After reading Hoffman's account of acquiring a new language during her formative years, it reminds me of exactly what the non-native speaking students had to go through to form not only a coherent paper, but also a coherent sentence, paragraph, and sometimes even word--something that writers, especially those in a class such as this, need not worry about too often. "Hoffman's account gives us some sense of what it means to learn to live in the world of a second language and helps us understand the complexities, confusion, loss, the "verbal blur," as she puts it, that many of our ESL students have had to face and continue to face in their own acquisition of English" (Kutz, Groden, and Zamel 10).
Each time we handed in a paper in this class, one of our added responsibilities was to read at least 2 of our classmates' papers and write something "good or encouraging" about what they had written. I can't tell you how hard it was to come up with either something "good" or "encouraging" for some of these papers, but I did the best I could. Howcver, as the semester toiled on, I began to see the light of what our instructor was doing--she was making us look beyond the errors in spelling and grammar and syntax, and making us look at the composition as a whole. In doing so, I was able to always find something that might please the recipient of my editing, and this method of learning by teaching has stayed with me since.
Kutz, Elanor, Suzy Groden, and Vivian Zamel. The Discovery of Competence: Teaching and
Learning with Diverse Student Writers. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Heinemann, 1993.