Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Read the Instructions first Instructions/Instructions.pdf In the section “cross-cultural differ | Max paper
  

Read the Instructions first

Instructions/Instructions.pdf

In the section “cross-cultural differences in Academic Language,”Swales and Feak note

that U.S academic English “has several features that place it at the end of a number of continua”

(16). The list on page 16 lists several points on that continua, such as “contain more citations”

or, “less tolerant of digressions.”

In the personal narrative essay “Traveling by Economy Class” Dr. Canagarajah describes

his experience writing in cross- cultural contexts. The style of writing he used in high school was

considered too emotional when he moved to the US- he writes “[he] began to intuit that the

exaggerated, passionate, personalized style of writing wasn’t universally appreciated in the

academic community.”

He later finds the same paper that was rejected for being “too hostile” to a US based

publication was published without complaints in a journal based in the UK, pointing to a political

aspect to what we judge as “good writing.” Evan as a very successful academic in his field, he

states that he still feels he has to work to make his writing “less subjective” as he writes.

Writing assignment:

Assume you are not a native speaker in English.

How are your experiences similar or different those of Canagarajah?

Is American Academic English very familiar to you, does it feel a bit strange?

Please write at least 300 words.

__MACOSX/Instructions/._Instructions.pdf

Instructions/.DS_Store

__MACOSX/Instructions/._.DS_Store

Instructions/Traveling by Economy Class_Dr. Canagarajah.pdf

The Fortunate Traveler:
Shuttling between Communities and
Literacies by Economy Class
Suresh Canagarajah is an associate professor in
English at Baruch College of the City University of
New York. He teaches postcolonial literature,
Masterpieces of World Literature, ESL, and
composition. His research interests span
bilingualism, discourse analysis, academic
writing, and critical pedagogy. He hails from the
Tamil-speaking northern region of Sri Lanka, and
taught in the University of Jaffna from 1984 to
1994. Among his publications are Resisting
Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching (1999),
and research articles in the professional journals
TESOL Quarterly, College Composition and
Communication, Language in Society, Written
Communication, World Englishes, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural
Development, and Multilingua. His book Geopolitics of Academic Literacy
and Knowledge Construction is to be published by the University of
Pittsburgh Press in 2001. He has worked with inner-city community service
organizations in the South Bronx, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. He
contributes to the literary and cultural activities of Tamil refugee groups in
North America and Europe.

‘You are so fortunate, you get to see the world – ’
Indeed, indeed, sirs, I have seen the world.

Spray splashes the portholes and vision blurs.
Derek Walcott, The Fortunate Traveller (1986)

While we are seated under the mango trees outside our house on a warm
breezy afternoon in Jaffna chatting in Tamil, my Dad suddenly whispers
something in English to my mother and they both sneak into the room
inside, letting me play with the maid. They would emerge a couple of hours
later seeming tired and exhausted, leaving me curious as to what they had
uttered in English earlier. There are other occasions when we’ll be talking

23

24
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:00

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

about some wayward relatives, when my parents would switch to English
to discuss some unpleasant episodes that shouldn’t be understood by a
four year-old like me. Or, while planning my upcoming birthday party,
they would quickly switch to English to talk about a gift or invitee they’d
like to keep hidden from me. These early experiences would leave a lasting
impression on me of English as a language of secrecy, power, and mystery;
a language owned by others, not belonging to me; a language that could
put into disadvantage those who aren’t proficient in it.

Many weeks and months later I would continue to put one and one
together, understand with the help of context, guess the meaning, till I
gradually began to break the code. Thus, even before I started attending
school, I grew into some rudimentary levels of proficiency in English. My
parents later learnt – much to their dismay – that they couldn’t use English
as a secret code any more between themselves. More dramatically, I joined
the in-group now, sharing with them jokes, secrets, and gossip that we kept
away from the monolinguals around us (like our maid). It was exhilarating
to join the exclusive club of bilinguals (at least the two adults in my house)
as we teamed up to put others into disadvantage. It would be much later in
life that I would become politically sensitive enough to question the unfair
power enjoyed by this language. It is after developing this sensitivity that I
would understand the need to teach English critically and share its
resources widely in my community to democratize its possibilities. But the
strategies that helped me acquire proficiency in the language in my
pre-school days would remain with me as I strove to become literate in
English. These are the strategies: a curiosity towards the language, the
ability to intuit linguistic rules from observation of actual usage, a
metalinguistic awareness of the system behind languages, and the ability
to creatively negotiate meaning in context. The characteristics of humility,
wonder, and excitement over the power and complexity of language have
also encouraged my coming into voice in English literacy. In an educational
context where there was little explicit teaching of writing, and a social
context that was predominantly oral in communicative tradition, such
were the inner resources required to develop bilingual literacy. Perhaps
these are the secrets of everyday learning – characterized by reflective
understanding, strategic thinking, and contextual reasoning – that are at
the heart of any educational experience. They sustain me as I negotiate the
communicative traditions in Tamil and English – not to mention the hybrid
discourses of diverse institutions and contexts – as I continue to develop a
literate voice as a bilingual.

24 Reflections on Multiliterate Lives

25
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:00

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

Childhood Literacy

I was born into a family that was already bilingual. In fact, both my
parents were teachers of English, having done teacher training locally. Our
relationship with the dual languages was complicated. We used Tamil for
everyday oral communication. But the language of choice for literate
activities for my parents was English. Literacy in our family involved more
reading than writing. Moreover, we rarely indulged in academic or
‘serious’ reading and writing. Being literate meant the reading of the bible,
newspapers, and some light fictional texts. As children, we were given
simple books of nursery rhymes and stories that depicted the life of amiable
pigs, ducks and sheep. I remember that these books had a gloss and color
that was lacking in locally produced nursery readers in Tamil. Writing
meant sending letters to acquaintances or business institutions. This was
quite frequent in a community that lacks widespread use of telephones.
(My family never had a telephone in Sri Lanka.) The relative status of the
type of oral/literate and reading/writing activities we did in either
language (which has remained largely the same throughout my life) would
influence my written discourse. The Tamil of my oral interactions influ-
ences the English of my writing. I have used rhetorical skills of Tamil oral
discourse in my English academic texts. This is partly because my family
hadn’t developed a discourse for English oral interactions or that of Tamil
written traditions. The awkward tensions it creates and the creative ways
in which it has been negotiated constitute the story of my development as a
bilingual writer.

Another important reason why my oral discourse in the vernacular
influenced my writing is because there was no explicit teaching of writing
during my education in Sri Lanka. The language classes in my secondary
school in Jaffna did have a component called essay writing (in addition to
grammar, speech, and reading). But the writing instruction consisted of
teachers assigning topics for our essays, taking them home for correction,
and students reading out aloud their exemplary essays in the next class.
The correction usually focused on grammatical, syntactic, and spelling
errors. A grade was assigned using a vague/undefined notion of expressive
effectiveness. With hindsight, I may call this a product-oriented practice
towards writing – although there was no explicit rhetorical theory or
teaching practice that motivated teachers to adopt this approach.

I emerged as a writer of no mean standing in this background. I still
remember an essay in the Tamil class that was praised by my teacher in
grade 6. I was asked to read this to the class as a model of good writing. It
was one of those ubiquitous topics in secondary school, i.e. the most memo-

Suresh Canagarajah 25

26
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:01

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

rable experience in my life. I adopted some reflexive moves and dramatic
twists that impressed the readers. I narrated an incident during an educa-
tional tour organized by my school. I first evoke the excitement and fun
among the students as we begin the tour in a chartered bus at daybreak.
Then I move to the tragic climax around the middle of the tour: as our bus
approaches a railroad crossing on one of those bridges common in Sri
Lanka which the trains and cars use alternately, the guard rails on both
sides close with the bus trapped in the middle. With the train approaching
us, I pause before the inevitable conclusion. I employ a stream of conscious-
ness to dramatize the various feelings and thoughts that rush through my
mind in a mixture of flashbacks composed of reality and illusion. As the
train nears us, I awake from sleep to realize that all that I had narrated was
in fact a dream. Thus I cheat the reader. The expressive effects, the
emotional climaxes, suspense, excitement, and personal involvement were
very much appreciated. This constituted ‘good writing’ for my vernacular
teacher, my classmates, and me during those days.

My English essays were also usually commended. But before I left
school I had an experience that taught me that not everything was okay
with a style that heightened feelings and sensation. This occurred in the
annual essay-writing competition held by the school for the senior classes.
There were many subjects given for us to choose from. Knowing my
strength, I chose the subject ‘A Day in the Life of a Beggar’. In a chrono-
logically structured essay that begins with daybreak and accompanies the
beggar as he goes through the streets to beg for food, I end with his mono-
logue under the awnings of a shop where he spends the night. He reflects
on his sad plight and is in tears. I bring out the contrast between the plight
of the beggar and the indifference of the rest of the society, much of this
through the self-pitying musings of the beggar himself. I was certain that
the examiner would be moved to tears by this expressive writing and offer
me the prize.

But the decision surprised me. The prize went to a classmate, Seelan,
who was in the science stream. He wrote on the subject ‘Airplanes’. This
was a technical essay on the recent developments in aerospace technology.
The differences in both our essays were glaring. Seelan had adopted a
restrained prose packed with information. (For the record, my friend was
from a considerably more anglicized bilingual family that used English as
the home language, and was also an avid reader in English.) It is possible
that he was more influenced by the literate discourse in English while my
writing showed the trace of oral discourse from the vernacular. We must
also note here the background of the examiner. Though other English
teachers had appreciated my expressive writing in English, this teacher

26 Reflections on Multiliterate Lives

27
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:01

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

(who was very senior in the school) had done some education in England,
held a Master’s degree, and was deeply inducted into English literacy. It is
possible that this teacher’s background made him appreciate a different
discourse. But, interestingly, no explanation was given as to why the prize
was awarded to the essay on airplanes. Our teachers didn’t have the
language to theorize decisions and assessments on writing. (There was
only a single examiner for this contest, implying the belief that conclusive
judgments could be made by anyone according to presumably universally
accepted standards.) Since we weren’t given any explanations, I was left to
learn by trial and error. But one incident of negative feedback was not
sufficient to teach me that expressive/emotional writing was not the only
or best mode of writing in the world.

College Literacy

There was not much difference in my writing strategy when I proceeded
to the more cosmopolitan capital city to obtain my first degree. I was major-
ing in English. The course work consisted mainly of lectures on literature –
from Chaucer to Eliot and after. There was just one course on ‘language’ –
which featured a structuralist approach to the description of grammar.
What were called ‘tutorial classes’ – an hour a week – were reserved for
writing assignments deriving from the lectures. A tutor was assigned to
small groups of four or five students. The essays we wrote weekly were
graded largely according to content. The rhetorically oriented comments
were scribbles in the margins, like ‘original insight’, ‘interesting idea’, or
‘meaning not clear’ and the flagging of awkward syntax. The discussions in
the class featured our reactions to the content of the essays. In a sense, these
tutorial classes were somewhat personalized versions of our other lecture
classes. In fact, in some tutorial classes there was very little writing. The
hour was spent discussing the assigned texts in a collaborative, discus-
sion-oriented manner. While the English department recognized the need
for effective writing skills by assigning an hour for this purpose, there was
no understanding about how this was to be inculcated.

I was left to learn by trial and error once again. When one of my essays in
the first year was praised by my tutorial instructor for original insights and
fresh use of language and was awarded an A, I thought this approach was
what was appreciated in the university. I took my style a step further in my
next essay. This was on the short story by Faulkner, Dry September. In this
story a black man is lynched after being falsely accused of rape by an aging
white woman. My essay was an interpretation of the evils of racism. In
passionate prose, replete with rhetorical questions and exclamations, I

Suresh Canagarajah 27

28
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:01

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

moralized on the implications of the story: ‘O why, why should people be
judged on the basis of their skin? When will prejudice ever end? When will
we begin to look at people as human beings and not as black, brown, or
yellow?!…’ This paper was rewarded with an A and praised for its ‘powerful
language’, its very ‘personal response,’ and relating the text to life.

There was some evidence that this style was not widely appreciated
even in Sri Lanka. I recollect that the lecturers who gave me good grades
(two of them in particular) had earned their first degrees locally and were
doing their postgraduate degrees in Sri Lanka. They were also more deeply
grounded in the vernacular literary and language traditions. But our exam-
ination scripts were marked by senior instructors who had obtained their
doctorates in British universities. Here I didn’t fare that well. I didn’t see
any As for my essays in the final tests. In fact, I remember one of my senior
lecturers asking whether I really needed all the exclamations in my essays!
(There goes another of my exclamations.) But that was the closest they
came to posing a meta-textual (or even textual) comment on my writing. I
began to intuit that the exaggerated, passionate, personalized style of
writing wasn’t universally appreciated in the academic community. But
since there was little overt theorization or meta-discursive commentary on
styles of writing, it was difficult for me to understand the rationale behind
these different responses.

I must remark here, with the benefit of hindsight, that some of the
different discursive influences – that of my local communicative tradition
and the Western tradition – were coming into conflict in this formative
experience of my literacy development. The predominantly oral influence
in the vernacular tradition values the feelings, personalization, exaggera-
tion, and hyperbole of communication. The restraint typical of serious
Western writing is considered bland and mechanical. It is not surprising
that my instructors who were rooted in the vernacular tradition (even
though they were teachers of English) appreciated the discursive strengths
I brought from this tradition. Of course, teachers who came from the tradi-
tional bilingual elite (with postgraduate education in the West) had an
instinctive discomfort with this style – although they didn’t have the
language or tools to explain their preference. On the whole, both kinds of
my teachers show the hybrid discursive traditions and styles of textuality
that exist in postcolonial bilingual communities.

Joining The Academic Community

When I moved to the USA for my graduate studies, many of my sources
of cultural shock pertained to text construction. In the very first essay I

28 Reflections on Multiliterate Lives

29
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:01

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

wrote in my first semester at Bowling Green State University – an apprecia-
tion of a poem by Randall Jarrel – I found the instructor’s red pen used a bit
too much for my liking. He wanted to know why I didn’t have two spaces
after my periods, a single space after my commas, and five spaces at the
beginning of my paragraphs. He wanted to know why the first sentences of
my paragraph announced one thing while the rest of the paragraph went on
to talk about different matters. He underlined my occasional typographical
mistakes and called them spelling errors (I was new to typing: all my essays
in Sri Lankan schools and universities had been handwritten, as type-
writers and computers are hard to come by). He also referred to my
occasional Sri Lankan idiom as grammatical or syntactical errors. His B
minus was by now not surprising to me. I knew that he had gone totally out
of his mind. With much exasperation I asked him, ‘Don’t you have
anything to say about the original ideas I was developing in this essay? Did
you only look at these insignificant mechanics of my paper to give me that
grade?’ I was, of course, expressing the bias of my community that content
is more important than form. He blurted out something like, ‘But these
things are important’. What struck me as peculiar about his approach was
the heightened sensitivity to the materiality of my text – the physical repre-
sentation of what I was trying to communicate. It was shocking to learn that
there were such numerous detailed rules and conventions relating to the
encoding of ideas on the page.

It was fortunate that my graduate advisor had enrolled me for a course
titled ‘Bibliographical and Research Methods’ in my very first semester. I
soon learnt the documentation methods and citation conventions of
various style manuals – like the MLA, APA, and Chicago. Although my
real induction into academic discourse was to come later, this introduction
to the textual conventions of writing was important to me. I also learnt to
consider books as ‘products’ and understand such matters as copyright,
reprints, and other conventions of the publishing process. Another compo-
nent of the course was the introduction to word-processing. As I went
through the routines of opening, saving, closing, and reopening files in the
Macintoshes in the university computer lab, I realized what a fortuitous
move this was. Not only did word-processing erase all the traces of my bad
typing, the ease of producing successive drafts enabled me to give the kind
of attention to the text demanded by my American professors. I enjoyed
re-reading and revising my texts, as I didn’t have to hand-write or manu-
ally type each draft all over again.

As for mastering the discoursal aspects of academic literacy, this took a
more difficult route. My reflective learning and critical thinking on the
feedback of my professors enabled me to make some crucial insights into

Suresh Canagarajah 29

30
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:01

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

differences in style, structure, and tone. When a young assistant professor
teaching American Transcendental literature used his red pencil liberally –
and pointed out that my introduction didn’t lay down the outline of my
argument or announce my thesis, and that my essay started at one point
and ended at another point – I was disturbed. Soon I couldn’t take it any
more. After carefully choosing my words, I met him in his office to tell him
that my strategy of developing an argument had a different logic all its
own. I chose the terms inductive and deductive to articulate the difference.
While he was demanding a deductive approach, which already anticipated
the concluding point of the argument, mine was an inductive approach that
proceeded gradually towards the thesis in the last paragraph after
providing the relevant evidence first. When this failed to break his resis-
tance, I brought my trump card. I said that, since I was from a British
colony, I was inducted into a more leisurely writing style (that sustained a
certain amount of suspense, discovery, and involvement in communica-
tion typical in British scholarly writing) while the American academic style
was too rigid, calculated, circular, and self-confirming. This explanation
seemed to make better sense to the professor and he began to comprehend
my essays. But I must say that the professor’s careful attention to the
construction of my paragraphs and development of my essay sensitized
me to a more self-conscious use of language and discourse.

The real watershed in my transition to the literacy expected in the Amer-
ican academy would come through a more ironic route. I learnt a lot about
academic writing by teaching composition to undergraduate students.
Around this time, I was also registered for a course on Rhetoric and
Composition – a requirement for teaching assistants in the English depart-
ment. As I perused the textbooks of my students and also studied the
recommended reading from my course (featuring the cognitive process
approach of Flower, Hayes, Emig, and others of this period), I could under-
stand better the thinking of my American teachers. The textbooks defined
for me such textual structures as topic sentences, thesis statements, body
paragraphs, supporting details, and transitions. The course work intro-
duced me to the processes of brainstorming, outlining, and idea develop-
ment. Used to valuing the poignancy of spontaneous communication,
these cognitive routines and structural features forced me to detach myself
from my writing and thus develop a more restrained, objective prose.
Having mastered the magic formula of academic writing, it was not diffi-
cult to cruise through graduate school with effortless ease. I thought I had
reached the culmination of my progression into academic literacy. This
feeling was confirmed when my early submissions to leading professional

30 Reflections on Multiliterate Lives

31
Belcher & Connor: 2nd proof, Wordworks 0870 740 7725
11 January 2001 19:10:02

Color profile: Disabled
Composite Default screen

Reflections on Multiliterate Lives : Reflections on Multiliterate Lives, edited by Dr. Diane Belcher, and Dr. Ulla Connor,
Channel View Publications, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/cunymain/detail.action?docID=3007700.
Created from cunymain on 2019-01-04 08:18:21.

C
op

yr
ig

ht
©

2
00

1.
C

ha
nn

el
V

ie
w

P
ub

lic
at

io
ns

. A
ll

rig
ht

s
re

se
rv

ed
.

journals like TESOL Quarterly, World Englishes, and Language in Society got
accepted without much fuss.

An Outsider at Home

That this formula of academic text construction was not universally
appreciated I was to discover when I returned to Sri Lanka to teach in my
hometown after my doctorate. The reactions of my colleagues to my publi-
cations were not that enthusiastic. While some of them had praised my
style in the articles I had written to local newspapers and magazines before
my departure to the West, now they were enigmatically silent. Though
they did not express openly their dissatisfaction at the new discourse I was
adopting, their feelings were conveyed in other subtle ways. The only essay
that one of my colleagues (who frequently edits my essays) approved was
the article I published in World Englishes. This was different from my other
articles. While the others reported empirically-based ethnographic or
sociolinguistic research, this essay was on literature. I did a close reading …

error: Content is protected !!