Re: Who is an ESL writer?

Subject: Re: Who is an ESL writer?
From: reshma pendse <reshma_pendse -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot- in>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2013 01:27:04 +0800 (SGT)

Thanks, all, for a great discussion, both on-list and off. This was not a question about writers who write for ESL learners, so I will not go there. Sorry if I led anyone into thinking it was.

Some gleanings off this thread:

1. Several 'dialects' of English have evolved in the different countries that were exposed to US or British English. They are none of them wrong, just 'different'.
2. To some of you, ESL means a non-native speaker/writer, no matter what their level of proficiency. To others, the term 'ESL Writer' does nothing to describe a writer's skill and command over English grammar, syntax, and usage.
3. ESL writers may write grammatically correct English, but their writing is less likely to have native flavors, and may contain idioms and word choices that sound alien to native ears. That said, there are plenty of 'ESL' writers who are known for their prolific writing.
4. ESL is a second language because a huge amount of language learning happens in the native language before schooling begins. This learning can influence the way a person approaches and learns English.

So, IMO, ESL is not the right term to refer to non-native writers in general, and to non-native skilled writers in particular. Hiring ESL writers often means lesser wages and low expectations (one whole sentence in flawless English? Wow, she is good!) from the organization's perspective. From the writer's perspective, being slotted as an ESL writer might mean having to prove yourself over and over, and not being considered for higher positions in the organization despite having the skill set. 

To overcome this, I've been thinking that maybe there should be some certification to gauge a non-native writer's English skills. I've worked with some great writers here in India, and some whose work I practically had to rewrite. Some of these latter writers have graduate degrees in English or Communication or Journalism, but you wouldn't know that from their writing. On the other hand, many of the skilled and nifty writers don't possess a degree certifying their language skills. Even of they did, a degree in English from a non-native country might not be considered at par with one from a native country.

What do you think? Would a standard certification requirement make it easier for hiring managers to separate the wheat from the chaff, and reduce the challenges of working with under-qualified people? 

best regards,
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Purpose of Tech Comms today: From: Janoff, Steven
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