Re: Who is an ESL writer?

Subject: Re: Who is an ESL writer?
From: Sandy Harris <sandyinchina -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2013 16:23:01 -0400

Reshma <reshma_pendse -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot- in> wrote:

> I asked- How about someone whose mother tongue is not English but whose medium of instruction at school was English?

> ... For all academic and professional purposes, English is my language of communication. Why then should I categorised as an ESL? Ther is nothing "second" about it.

It is still a second language, not your native language. So you are
still an ESL writer, by definition.

That said, "ESL writer" is such a broad term as to be almost useless.
There are ESL writers who have major & obvious problems using English,
and others who are completely fluent and have no difficulty at all.

In my experience, there are three groups who have lots of fluent ESL
speakers -- ex-colonial areas like India and the Philippines,
countries with closely related languages like Scandinavia and the
Netherlands, and areas where bilingualism is common like parts of
French Canada. I have met many people from those areas whose English
was as fluent as one could want. Sure, to my ear they all have
noticeable accents, but who cares? To other ears, I have a pronounced
Canadian accent.

Dialect differences can be a problem for Indians. Terms like fresher,
godown, lakh and crore are OK anywhere from Kabul to Singapore (plus
Hong Kong, perhaps), but nowhere else. This is not a big deal, though;
every dialect has expressions that are odd if used outside that

There are many well-known examples of very successful ESL speakers.
Joseph Conrad is considered one of the greatest English novelists, but
he learned the language as an adult. I work with computers and
routinely read things by ESL speakers -- Niklaus Wirth, Edsger
Djykstra, Linus Torvalds, Xuejia Lai, ... -- that are clear and very
well written. As a Canadian, I recall our Prime Minister Pierre
Trudeau, a native French speaker who was a better orator in English
than most native speaker politicians here or elsewhere.
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