Vol. 1. No. 4 A-2 June 1995
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The Man who Mistook "Wet Paint" for a Verb: A Chronicle for Thinking about Language, Culture and Writing

Marcia Pally & Abou Diallo
New York University


This article chronicles an ESL tutorial between a woman from Niger, whose first languages are French and Fulani, and her teacher, a native speaker of English. It highlights issues in ESL teaching and research. The teaching issues include: (1) identifying the most useful focus and pedagogical sequence for advanced ESL instruction; (2) the gap between what teachers "mean" and what students apprehend; (3) cross-cultural differences in the rhetorical requirements of expository and persuasive writing, including argument, proof, cause-and-effect, and summation/judgment. The article considers whether these requirements should be made explicit and who benefits from explicitness; (4) the political and economic conditions under which international students study at U.S. universities, and the effects of these conditions on quality of education, student resistance to education, communication among students and faculty, and the attitudes that international students develop about their experience in America.

The major research issue broached is the value of the chronicle, sometimes called action research in Britain, case study in the works of Bruner, Merriam, Clark, Nieto, and portraiture in the work of Ashton-Warner, Lightfoot, and Sayers. Chronicles offer not sample populations but examples of language learning that may 1) spark theory building and quantitative research, 2) allow teachers to assess research findings for classroom use, and 3) become authentic texts and task-based activities for language study.

Keywords: Classroom Interaction, Methodology

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