ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors

| March 12, 2012

M.A. Nashwa Ezzat Badr
Indiana University of Pennsylvania


M.A. Mai Amin Hassan
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Book Title
ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors
Edited By Shanti Bruce and Ben Rafoth
Portsmouth, NH:
Boynton/Cook Publishers Inc., 2004. Pp. vii +173

In ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors, Shanti Bruce and Ben Rafoth edit a collection of individually authored chapters from professionals in the field and contribute several of their own, each of which surveys everyday practical issues facing college writing center tutors who work with ESL writers.

ESL Writers is composed of fifteen chapters which are
separated into three parts, Cultural Contexts, The ESL Tutoring Session, and A Broader View. Parts 1 and 3 provide context and perspective for many of the issues addressed in Part 2.

Part 1, composed of two chapters, helps tutors see “how working with ESL writers can be different than working with native speakers of English, and what challenges students must deal with as they strive to become proficient in English” (p. xiv). It does this by exploring the cultural differences faced by international students who come from countries where assumptions about writing, learning, research, and self expression can be extremely different from those at Western universities. Hayward in the first chapter, for example, emphasizes, “cultural expectations have everything to do with the success or failure of any tutoring session” (p. 1) and provides a checklist to help the tutor understand the ESL writer’s culture. Tseng, in the second chapter, further helps the tutor by outlining major views on the L2 learning process to enable the reader to develop deep insights into different ways to help the ESL writer.

Part 2, the longest section of the book, focuses on a variety of issues with regards to the tutoring session itself. Chapters 3 through 6 offer suggestions about how to begin the tutoring session, choose the correct approach to read a student’s paper, avoid appropriation by finding the right balance between being helpful and assuming helplessness, and help ESL writers clarify their intended meaning while avoiding the temptation to leap to premature conclusions. Chapters 7 through 9 offer ideas on how to look at the whole text by going beyond word and sentence level concerns, help ESL writers learn to self edit, and tutor online. Chapters 10 through 12 provide a discussion on plagiarism by comparing the American academic rules for documenting sources to rules from other cultures and how to talk to the ESL writer about it, the limits of the tutors responsibilities, and ways to broaden the student’s perspective by promoting creative writing.

Part 3 deals with broader issues such as the role of writing in higher education abroad, the difficulty of explaining English, and how ESL students perceive the writing center. The book concludes with a glossary which gives the easy to follow definitions of language teaching terminology used in the text.

ESL Writers comprehensive coverage of issues, its clear examples, and the fact that each chapter is self contained so readers are free to read linearly or choose the ones they need as a guide for specific tutoring issues makes this text a valuable reference for both tutors and the directors who work with them. Many readers, however, may see a weakness in the book because it only focuses on helping native speaking tutors without exploring nonnative tutors’ needs. Nevertheless, ESL Writers’ insights and practical advice fills a much needed gap in the literature by helping native speaking tutors build meaningful and effective exchanges between themselves and ESL writers at campus writing centers.

Category: Book Reviews