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Writing Outside the Margins: An Analysis of the Writing Experiences of Multilingual Individuals

My study investigates the intersection between the personal and academic experiences of a sample of multilingual students currently attend the University of Minnesota when confronted with the task of writing university/college-level assignments in standard American English. This issues is very important to me, considering the fact that I am a multiethnic/multilingual individuals, who although grew up learning English, still knows how it feels to have to ask myself "how do you say this," or "it is at or in" in various situations when I write. Thus, these challenges are faced by many, who have acquired enough information to be accepted to the University, but who in return lack formal skills and education when it comes to writing in an academic nature.

Issues of a) identification of a first/home/mother tongue language; b) fluency in multiple languages; as well as c) the experiences of comprehending and writing in English when it is not an individual's first language were also addressed in my study. The more that the University of Minnesota's Center for Writing learns about both the personal and academic experiences of multilingual students, the more prepared the Center will be to work with this growing population of students.

My initial question that began this research seeks to investigate how fluency in multiple languages affect the attitudes of multilingual individuals in relation to writing in standard American English composition? Thus, my research goes onto detail my collection of data via a 13-question questionnaire I created and distributed to six study participants, all self-identifying as either native English-speaking multilinguals or as non-native English-speaking multilinguals. These participants were selected through my interaction with four of them at the Center for Writing through consultations and the other two from within my social network. The results yielded that the native English-speakers multlinguals face less fear, condemnation, or stifling of one's thoughts in comparison to their non-native English-speaking multilingual counterparts.

Nevertheless, this study draws upon many conclusions that have been stated in previous literature and are compared and at times are also juxtaposed with evidence from my primary research survery/questionnaire data. My hope is that the Center can take something away from my research and know that although many times consultations occur between monolingual/monoculture consultants and multilingual/multiethnic student writers, therefore some issues such as approach, beginning questions, explanations of grammar vs. writing skills and so on are all ways to help the Center approach work with both multilingual and monolingual students alike.