This week’s topic brought to my attention how infrequently I have considered encouraging my students to engage with their multilingualism (and, in turn, how telling that is of ESL composition’s place within the academy). As I’ve mentioned before, the majority of my students are non-native speakers, which I’ve tended to view as an obstacle rather than a unique opportunity for creative and potentially subversive work. Although I have stressed throughout the semester that using standardized English is not the most crucial element of strong writing, I nonetheless have attempted to gently correct recurring grammatical, mechanical, and usage errors that I’ve encountered in my students’ writings. Suresh Canagarajah’s article in particular made me reconsider how I approach these errors—or whether I should think of them as errors at all. Of course, Canagarajah does distinguish between “grammatical mistakes” and codemeshing, the former constituting “unsystematic or careless uses” (43) that do not suggest multilingual appropriations. But my point here is that I had never even considered incorporating multilingual negotiations of English in my classroom, assignments, or lessons.
I was particularly interested in Canagarajah’s final example of her student’s literacy narrative. The student’s use of Arabic, visual designs, personalized addresses to the reader, and idiomatic expressions were both novel and critically engaging, I feel. It is the sort of essay that I would love to encourage my students to compose– but, with that being said, I wonder if Canagarajah’s example is an exceptional one? That is, would attempts to incorporate code meshing in ENG2100 fail to produce such impressive results? I think it’s important to note that Caragarajah’s example came from a graduate linguistics course, which is a far cry from first year writing. It’s not that I doubt the capabilities of my students, but I worry that they are at too early a stage in their academic/writing career to successfully engage with code meshing (at least at the level that Canagarajah’s student performs). I would be interested to hear if others share this concern, or if I simply do not have enough faith in my students!