are “faced with the bewildering and exciting mass of ideas, movements, exchanges, and projects lumped into the “internationalization” framework, how we might begin to tease out strands and facets, identify each in its own framing and clarify paths for future explorations and productivity exchange” (213). Our chapter responds to Donahue’s call to “internationalize” composition studies by discussing challenges of the multilingual/multicultural context of the Algeria as part of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. In this chapter, we attempt to address the first one in Donahue’s listing of activities with “internationalization”:

            Teaching writing, speech, and academic or scientific language (in the United States, in other countries, at U.S. institution campuses in other countries, in English, in the language of the country; comparing, exchanging about teaching, theorizing the teaching through research or scholarly reflection; addressing multiculturalism in reading and writing) (213)

            We also intend to contribute to the internationalization of writing studies (Donahue 2009) by suggesting collaboration as a practice between writing classes, ESL and translingual studies with translation classes. We suggest later in this chapter that we do not import-export Donahue, but we collaborate. We propose collaboration between SLW and translingual, along with translation studies. What if international writing studies could inform translation studies and vice versa? These collaborations are not non-existent. In fact a very successful projects of collaboration that mainly bridge translation studies and writing studies is called TAPP (Trans Atlantic and Pacific Project).

            In addition to using the local languages Arabic and/or Berber, students at this institute use English as a foreign language and French as second language. While programs are in place in the US to support mainstream and L2 writers (Ferris and Thaiss 2011), many of these US institutions and IITstill face many challenges while working with students that are at least bilingual. Teaching the English language and orienting students to their classes in the disciplines is one of the issues International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) struggles with.

            In this chapter, we describe these challenges, such as large class size, non-unified curriculum of teaching and lack of collaboration between teachersthat are unique to writing and teaching writing in the multilingual context of Algeria. Becoming aware of these challenges can increase awareness among US-based and international audiences regarding the challenges multilingual writers face. We also will present the benefits of teaching writing in an Algerian university, in general, and in an institute of translation, in particular, knowing that writing in this institute is tightly related to translation since this latter is mainly achieved with writing. We finally propose how the pedagogical practices at IIT, as well as in some MENA post-secondary institutions, could improve using already-established knowledge in writing studies in the US.

Institutions such as the IIT that teachestranslation will benefit from including international writing practices that result from collaboration. And as the nature of collaboration goes, writing studies as a field would benefit from translation studies. But how?

Inquiry on writing in contexts such as Algeria, or the larger MENA region, provides input that will help scholars in various contexts to better understand writing and how to teach it. Writing does not only happen in the classroom as a social scene.It also happens at the cognitive level of students, who have plenty of ideas from their environment. We believe it is necessary to study the needs of students in various contexts in order to be able to connect teaching practices with context.

Understanding how a writer’s linguistic background might affect their writing can help teachers become more comfortable helping students become better writers. Teachers can be empowered to appreciate students’ diverse practices. Campbell (2008) asserts the significant role of the student’s linguistic background in teaching writing, and if teachers dedicate less time to access preexisting knowledge of their students, this will prevent learning: “Further, if student’s preexisting knowledge conflicts with the new content, the presented material information risks being distorted.” (p. 8).

In this chapter, we are looking at foreign language instruction at the institute of interpreting and translation at the University of Algiers 2, particularly English. We will specifically write about the materials used to teach writing practices when teaching translation classes, the challenges both students and teachers face while learning and teaching, respectively, as it will be question of writing strategies used by students to translate a text from Arabic (L1) into English (L3) through French (L2), or from French (L2) into Arabic (L1) through dialectal Arabic or Berber as mother tongues. The description of language writing instruction in this institute will account to a great degree for the reader to understand the context in which foreign languages are taught in a traditionally non-English speaking but French speaking country. At the end, we will give some suggestions that we believe could be solutions, or at least, of a great help to writing that teachers could apply to help their students improve their writing skills in English. Before addressing these points, we believe it is necessary to share our positionality statement in order to contextualize our description of writing instruction in the Algerian institution, and be open about any potential biases.

A- Positionality Statement

Dr. Sadouniis a full-time teacher at an Institute of Interpreting and Translation in an Algerian post-secondary institution. She has a master’s degree and a PhD degree in translation. She has been teaching Arabic-English translation and English-Arabic translation for English juniors and seniors. She has also been teaching French-Arabic translation for MA-level graduate students. This academic year, she is teaching a new course: Methodology of Research for first year MA students. Belmihoub and Belmihoub received most of their education in Algeria and are currently doing graduate work in English at two different universities in the United States. The two siblings both teach first-year composition. The three authors’ native language is Kabyle, a variety of Berber. They learned Standard Arabic, Algerian Arabic, English, and French. While Belmihoub and Belmihoub studied German and Russian, Sadouni learned Spanish. The authors hope that this positionality statement provides some context for our narrative description of writing instruction in an Algerian university translation program. We hope that our insights can help writing practitioners and researchers what kind of challenges face a multilingual, multicultural, and while learning to write for the purposes of translation. Dr. RachidaSadouni and Ibtissem Belmihoub will both take part in the TAPP starting from fall 2015.

AlgerianSocial and Linguistic Contexts

Suresh Canagarajah’ s article on Firth and Wagner(1997) questioned the dichotomies non native versus native speaker, learner

Native North African Berbers and Arabs create the multicultural and multilingual scene of Algeria. In addition, French as the colonial language gained linguistic status and cultural value. The Algerian linguistic context is characterized by Arabic-French or Arabic-Berber-French multilingualism. Like students in Morocco and Tunisia, students in Algeria start learning Standard Arabic in the first grade, official language, regardless of their native language. French is a de-facto official language, even though many aim at eradicating it due to colonial memories associated with it (See Benrabah, (2007); Rocheron& Rolfe (2004)). In most cases, students’ first language is either dialectal Arabic or a variety of Berber, neither of which is mutually intelligible with the main language of instruction in schools: Standard Arabic. The linguistic situation of Algeria can closely be related to that of Lebanon, for instance, where Arabic, French, and English are the three main languages used in the country, but many more languages are heard and taught in the different educational institutions (Rima Bahous et al., 2011). 

            By the time Algerian students start learning English, they are typically not completely proficient in French, the first foreign language, and Standard Arabic, the official language. Before the acquisition of the grammatical system of Standard Arabic and French, the learner has to try and internalize the system of English, thereby learners being disadvantaged. Indeed, it is frequent in Algeria to use the term multilingual illiterates to refer to Algerians, even to those who reach college with inadequate fluency in Standard Arabic and French.

The linguistic case of Algeria can closely be related to that of Lebanon, for instance, where Arabic, French, and English are the three main languages used in the country, but many more languages are heard and taught in the different educational institutions (Rima Bahous et al., 2011).

           It is worth mentioning, in the same vein of our research, that unlike some MENA countries, in Algeria, males and females go to school, and school education is compulsory at the age of 6.

Challenges of Teaching at the IIT

Like many MENA post-independent country that “establish political legitimacy and popular support for new regimes through making education a fundamental right of citizenship” (HDN, p. 43), the Algerian ministry of higher education and scientific research follows the same path, and sets policies in place that govern all universities across the country. However, these policies do not include the design of a good-standing curriculum. That is to say that in some departments and institutes, teachers do not rely on a unified curriculum of teaching, but they design one relevant to students’ level, especially in literary and languages streams. Consequently, this has led to some problems faced by students in learning writing that we will present bellow.

The Institute of Interpreting and Translation at the University of Algiers 2 ensures graduation and post-graduation in interpreting and translating in five languages, which are English, German, Spanish, French, and Standard Arabic. After students get their Baccalaureate exam (college entrance exam), they choose to specialize in Arabic-English-Arabic translation, Arabic-French-Arabic translation, Arabic-Spanish-Arabic translation, or Arabic-German-Arabic translation. This set of options is provided because students come from literary majors, where Standard Arabic is most valued. This choice is limited to one combination only: Students are not allowed to enroll in more than one combination. In the following table, we summed up the main courses taught to students at the IIT.

Table 1: Classes taught at the IIT

FRESHMAN YEAR

SOPHMORE YEAR

JUNIOR YEAR

SENIOR YEAR

Grammar and Reading Comprehension

Grammar and Reading Comprehension

Grammar and Reading Comprehension

Grammar and Reading Comprehension

Introduction to General translation

Translation Studies

Language of Specialty

Linguistics

Universal Civilization

Arab Islamic Civilization

Techniques of Translation

Computing Science

Introduction to Social sciences

Linguistic Theories

Computing Science

Methodology of translation

Introduction to the Sciences of Communication

Oral and Written Expression

Language of Specialty

Translation and Interpreting

Oral and Written Expression

Introduction to communication science

Discourse Analysis

Short Term Internship

In Tunisia, at the English department of the university 9 Avril, Tunis, the curriculum is more consistent than that at the IIT (“Descriptifs des cours”, 2015), and where students take literature courses, literary texts’ analysis, writing and reading strategies, oral expression techniques, translation and civilization. In Ain Shams University (Faculty of Humanities Guide, 2015), students enrolled in the English department take written expression and training in English for 2 hours a week, in addition to phonology, American or English novel study, and modern European language and literature history, 4 hours weekly, for each. They also learn text summarizing, introduction to drama, translation and Arabic. In this last subject, the syllabus mainly focuses on poetry written in Arabic. Almost the same classes are taught at the department of English at Oujda university, Morocco (English Department, Emploi du Temps, 2015), in addition to introduction to literature, introduction to linguistics, introduction to cultural, advanced composition & introduction to research, oral communication, grammar, readings in culture, and reading composition. In Abu Dhabi university (“Undergraduate Programs, 2015), students enrolled for BA in English, learn the same classes stated so far, under different appellations, such as Communication Skills in Arabic, Business and Technical Communication, Readings in Short English Stories, English Phonetics and Phonology, and Narration and Description. However, classes that are not common to other MENA countries are taught at this university, such as Professional Ethics, Business and Technical Communication, and Contrastive Analysis of Arabic and English.

IIT students have, for each class, 1st term and 2nd term examinations, taken respectively in December and in May of each academic year. However, some exams are taken once a year when the class is taught in one semester only. At the end of senior year, students are required to take a final exam in all classes taught during that year as a condition to graduate if they pass. Exams are prepared individually, and even if students attend the same class, they are tested differently by two different teachers. Furthermore, exams and tests are mainly prepared without any reference to textbooks or other materials because such teaching tools are not used at the IIT.

Very few meetings are organized between the head of the institute and the teachers, or among teachers to discuss teaching issues or syllabus or exams design. By syllabus, we would like to refer to a summary of course study at the IIT,that is designed as tables containing the main courses taught annually. Even the Scientific Council of the Institute does not discuss such issues, and meets once a month or once every one month and a half in order to discuss master and doctoral enrollments and thesis defenses, scholarships granted to teachers, academic trips, promotion and other academic issues. In addition to that, there are no enough collaborative effort through publications and conferences where instructors can share stories about teaching writing and discuss some of their values, such as responsibility, respect and good behaving.

The institute contains ten classrooms and three laboratories (with equipment often broken and out of order) for over 1500 students yearly. This causes such large class size that teachers find it hard to teach this big number, knowing that each class involves more than 45 students. This reality matches very well the Moroccan context about which Elqobai (2011) says : “The teaching/learning environment is undeniably an important impediment to synchronization of practices with principles, mainly crowded classroom where, in some areas, there are always more than forty students in a class.” (p. 4).

Class size and other teaching problems are not only related to the Algerian context, but also to other contexts worldwide. In China, for instance, You asserts that “large class size, disjunction between classroom instruction, low English proficiency and teacher’s limited training in teaching writing” (You, 2004 b, p.253). These are the main problems teachers at the IIT encounter in the absence of solutions to make writing instruction and translation teaching easier and more beneficial for both teachers and students. For over 30 students in one class, teachers may fail to achieve the most important goals of their courses with all students of different levels and linguistic backgrounds, which would be possible with technology, more focus on teacher preparation, and more motivation by students. The same problem is encountered in Palestine where “smaller classes are much less common in UNRWA schools in the West Bank and are virtually non-existent in the Gaza Strip.” (TWBG, 2006, p. 55).

Concerning courses design, each teacher is required to prepare courses related to the general theme of teaching this preparation is based on materials such as books, software and Internet. Generally, teachers of required classes such as language classes teach vocabulary and grammar with little oral and written expression. The same teaching technique is noticeable in some ME countries (Al-Anisi (2015); FahmiBataineh et al., (2011)), whereas in Tunisia more developed means are used such as the audio-lingual method and the eclectic approach (Al-Mohammadi&Derbel, 2014).

Foreign Languages Instruction at the IIT

In this section, we are going to address foreign language instruction at the Institute of Interpreting and Translation, University of Algiers 2, particularly French and English. We will specifically address the materials used to teach writing for translation, within the present article and in annex, including writing challenges faced by students while writing translation from or into English as a foreign language. It is worth mentioning, before we go further, that all students do not have one common language as L1 though they all learnt Arabic as the main language of instruction at elementary school, like other students of some MENA regions (See K. Shaaban& G. Ghaith, 1999, p. 7).

Teachers at the IIT are required to fill the curriculum with personal selection of texts and documents related to translation, to convey knowledge to their students. Materials of teaching include books by Cambridge, Larousse, Macmillan and Oxford that teachers buy at expensive prices or download from the Internet for those who are not available in bookstores.  

When assessing their students, teachers rate vocabulary and grammar proficiency and, most important, sentence structure. Since writing is tightly related to translation at the IIT, teachers require from students to render the meaning of a given source text into a target text, in respect to three main levels of writing which are morphology, syntax, and semantics. Teachers also use one-to-one approach which means that they sit in their desk and discuss writing and translation features of texts with each student.

Writing instruction and translation’s impediments at the IIT

Translation is complementary to writing for it is the re-writing in language B of a certain writing that has been performed in language A. As far as IIT students are concerned, writing and translation are closely related to each other. Writing in English for IIT students is somehow challenging because it is learnt in parallel with translation. In other words, students use writing as the starting point to “produce” translation when they are assigned to translate a text from language A to language B, and, then, go from translation (the text they produce) to writing when they edit and revise. In this vantage, we can say that writing regularly allows students to “detect and correct mistakes, delete redundancies, detect contradictions, develop and refine ideas, re-arrange the text, improve the style” (Silva et al, 2003, p.103). However, these remain the main goals students at the IIT aim at achieving during their studies.

Among other challenges students face while writing in English, is that they have to generate ideas and content from the very beginning, unlike in translation where they have the source text as a support to give a suitable target text equivalents.It is to be said, at this stage, that translation is of a great help in writing because it has a double function; it is a re-expression in the target language of what is written in the source language. In a sense, translation is the re-writing of the original writing. Lawrence Venuti (2004) thought of writing as original and self-representation, and of translation as second-order representation:

…the author freely expresses his thoughts and feelings in writing, which is thus viewed as an original and transparent self-representation unmediated by trans-individual determinants (linguistic, cultural, social) that might complicate authorial originality…translation is defined as a second-order representation: only the foreign text can be original, an authentic copy, true to the author’s personality or intention, whereas the translation is derivative, fake, potentially a false copy” (pp. 6-7)

 

Nevertheless, writing instruction at the IIT requires from students to know how to write and how to translate at the same time. This is particularly challenging for them in a way to master linguistic skills such as abilities to listen, read and interpret, writing, and translation techniques. It goes without saying that in such assignment, students still make mistakes as for the spelling of words, conjugating verbs and using Arabic sentence order rather than English sentence order, at both the writing and translation levels.

              Because it is too tight with writing, translation is never given for granted. It is not an exact science. It is regularly subject to revision, modification and re-writing. The European Committee for Standardization gives a definition to what a revision of the translation is, in the following: “To revise: To examine translation for its suitability for the agreed purpose, compare the source and the target texts and recommend corrective measures.” (TECS, 2006, p. 6).

Compared to students in other institutes an departments in the MENA region (See K.M. El Azoud&M.K.Kabilan (2013), T.M.Y. Hourani (2008), A.H.M. Ahmed (2010)), Algerian students use a great deal of French to write in English. In addition to that, Salima Rabehi (2012) finds out that “students’ productions include spelling mistakes in the first place, mistakes in tenses, in word choice, in word order…” At the way things go so far, it is very clear that French substitutes English and students unconsciously use it in writing to express themselves in English.Another challenge of writing instruction can also be mentioned here. It is related to the lack of integrating tasks aiming to combine writing and reading, such as writing a short paragraph on the same topic discussed in reading, writing about the advantages or disadvantages of some points mentioned in the text, or summarize the text using the student’s own words. These tasks are very important to reinforce writing skills, and can be considered as expressed by HafidaHamzaoui (2010, p. 6) as “actions, behaviors, tactics or techniques used to facilitate writing and overcome difficulties encountered”. However, used alone, they are not enough to teach English writing unless “besides strategy training, the teaching program will try to activate and reinforce students’ passive lexical, grammatical and orthographic knowledge and language structure so that students learn to edit their compositions”. (Ibid, p.7).

In addition to the challenge mentioned above, structure differences between Arabic, on one hand, and French and English, on the other hand, create difficulties for students. My students copy Arabic structure to English/French. For instance, they tend to use Arabic’s Verb-Subject-Object structure instead of the Subject-Verb-Object structure of English. It is of no surprise to read in my students’ papers statements such as: “Goes the student to school.” My students also translate proper names. It is frequent that they translate literally the names of persons, magazines and newspapers from Arabic into English, such as translating “Al-Nahar newspaper” by “Day newspaper” and Larbâa, which is the name of a region, by “Wednesday”. They tend not to use editing and revision strategies to come up with an effectively translated text. Based on personal experience, although the teacher does regularly teach them how to revise, correcting every translation task they perform in class, and comment at the 3 levels (morphology, syntax and semantics). Yet, students tend not to respond to it as expected, making similar mistakes in the exams. A lack of focus is apparent in their papers. They usually tend to give wrong lexical equivalents, and their texts lack punctuation. At the end of translation process, the texts of the majority of students lack coherence as well. As a general fact, students’ writings tend to be influenced by Arabic structures and French vocabulary instead of those of English. As a foreign language, English is, for Algerian students, linguistically and historically distant compared to French, Berber and Arabic, which characterize multilingual Algeria. When working on translation assignments into English, in classroom or at home, students often, as Cohen & Brooks-Carson put it, “switch to L1 when capturing the beginning of an idea, when developing a thought and when verifying lexical meaning” (2001, p.171). By L1, we are referring to Arabic or Berber. As for the recourse to French to write in English, this can be explained by the fact that French is the closest language to English, morphologically and structurally peaking, compared to Arabic and Berber. Cenoz (2001) supports this, stating that “speakers borrow more terms from the language that is typologically closer to the target language” (p. 8).

What is noticeable at the IIT, in the same vein, is that teaching writing paragraphs in writing instruction, is not always practiced. Such an assignment is considered as an opportunity by Anne Whitaker in the following quotation: “An academic writing assignment is supposed to be your opportunity to explore something that interests you from your course. You have freedom to choose a topic, empty pages on which to express your own ideas, and an audience that is interested in reading what you think.” (2009, p. 2). That is to say that we believe, from this point of view, that writing instruction is not emphasized at the IIT.

Interestingly, what is emphasized is the repetition of grammar courses students use to learn since high school, such as types of sentences, tenses, adjective and adverb forming, etc., prepositions, complex and compound sentences, fragments, punctuation, and tenses. In other words, writing instruction is mainly based on itmay be boring for some students who find that principles of teaching do not match practices, because as Elqobai states: “For any language teaching/learning to be accomplished efficiently, there is a need for the practices to match the…principles (El Qobai, qtd in Cimascko & Reichelt, 2011, pp.83-97. It is believed that there is little benefit of grammar if it is not applied in writing as explained by some teachers in the following: “… the purpose of teaching grammar is not simply the naming of parts of speech, nor is it to provide arbitrary rules for ‘correct’ English. It is about making children aware of key grammatical principles and their effects, to increase the range of choices open to them when they write.” (“Grammar for Writing”, 2000).

All what is mentioned above, could be a direct consequence of “teacher’s limited training in teaching writing” as stated by You, and may be considered as one of the great impediments for teaching writing at the IIT because if teachers benefit of regular training in teaching writing, that is likely to be of great avail for they can provide their “large class size” students with tips and techniques of writing, as well as a range of vocabulary that they may need. 

In a similar vein, the non-matching between theory and practice is a major problem teachers are facing at the IIT, with no mention of courses’ objectives. In addition, “writing teachers have to maneuver in a limited pedagogical space, making their pedagogical choices from no choice” (You, 2004a, p.108). All this gives students less opportunities to improve their writing skills. In fact, teachers are left without any guidance as for the aim of teaching writing, and the importance of learning it. They manage to use very simple pedagogical means such as chalk, white boards, pens and paper.

        It might be thought that students are disinterested in English writing because while French and Arabic enjoy an important prestige in Algeria, both at school and at work, English as a third language is “not regarded as a means of communication, but rather as a subject to be tested in …the exam” (Silva et al, 2003, p.99). As a matter of fact, students show more interest in French because, each year, more and more graduates choose to go to France to continue their studies. It is also because English is only practiced at school compared to French which prevails in all fields of life. 

          As far as writing is concerned, most students think that they do not need English writing after graduation. They are hired mostly in public or private firms that use Arabic, French or both languages. A major reason of low proficiency in English for students is the fact that many parents decide to send their children to bilingual private schools where French is the main language of instruction. Other students who go to public schools learn more French and Arabic than English., as students in some MENA regions, is due to the fact that, unlike French, English “is viewed as the language of business, technology, and communication with the non-Arab world.” (Shaaban&Ghaith, 1999, p. 7).

Benefits of Teaching at the IIT

Teaching writing within translation (Arabic-English, English-Arabic and French-Arabic) at the IIT aims at making students linguistic skills better. This is not an easy task, but both IIT teachers and students try to fulfill this objective. While at this institute, teachers work on narrowing the gap between Arabic as the main language of instruction, and French and English as second language and foreign language, respectively, in Lebanon, a Translation Center was created “as a step towards establishing balance among the three major languages operating in the country, namely, Arabic, French, and English.” (Shaaban&Ghaith, 1999, p. 8).

       Writing instruction gives students the opportunity to improve their abilities and competency in both language and syntax. Belchamber (2007) thinks that accuracy and fluency are both acquired throughcommunicative language teaching (CLT), an approach that involves oral expression and writing as students “communicate” their thoughts and personal analysis, orally or by writing. In this regard, Belchamber says: CLT involves equipping students with vocabulary, structures and functions, as well as strategies, to enable them to interact successfully.” (n.p)

Improving Writing Pedagogical Practices at IIT and the MENA region

It is worth discussing why students at IIT make such mistakes and encounter such difficulties while composing and translating in foreign languages. We believe that students are not to blame at all for the linguistic and rhetorical mistakes. When a teacher does not mention the objectives of his/her course at the beginning of the class, we think that students will be a little bit lost. That is to say that a course is always designed to include an aim. Teachers should address the aim of their writing class at the very beginning, and ensure that all students understand this aim while doing writing assignments. In addition, teachers are invited to organize periodical tasks, such as weekly home-works and tests, in order to improve their students’ writing skills.

  As for the important role of reading in the acquisition of a language, and especially a foreign language (Krashen, 1993; Waring& Nation, 2004; Chio, 2009) students do rarely read in English and/or French. Once, I asked my students if they read in English or in French, only two answered “yes” among 20 students. They are more likely to have richer vocabulary if they read more. Reading is a very important element in the acquisition of vocabulary and techniques of writing because if one reads frequently, they will be able to master the language, or as Silva et al. (2003) put it: “It is believed that reading could enhance overall English proficiency” (p. 99). Unfortunately, extensive reading is not emphasized in Algeria’s educational system. Besides reading news in Standard Arabic, bedtime reading and pleasure reading do not appear to be widely common. We strongly support the idea that “reading not only provide[s] … the information necessary for developing [the] topic but also help[s]…gain awareness of acceptable academic written discourse features and conventions” (Silva et al, 2003, p.102). Reading can, then, account to a great degree for the enhancement of proficiency not only in English but also in all languages taught at the university.

For better writing practices,it would be more beneficial if students were assigned to produce a variety of texts. Through this practice they will finally apply punctuation instead of learning its rules from a grammar book. We also believe that teachers seem to be influenced by a product-oriented approach, judging students by the mistakes they make in their translations. Following reflection on some of the practices observed anecdotally, we believe that it could be more productive to give students more than one week to produce a first draft. Then, provide feedback and expect revisions before judging their writing as inadequate. A process approach with multiple drafts could be a solution.

Students’ writing in English in such a multilingual context could improve to meet expectations when they, and their teachers, view languages and their varieties as a whole valuable linguistic repertoire, and understand how to properly use their linguistic resources to perform the kinds of functions they need to perform and meet the IIT expectations and standards. All administrators, teachers, and students need to take different attitudes and start considering English and other languages at the IIT as a whole valuable repertoire, while better distinguishing between the functions of each of the linguistic resources that form this repertoire.

Conclusion and implications to the U.S. context

Going back to Donahue’s call for “Internationalization”, we see that is an important goal for all English language countries and universities, and when we discuss language we are also discussing about writing. In the US, more professional development programs could be set up to better prepare teaching assistants and writing instructors to work with diverse populations. Further, writing departments could be created to focus on bilingual students in institutions where this student population is large. Cooperation among fields such as translations studies, composition, second language writing could also be beneficial for students and their instructors.

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