Reading Canagarajah’s essay was a delight. The piece brought back many memories from my undergraduate years. The first college I attended in Italy, for reasons that would take me too long to explain, had a mostly-Mexican student body. While the classes were in Italian, we always spoke Spanish to each other, to the point that we often joked that we had invented a new language—a lyrical blend of Spanish and Italian: Itagnolo. The second institution I attended, also in Italy, was an American university. The student body there was extremely diverse, and although no common invented language was invented, we often made jokes of how each of us would speak English; how we would pronounce a certain word, coin a new one, or invent a phrase (“it’s va bene” remains one of my favorites, and I still use it today: it means it’s all good). What I mean to say by this is that Canagarajah is right on point when asserting that “[multilinguals] stick to their linguistic peculiarities and negotiate intelligibility through their difference.” Although all of us at the American university had enough proficiency in English to be at a higher-education institution, we by no means spoke like native English speakers. We constantly made mistakes (and made light of it). Our professors, too, would sometimes make mistakes (as not all of them were native English speakers). Because of this, I believe, we saw language—whether consciously or not—as malleable and negotiable, something we could play around with, struggle with, or expand at our own will. Plus, we were surrounded by Italians, who are famous around the world for their use of gestures. So I also think that Canagarajah is very right to point out the larger set of resources “for interpretation and communication.” Gestures in particular, I think, are extremely useful resources for communication, and pervasive as they are in Italy, it was hard not to incorporate them into our language (a quick Google search will reveal how many, how varied, and how generally awesome these gestures are).
I thought Buthainah’s example was very helpful in explaining some of the issues that “functional bilingual” students face. Mostly, I appreciated Canagarajah’s thoughts in her conclusion, for, respectful and open as we must be to the diversity encountered in different languages, we must at the end of the day sit down to give a paper a certain grade. A balance should be found, and it will be different in every case, but overall, I think that encouraging students to incorporate elements of their native language into their writing (in English) is a wonderful thing that we should all do.
As for Matsuda’s piece, I also really liked it! It was perhaps more informative than it was entertaining, but it is always helpful to keep these issues in mind, especially when teaching a composition course in which there are both native and non-native speakers.