WordPerfect 5.1 keys for ESL Students

Subject: WordPerfect 5.1 keys for ESL Students
From: Kathy Eyster <kathy -at- NEVADA -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 1994 16:36:16 GMT

[This is a repost as the first try was apparently blank. Please pardon
any duplication. - kse]

Hello all!

I am the Documentarian (computerese for Technical Writer) for the
computing center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Part of my
responsibilities is producing handouts about how to use the software
on the microcomputers in the open labs that we manage.

One of our technical consultants came to me with an interesting
observation today. He was attempting to help a student use WordPerfect
5.1. English was not this student's native language and he had become
confused by our instructions.

For those not familiar with WordPerfect 5.1, the program relies on the
function keys (F# keys across the top of an extended keyboard) in
combination with the Shift, Alt and Ctrl keys to display menus and
apply formatting. In our handout we followed WordPerfect's convention
of giving the name of the key followed by the function key combination
to access a particular feature. For example, to save a document, you
would press the Save (F10) key. "Save (F10)" is also printed in bold and
our conventions state that bolded words are things the user is supposed
to type.

The student kept looking for a key labelled "Save" or "Bold" (as there
are keys labelled Delete and Insert) instead of looking for an F10
key. The consultant explained how the student should read the
instructions but wasn't sure that the student really understood what
he needed to do differently.

Now, I know this is a sample of only 1! :-) However, real-life
comments on problems with our documents are few and far between. I
suspect that if one ESL person has had trouble with our documents,
others have as well.

So I'm considering whether I need to modify the documents (2) we
currently have on WP5.1. At least one idea, that's fairly simple,
occurred to me. We don't explain in our Conventions section how we
talk about the WP function (command) keys. So we could easily add a
paragraph that says the key you need to look for is the one in
parantheses, not one labelled with the name.

I don't know the percentage of foreign language students who rely on
our documents compared with the native speakers. But I believe it's
unlikely that making a change like putting the function key first
instead of the name [e.g. F10 (Save)] would confuse those readers.

Do you have any suggestions or comments about this situation?

Kathy Eyster
System Computing Services
4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89154-4016

Phone: 702-895-4587
FAX: 702-895-3791
Email: kathy -at- nevada -dot- edu

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