Opinion: multilingual writers face challenges, hold ‎promise ‎

It’s important to support multilingual speakers, so they can build confidence.

by Abdulrahman Bindamnan and Charles Euchner

Do you find writing challenging? ‎

Imagine my frustration when arriving to the U.S. six years ago, with only some “tourist ‎‎English,” desperate to express myself ‎and clueless to find a path ‎forward. I sat at the ‎University of ‎Miami ‎classrooms, hoping to ‎digest what the ‎professor was ‎teaching, but ‎my language was at an inchoate stage of ‎‎development. I was ‎literate in ‎Arabic but functionally illiterate ‎‎in English. I had ideas in my ‎mind but struggled to express them ‎in English. ‎

I often experienced ‎‎“sensory overload” when writing or speaking ‎‎in ‎English. My brain needed to execute ‎several ‎tasks ‎simultaneously.

Later, as a graduate student at the ‎‎University of ‎Pennsylvania, a professor told ‎‎me writing services have no ‎place at Penn. ‎If Penn students struggle to write well, they should ‎‎‎study elsewhere.

Since then, I have been on a mission to master the written word in English — and to help other multilingual students do the same. Too often, the ‎confidence of multilingual speakers is destroyed.

I am motivated to bring new writing strategies to multilingual writers — to foreign students and immigrants of all ages.

While striving to learn how to write, I stumbled over “The Elements of ‎Writing” by Charles Euchner, a writing guru and comforting ‎teacher, whose brain-based approach demystifies the art and craft ‎of writing. Here’s what he had to say on these issues.

How can the brain-based approach assist multilingual writers? ‎

I ask a simple question: What does the brain want?

The brain wants, above all else, clarity. The brain wants to know what’s happening — who does what to whom. It’s annoying when writers avoid issues or take too long to get to the point.

The brain also wants occasional drama. We love a puzzle that we can solve in our own minds — as long as the puzzle has a point and gets solved reasonably quickly.

Why should multilingual writers invest in learning to write well? ‎

In all fields, writing can be your secret superpower. Writing offers the most powerful way to think: to gather ideas, organize those ideas and then express them to an audience. Writing is a process of discovery.

Even in non-writing fields, it makes sense to master writing. An old saying goes: “He who takes the notes sets the agenda.” If you’re the one person in the organization who writes well and fast, you have incredible power.

What are some of the strengths of multilingual ‎writers?‎

Multilingual writers offer a wide range of insights. Most of them have left one culture for another, which takes great courage and effort. They learn how to decode hidden systems of meaning in their new land. And as they shift into a new language, they explore the many meanings of ideas.

What are some of the challenges of multilingual ‎writers? ‎

The greatest challenge is to realize how much knowledge and insight they already have — and to not feel stupid when they struggle with their second language. The best way to operate, I have learned, is screen out all the noise and focus on what the brain wants, starting with clarity, brevity, simplicity and predictability. The brain also wants a little drama, with puzzles and surprises along the way.

If you want to learn more about “The Elements of Writing,” the only brain-based system for mastering writing in all fields, join us for a free webinar on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. (Central time).

Online via Zoom: https://umn.zoom.us/j/2363902009

 

The creator and principal of “The Elements of Writing,” Charles Euchner taught writing at Columbia University and Yale University. He directed a think tank at Harvard University.

Educated at the University of Miami (BA) and at the University of Pennsylvania (MSEd), Abdulrahman Bindamnan is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota.