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  • Isaac Ting

Writing Across Borders

Welcome back everyone! I’m glad you stopped by today to take a little break and get to know a little bit more about the Writing Center! This week, we’re transitioning back into our “Fast Facts About The Writing Center” series by talking about differences in writing styles across different cultures. When we train to become tutors at the Writing Center, we spend a great deal of time learning about these different writing styles and how to help international students adjust to the writing style they will use here at Mississippi College. I would love to tell you about this topic, so I asked one of our Writing Center tutors and international students, Isaac Ting, to talk with you!

Isaac Ting, Writing Center Tutor and International Student

Hello MC Family! I am more than honored to be a guest writer for today. My name’s Isaac Ting, born and raised in Singapore. I am a junior and currently majoring in Pre-Physical Therapy. Today, I’ll be sharing a little bit about the differences in writing between Singapore and the USA.

When I was growing up in Singapore, I found that there was a smorgasbord of cultures. We had the blunt and direct cultures of the West, and the strongly-suggestive cultures of the East. The influences these had in writing presented a rather confounding problem in Singapore. Certain schools preferred the direct style of writing of the West, while others preferred the soft spoken culture of the East. I was lucky enough to experience both writing styles; funnily enough it was in the same school. Having to take both English and Chinese classes, I had to learn both writing styles of the Eastern and Western cultures. While this duality seemed like it gave me an advantage in writing, it did otherwise. I was unable to fully explore either styles to the degree where I could adopt either as second nature.

Dueling Cultures

I think it’s worth noting what I mean when I say I experienced a mix of Western and Eastern cultures. Singapore as a whole tended to be very much Eastern. In that, the Eastern culture was community driven, focusing much on the whole as opposed to the individual details. This was evident through the writing style of Singapore, where extensive exposition was rife. Often, it was almost a progression of the writer’s thought process to reach the thesis.

The Western culture was the opposite, where individualism was celebrated. Community was not a foreign concept, just not as emphasized. In addition, the more ‘immediate action’ culture was apparent in the writing style of the West. Thesis first, exposition later.

To better understand what I mean, think of this analogy: You’re out for lunch with friends. Some of your friends already have their food, while others are still waiting for theirs. Now, do you wait for everyone to have their food before eating? Or, do you start eating first? In the West, it would be perfectly acceptable to begin eating before anyone else, while in the East, doing so would earn many frowns. In the same way, you state your thesis first in the Western writing style and explain the details and arguments later. But, you wait to explain your thesis in the Eastern writing style until after you have explained a majority of your ideas and arguments.

Learning new writing styles can be difficult, but the WC can help!

Coming to MC

I came to MC in Fall 2018, but I had already come to America multiple times to visit some of my family. These trips allowed me to experience the Western culture to a certain extent. However, I never thought about how their culture reflected their writing style until I started classes at MC. My first formal writing assignment came almost as a shock. Although I was familiar with the direct, thesis-driven style of writing, spending two years in the military caused me to write like how I spoke, which was the exposition heavy style of the Eastern culture. Fortunately, it was not long before I began to adapt to the direct writing style of the West.

Since I had to adapt to the Western writing style, I understand that international students can sometimes struggle to learn the Western style of writing. Staring down the list of principles for Western writing can be daunting for international students who were never exposed to such before. Learning a new writing style altogether can be extremely daunting. It was certainly daunting for me when I first had to learn it while in my school in Singapore.

To that, I’ll say “Fret not!” I work as a tutor at the Writing Center and, here at the WC, we fully understand the struggle that international students can face when given written assignments. Sometimes, the international students will be confused by their professor’s idioms (since words function differently across cultures), struggling with following the structure of the Western writing style, or anxious over their assignments purely from being overwhelmed. We completely understand these feelings because we’ve all had them before or spoken with someone experiencing something similar. I think we can all agree that those are not pleasant feelings, which is why we want to help you get rid of those feelings as best as we can!

Help us help you, schedule an appointment with us (or me) today!

We, the Writing Center tutors, are willing to help you!

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