Yeditepe University, School of Foreign LanguagesEnglish Language Teaching Preparatory Program,
Problem Statement: In this qualitative small-scale study, I aimed at investigating why students have difficulties in adjusting themselves to English writing conventions. I also examined the possible bilateral effects of Turkish and English writing conventions to determine whether engaging learners in contrastive rhetoric exercises can elucidate the phenomenon of transfer in rhetorical patterns.
Purpose of Study: The aim of this study was to discover whether bilingual writers with the same first-language background (i.e., Turkish) demonstrate similar composing patterns or whether these patterns diverge when writing in first or foreign language (i.e., English). Its broader aim was to describe whether transfer pertains to rhetorical patterns.
Method: To investigate the existence and transfer of rhetorical patterns, we examined four opinion essays—two in English, two in Turkish—written by each of six freshman students registered for an English composition course at an English-medium university in Istanbul, Turkey. Additional data came from students’ reflective tasks and semi-structured interviews conducted with them.
Findings: The analysis of the essays demonstrated that the students placed thesis statements in the initial, middle, or final positions in their Turkish essays, indicating that some students used a deductive style of writing, a common US English writing convention, in their Turkish essays. This finding suggests that the students practiced aspects of English composition learned at the university level. Notably, students also used discourse markers more than typical Turkish essayists would, indicating that the students were able to transfer knowledge not only from their first to the foreign language. Other results reveal that it was somewhat challenging for students to write in their first language given their adjustment to English writing conventions.
Conclusion and Recommendations: This study’s findings suggest that students initiated the construction of an academic discourse community identity and membership, implying that writing instructors can raise learners’ awareness of academic environment and involve them with different academic conventions by engaging them in contrastive rhetoric studies. Contrastive rhetoric could also prompt students to think more critically, which would further assist them in writing process. Lastly, the findings suggest that engaging students in exercises of contrastive rhetoric can assist and empower them in their writing practices.
Keywords: Writing instruction, contrastive rhetoric, transfer, academic discourse community.