In one way, the trap becomes something like this: "Oh my, there are a ton of errors. OK, let's fix them one by one." The tutor or teacher diving into this bog of error, indeed, falls into a trap because the errors are so numerous and so difficult. Work to correct each of these errors can take hours. I like, however, Myers' description of the trap: "There is indeed a 'trap.' It is created by the contradictions between what ESL learners need and are capable of and what an uninformed perspective leads us to suppose they need and are capable of"(233). We suppose they need the paper fixed, but their needs may be for more fundamental lexical or syntactic understandings about language. The tutoring session is in fact a teaching session. Ultimately, the paper is not important--it is the learning that can be gained for the ESL writer while they work on the paper.
Myers trashes Cogie's four strategies useful for tutors to work with ESL students: learner's dictionaries, minimal marking, error logs, and self-editing checklists. Instead, she closes her article (and illustrates it too) with her recommendations:
- a more relaxed attitude toward error
- an appreciation of second language acquisition processes
- and better training in the pedagogical grammar of English as a second language
In terms of my new role as WC Director, I think that this article makes some significant points. It will be important to make ESL writers a prominent subject for our training and discussions as well as for the resources available from within our WC.