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April 13, 2006

Reid, "Which Non-Native Speaker?"

Reid identifies two groups of non-native English speakers who study at U.S. universities: U.S. residents and international students. She identifies the mistakes that are common in the writing of each group and gives suggestions for working with each group of students.

U.S. resident non-native speakers have typically had some schooling in the United States. Reid says that these students tend to be orally very fluent, but that they may have difficulty with accuracy in writing. She talks about native language transfer and ear-learning as two possible causes for the errors that these students tend to make.

International students also struggle with writing in English. Reid acknowledges that stduents from different countries have different experience in learning English, but points out that many of them have done years and years of sentence-level grammar exercises. They can often explain grammatical rules, but they have difficulty producing accurate sentences in their writing. Reid mentions first language transfer as one cause for their mistakes; she also notes that they are often unfamiliar with idioms.

Reid says that in dealing with NNS writing, instructors should focus on errors that impede meaning first. She says that familiarity with students' backgrounds is important because it can help instructors choose which errors to address and how to address them; knowing their backgrounds is also useful when it comes to advising students about the outside help they can access.

She reminds instfuctors that writing in a second language is extremely challenging and calls for patience and understanding when working with non-native speakers.