Paul Kei Matsuda
Should We Invite Students to Write in Home Languages?
Complicating the Yes/No Debate

Composition Studies 31.1 (2003)

Increasingly students enter our writing classrooms with a mother tongue that is not the English or standardized English in which they will be expected to produce most or all of their public and academic writing. We believe that four most writers, informal exploratory writing helps to generate ideas and leads to stronger final drafts. But is the process of writing towards a final draft in standardized English always aided by informal writing and early drafting in standardized English? To become accomplished writers in standardized English, must students work within at least an approximation of that variety of English throughout the composing process? Must their mother tongue be of no more use to them than "an unstringed viol" in this enterprise? Can we validate language minority students' languages and identities at the same time we help them learn the dominant variety of English? Are there contexts and circumstances in which we might encourage our students to draw on a home language or mother tongue as they generate ideas and compose early drafts? This paper is an account of our shared explorations and of our efforts to name some important variables or criteria that ear on the question of whether or not to invite students to write in a home dialect or language.

Bean, J., Cucchiara, M., Eddy, R., Elbow, P., Grego, R., Haswell, R., Irvine, P., Kennedy, E., Kutz, E., Lehner, A., & Matsuda, P. K. (2003). Should we invite students to write in home languages? Complicating the yes/no debate. Composition Studies, 31(1), 25-42.

Updated on April 28, 2013