People Innovation Excellence

First – Year Writing for Second Language Writers : Why?

by Irfan Rifai

Back in my high school years ,  I found that writing was the most challenging part of  English classes .  I struggled in many of the required tasks: gathering ideas, getting ideas into words, structuring these ideas and even in deciding which words to use, to put my  ideas into something meaningful. I reckon my friends were  in the similar situation too. Having said that, as students we managed to escape the horror of the writing class experience as we did not get many of them. As the result, students simply passed English classes  even  with only very  little writing experience .

The lack of exposure in writing (both in  English and their native language)   during the high school years may later become  a challenge  for Indonesia students when they are at university level.  For students taking English program, the challenge for them may double. Especially those who enroll into the program simply because they were ‘interested to’ or ‘having no other department to enroll’ .  Those who get into the program by interest only would, by my experience, struggle  in the beginning and if they are proven to be persistent in learning, would eventually  cope with those considered having the competence and talent in language learning. How should the L2 writing curriculum in our context be prepared?

Collaborative Writing for L2 Writers
Collaborative Writing for L2 Writers

In my short tenure as writing instructor , I often found that the curricula  of the writing class was,  at times, imbalanced  and  less systematic – ly designed. In developing a writing curriculum for L2 students, one should ensure that students get : a strong basis of understanding of target language conventions ( content and forms) for them  to improve their  accuracy  and   opportunities  to read  widen their horizon , vocabulary and and to write in order to  to sharpen their skill .

Should we have special writing programs for English department students in their first year? The answer to me  is definite: yes. With the lack of habits and exposures in high school, it is imperative that English department in a non English speaking country support the writing development of their students by exposing them them with the English language conventions and the habits of writing. In short term, students being exposed to the first-year writing program will be more prepared to the challenging tasks at university that demand lots of writing and composition. In the long run, in the world where technology plays dominant role, writing skill will always be  important.

In English department of Binus University, students are required to have these two types of courses in their first year of college: Language in Use I, II, III ( 12 credits)  and  Academic Writing 101 ( 4 credits) . With both types courses have 16 credits, it means students will have  a total of 16 credits  in which they develop their L2 writing skill by improving their knowledge on the forms and the content and the the features of academic writing.

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