Helen Fox

Helen Fox

Listening to the World: Cultural Issues in Academic Writing

The cultural differences between Papa Susso and his U.S. mainstream audience are tendencies, sometimes strong tendencies, to use particular abilities among many in the human repertoire, to value them, to find them logical, elegant, and sophisticated, to devote considerable attention and care to using them well. (xi-xii)

And although these students may seem very different in their dress, their interests, their previous education, and their present aspirations from a traditional performer like Papa Susso, still they come from cultures with strong traditions of communicating indirectly and holistically, learning by absorption, valuing the wisdom of the past, and downplaying the individual in favor of the group. (xii)

For writing touches the heart of a student’s identity, drawing its voice and strength and meaning from the way the student understands the world. (xiii)

…often had difficulty with “analytical writing.”  At first, the precise nature of this difficulty was hard to determine (except, at some faculity members told me, they seemed to write more “description” than “analysis”) (xiv)

I became convinced that it was because they had a completely different idea of how to understand the world and express that understanding than I did-or than their professors expected. (xiv)

…I worked on the assumption that complex and original analysis is difficult for anyone returning to school after some years in the work force. (xv)

It slowly began to dawn on me that I was assuming that these “non western” students understood the ideas of “organization,” “coherence,” clarity,” “depth,” and “continuity” in the same way I did, when in fact it might not be the case at all. (xv)

…that cultural communication styles learned from childhood were affecting their writing. (xvi)

Graduate students are often sent by professors who are unable or unwilling to give them much feedback on content because they can’t make heads or tails of the argument. (1)

They are the World Majority. And we need to pay attention to them, to learn how the world makes sense to them, both to broaden our own intellectual interests and capabilities and to become more effective at helping them adopt the communicative style and habits of mind that will foster their success in our system. (10)

…Raj comes from a context where tightly woven connections between ideas and support, center and periphery, background and thesis are not what is important.  (27)

…what I discovered was that it (a new way to write) meant I had to look at things differently.  Real differently.  And in that sense, my world view has changed. (44)

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