I recently met one of my tutoring clients in person to go over an assignment – she wanted some more in-depth assistance with writing, beyond the usual editing and proofreading that I offer. She’s only been in NZ for a year, and her English is surprisingly good. But most of all, she was so earnest, so dedicated, and brimming with good ideas. It put me to shame.
She works while studying, and practices her spoken English as much as possible. She finds it a bit daunting talking to her NZ coworkers, who often have trouble understanding her – so she’s chosen to live with some other immigrants from different countries. Nothing is taken for granted.
I just can’t imagine going to a completely foreign country, all alone, and starting a life from the ground up. She was so grateful that I helped her achieve a good mark on her last report – and you can’t tell me that there’s anything more rewarding than knowing you’ve made a difference for someone else.
I think maybe at some point I should look into volunteering with new migrants, or even working in that sector one day.
But to the point that I wanted to make… It was pretty common at uni for people to help each other out with assignments. I don’t mean those godawful collaborative projects; I mean just regular essays, the kind that require you to swallow a bunch of textbooks. Stuff like comparing content, proofing each other’s work, etc. I was a bit of a lone wolf especially academically, so I never did. Heck, I can count on the number of times I sought out one-on-one help from my tutors – that excludes my final year, of course, because that’s a whole new ball game.
If you have trouble with academic writing, of course you’d take a course to brush up on the technique, and if English is your second language you might get a tutor. But the whole point of assignments is to assess YOUR work. So where does paying someone to polish your writing fall? Would it be different if it was someone who had English as a second language and struggled to write a cohesive paragraph, compared to your average student who’s too lazy to use spell check?
I always end up of the mindset that ESL students should be able to take advantage of any help they can. It’s just that in my experience they’re often very bright and hardworking, but at a terrible disadvantage just because they don’t speak English as a first language. I always love working with ESL students when I tutor.
My parents did just that: they saved up a bit and emigrated from Haiti to the US. They studied English for a bit in Haiti but they really came here with nothing and built a life from that. Even though they annoy me sometimes, there are no other people I admire so much on earth. It really takes a strong character to uproot yourself from your culture and to establish yourself in another.
I’ve never had a lot of experience with people who don’t speak English as a first language, but if anyone who couldn’t came to me for help, I would certainly do my best to try.