Intercultural Rhetoric and Its Implications for Teaching L2 Writing

Introduction

            The world globalization has increased migrations and cultural exchanges have grown tremendously. There is an increasing pressure on the need to adopt the appropriate teaching techniques in a class that is composed of students from diverse cultural backgrounds (Taft, Kacanas, Huen, & Chan, 2011). Kaplan on realizing the impact of the differences written language by students in the L2 classroom introduced the concept of contrastive rhetoric. The field has since seen a significant growth and advancement, where the researchers in the field of applied linguist have introduced  the intercultural rhetoric.

The researches of 1980s saw the improvement of methodological approaches to contrastive rhetoric through the numerous researches that were established in the same period. The expectations of having a specific language structure in an L2 classroom are often different since different cultures assume different rhetoric structures. Therefore, evaluation of a piece of work written by a writer of a different culture is often influenced by mismatch between the rhetoric structure of the reader and the writer.

Intercultural Rhetoric and Its Implications for Teaching L2 Writing

            The analysis of the rhetorical styles employed in different languages has largely placed emphasis on the contrastive approaches. In these methodologies, the ways the ideas are presented by the writer are analyzed. According to (Taft, Kacanas, Huen, & Chan, 2011), the rhetoric styles used in writing in the first language might be transferred to the writing in the second language. The authors of the article give examples of the rhetorical structures in the different countries. For example, the Japanese assumes a more inductive approach to the language exposition compared to the English text. The Chinese follow a more indirect approach, while the Spanish sentences are more elaborate and less concrete, with less explicit indications that indicate the sentence connection that in English text.  The authors while pointing to the examples assert the likelihood of the transfer of the rhetoric structure from the native class to the L2 class.

            Furthermore, numerous researches on inter-language studies have revealed some similarities in organization in L1 and L2 pieces of texts written by the same individual (Gao, 2012). In addition, differences have been noted in the texts of the non-native and native speakers even under the influence of the nature of the discourse. Some other researchers have pointed to the poor organizational skills amongst the L1 learners as the major cause of their different rhetoric structures in written texts in L2 class. However, an analysis of different L1 learners from different languages has pointed some systematic differences, which point to the transfer of the rhetorical structures from L1 to L2 class.

            A research amongst the students from different cultural backgrounds carried out in the University of New Wales revealed a rhetorical preference of one’s own native language amongst the raters (Taft, Kacanas, Huen, & Chan, 2011, p. 510). The authors selected the participants from first year psychology students from the Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and the South American Spanish speakers and employed non-emotional and culturally neutral content. The results from the qualitative study revealed that a preference of the rhetoric structure of one’s native language is inherent even in a written language that a rater is ignorant of its background. The findings from the study provide a clear evidence of transfer of rhetorical structure from L1 to L2, as revealed by the length and the organizational of the written work by the participants.

            In a study involving a unique criterion, researchers have devised many techniques that can enhance second language acquisition. The concept of peer feedback offers a technique in which the L1 students can acquire the L2 languages skills. Through a process-based approach, where students interact with the teachers and peers, productive texts can be attained and thus improving to the acquisition of the L2 language. According to (Wang, 2013) peer feedback has a positive impact on the L1 and L2 writing. While conducting a research on the impact of feedback on Chinese English learning students (EFL) and the native English speakers (ENL) in the United States, the researchers found a number of differences of the comments made by peers between the native speakers and the Chinese students taking English as a foreign language. The major areas of differences revealed that the Chinese students had a tendency to comment on the local features, whereas the native speakers made global comments. The authors further point to the inter-language proficiency as a major contributor to its findings.

            However, a qualitative research that adopted both the inter-cultural perspective and contrastive rhetoric, (Gao, 2012) sought to investigate the influence of the rhetorical conventions and culture on the academic writing of the Chinese ESL students. The study sought to determine the intercultural experience among Chinese students of academic English writing in the context of the American communities. Therefore, the study incorporated the classroom and disciplinary cultures, which offers more influence in academic writing among the learners compared to the national cultures. Moreover, the study sought to find the influence of the Chinese culture and values on the study participants, who underwent learning in the Chinese high schools and universities before moving to the US universities.

            The study established that at the initial stages of academic writing, the Chinese students assume the Chinese rhetoric conventions in their academic writing. These students continue with their cultural inclinations in their academic writing until they are introduced to the rhetorical requirements of the western culture. The study further found that most of the Chinese students tried to employ complexity as a form of academic writing. A year later on being informed that simplicity and clarity in syntax underlies the western criterion, they soon changed and adopted simplicity and syntax in clarification of their ideas in writing. The main argument behind the study lay on the transfer of rhetorical structures from the L1 to L2 writing. However, the study eluded that an improvement in L2 writing by EFL students improved after exposure to the western rhetoric.

Conclusion

The success of education in a culturally diverse classroom depends on the understanding of the cultural dimensions of such a class. The numerous studies pointed above have shown that the L1 rhetorical structure has a huge influence on the ability of a student to write effectively in an L2 classroom. According to (Hashemian, 2011) the concept of cultural responsive pedagogy has been successful in provision of education in a culturally diverse classroom setting. The earlier concepts of ethnocentrism and ethnorelativism have been accused of negative stereotyping and tolerance of differences in cultures and behaviors. These shortcomings could be dealt with through creation of awareness of the cultural differences and embedding the L1 culture in the teaching of L2 writing. Alternatively, the awareness of the cultural differences play a critical role of helping the course instructors in developing appropriate instructions that considers the needs of the L1 students in L2 classrooms.

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