Being a foreign student whose first language is Chinese, I had a hard time pushing myself into the world of English. I started to learn English at age six, which is rather a young age for Chinese to study a second language. At that time, English only meant the alphabet to me. I felt quite easy playing with my 24 friends all day long. However, I planned to escape from the English world when I met grammar, vocabulary and sentence structures. I tried my best to memorize the grammars, to use the various different kinds of vocabularies. Nevertheless, what I wrote still looked boring; lacked content and theme.
It was just like having all the right pieces for a puzzle called English Composition, but the process was so hard that I did not know where to put each of them to get the final picture. Like a baby who falls via learning how to walk, I totally had no idea how to walk on a road called academic writing. To be specific, I “fell” every time I wrote argumentative essay. Last year, as a foreign student who wanted to study abroad, I need to attend a language test called TOEFL. Writing an argumentative essay is a part of the test. An argumentative essay should consist of a mean topic and several logical theses to support the mean theme.
I memorized this instruction but felt rather confusing. I had no problem clarifying which sentence should be the topic but was bad at giving detailed arguments. When I did a simulative test for the first time, I was required to write my opinions about homeschooling. Suddenly plenty of stories about homeschooling came up to my minds. “Well, it is just like a piece of cake since I can use the story from Helen Keller, Edison and etc.! ” I told myself while writing down four stories about homeschooling. However, I only got 10 out of 30 for my first try. I was shocked by the comment, “Lacking clear theses to develop the topic.
Although there are several beautiful sentence structures, there is no connection between each sentence. ” said by the English teacher. To be honest, I am also bad at writing compositions in my mother tongue, Chinese. Not being logical is a problem existing both in my Chinese and English composition. It is a problem about my way of thinking indeed. I could hardly find a proper way to learn how to writing an argumentative essay and I paused around the starting point. In order to understand how to write English compositions and get a better score, I took a summer course for preparing for the TOEFL test.
It was when I met my god of logic, who totally changed my attitude towards English composition. He is my writing teacher Brian. Brian never used a textbook, what he need was just a marker and a blackboard. His syllabus was never about what we would learn each day but full of topics. I still remember he wrote “automobile” on the blackboard for the first class. “Trust me; we can finish a 1000-word essay about this topic within the next 2 hours. ” Then he said. “One thousand?! ” I repeated. At that time, I thought he was bragging because it was just the first composition class.
And based on my understanding, we were supposed to study some words and sentence structures which can be used as templates rather than looking at a topic. Hence, I turned to be curious about what he was going to say next. I had a strange feeling that I would gain something special from him. “What will people usually think of when talking about automobile? ” He continued without pausing, “The history of automobile. ” ”The concept of automobile,” students replied. “Then, let us Google a definition for automobile to start this topic,” he opened the monitor and typed the word while speaking.
The prior choice was the definition from Wikipedia, “An automobile is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor. ” He used it as the first sentence. He went on capturing another sentence illustrating the history of automobile just from the same page. “Ok, since automobile has such a long history as we can see from the second sentence, what can you think of after it? ” “It must have brought lots of changes to the daily life of our people! ” I replied naturally, “Bravo! So girl, give me some more details that you can think of,” He moved to my front and start to ask me constantly.
Well, we can travel to some place we have never been to and we can start off whenever we want! ” “Give me an example! ” While I was telling him the story after my father bought his first car, he turned back to the blackboard and wrote down what I had just said. I started to be much interested in what he would ask next since this was definitely a new teaching method to me. Brian interacted with us during the whole two hours. Dramatically, we really finished a 1000-word draft at the end. I totally could not believe it and continued looking at the blackboard filling with all the sentences we came up with during the two hours.
They are just the stories and ideas from our brains. In my view, they are just what we would say when chatting with others. Brian used a magic rope to tie them up and change them into a composition! “Being logical is not that hard. The only thing we need to do is connecting your sentences while spreading out your topic. Every time you wrote down a sentence, ask yourself, ’what do I think of it,’ ‘what should I write next. ’” Brian said at the end of the class. I used to be busy searching for fancy but meaningless words or skillful but useless phrases without knowing why I use it. Hence, my essay had no logic and no content.
It is just a bunch of irrelevant sentences. Just like a chic lady without a clear face. Brian used simple questions to lead my logic and develop the theme of the essay naturally. Every sentence in the draft suddenly made sense to me. I had no problem understanding the connection between two sentences and why we need to give examples for explaining the benefits of automobile. The method of inquiry lifts me to another level of understanding what literacy is. At first, I though literacy was just about different types of writing formats, like narratives, argument essays, poetry, etc.. But I deny them all now.
In my point of view, making sense is the priority. If a passage lacks logic, we can learn nothing from it although we read numerous difficult sentences. Since then, no matter what kind of essay I am required to write, I start from the words and sentences which make sense to me. Then I follow the instruction to modify them. Yes, I see my door to the world of English. I want to end my literary experience with an interesting story happened last week, my brother Dill asked me to help him with his TOEFL composition. As I was reading his draft, all the old memories of my learning process just came back. This time, I had a clear purpose.
While modifying each thesis and point arguing about what the mobile has brought to our daily life, I just used what my teacher, Brian told me to do. I know I should ask myself the connection between each sentence from the beginning. My brother started his essay with a story about his first cellphone. But I think it would be clearer if he pointed out his theme first and use this story as an argument example. Although it has been a year since I took the TOEFL course, this method for literary writing is just like what I just learnt yesterday. Writing an argumentative essay does not seem to be a barrier to me anymore.
Courtney from Study Moose
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