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Title of the proposed study
The influence of first language/culture on the students’ argumentative English writing skills
The locale and participants in the proposed study
The participants will include a sample of international college students drawn from different socio-cultural contexts. The sample will comprise of students from non-English speaking countries or cultures who are studying a linguistic program in the university. The research site will be an Australian university admitting international students from nations that do not use English as the native or national language in public communication.
Description of the problem
The proposed study will investigate how native languages or cultures affect students’ argumentative discourse when using the English language to write literary compositions. It will examine whether bilingual students can articulate their views effectively in both their native and foreign languages when writing argumentative essays or literary compositions. Furthermore, it will examine other concepts such as “linguistic relativity and translation” that affect the way students learn and use a foreign language in both speech and writing (Connor, 1996, p. 32). The study aims to establish whether distinct socio-cultural forms affect the students’ comprehension and use of foreign language in argumentative or critical writing.
Importance of this problem
Connor (1996) asserts that differences in cultural forms, such as “speech, thought, and behaviour” give rise to distinct literary genres, which implies that styles of self-expression in writing vary between cultures (p. 42). Understanding the interface between native and foreign languages is important in ensuring a comprehensive English language instruction. Moreover, understanding the subtle language differences that affect writing can help teachers design effective instructional methods to promote second language learning among foreign students.
The theory that will be used to situate the problem
The researcher will use the ethnography of communication as a theoretical lens to examine the influence of socio-cultural contexts on the participants’ argumentative competence when writing essays. The ethnography of communication theory centres on shared linguistic patterns that a person learns from his or her culture, which shape individual communicative competencies, such as the ability to write grammatical sentences, articulate one’s views clearly, and use language to convey individual perspectives or views (Farah, 1997).
The argument for the selected theory
The ethnography of communication is founded on the view that linguistic expression depends largely on culture and the notion that language is a scheme of shared knowledge and values that are specific to a particular group of people. People can communicate effectively with one another in their native language because it contains linguistic norms that determine how language is interpreted in speech or writing. Thus, the theory is appropriate for studying the native speakers’ ability to use “language for communication in real situations” (Farah, 1997, p. 126). The proposed problem relates to the speakers’ ability to express themselves in a foreign language (English) in a way that is articulate and reflective of a foreign socio-cultural context. Ethnographic methods (prolonged observation and fieldwork) will reveal the distinct linguistic codes and cultural values that affect a students’ ability to express his or her views in the foreign language. This means that a student can be more articulate when using his or her native language to speak than when using a foreign language to communicate. The distinct linguistic forms affect how one interprets information in a foreign cultural context. Thus, differences in cultural behaviours have an impact on how foreign students use the English language to communicate and express their views or perspectives in writing.
Connor, U. (1996). Contrastive rhetoric: Cross-cultural aspects of second-language writing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Farah, I. (1997). Ethnography of Communication. Encyclopaedia of Language and Education, 8, 125-133.