University of Minnesota
CLA Media Mill

CLA Media Mill

Sachiko Terui

Sachiko describes her own struggles with writing and how writing her undergraduate thesis—on how Non-Native English Speakers often pretend to understand Native English Speakers—helped her become more comfortable with seeking feedback on her writing.

Sachiko Terui

Johanna Mueller
Zack Pierson

Johanna Mueller
Zack Pierson

Farha Ahmed
Daniel Balm
Linda Clemens
Debra Hartley
Huy Hoang
Kirsten Jamsen
Katie Levin
Mitch Ogden
Kim Strain

© 2010, Center for Writing
Please do not quote without permission.

I actually very hesitated to go to the language center. I think it’s because I was too afraid to show my writing. I didn’t want to look bad, I didn’t want other people to think I’m just too incapable, and I always just kept receiving poor grade on the writing, and I got so frustrated, and finally I had to write huge papers. So I kinda determined to go to writing center. And the first experience was in a sense horrible. They were so nice, the people they were nice but they said, they tried to say the horrible things very nicely. So they say, “Yeah this is good, but this doesn’t make sense, this doesn’t make sense, this doesn’t make sense.” The underlined part was everywhere. Those kind of experiences made me so nervous to submit paper, I just wanted to make sure I have enough time to ask others to look at it before submitting.

I was curious why I have to pretend to understand. Like I have to use, I have to pretend to understand, and I all the time I was curious, why I feel both shame and or somehow guilt and relief, release whenever they didn’t, (they means my conversational partners), they didn’t react kind of strangely or unnaturally. I’d be like, “Oh ok, I got out of the situation, I got out of the difficulties that I had.” But at the same time I felt so uncomfortable because I didn’t understand what they were saying. But still I said “Yeah, yeah, that’s great.”, or something like that. Although sometimes it’s horrible, I answer a “yes” or “no” although it’s not yes/no questions. You know like, “Where did you go to lunch yesterday? Oh yeah.” It’s like that it doesn’t make sense, and they would notice that I didn’t understand, but I still answer the questions.

Through that research project I found non-native speakers are very conscious about their language skills. They know that they can’t do it well, and so that’s why they want to hide sometimes. One of the common things is protecting self –esteem; they don’t want to look bad. And also the other one is they don’t want others to feel bad. We just, the ultimate reason, the ultimate kind of motive that we pretend we want to communicate well; we want to have good relationship or some like friendship with other people.

Writing the thesis, you know using that data that I got from the interviews was so hard. I was the most frequent visitor in the writing center. I almost went there every day, and I got so close to the people in the writing center, they know what’s my problem and they point out, “Okay I did it, you did it again here,” or something like that. And I felt much comfortable to show the writing to them. I felt so much fear before I get to know people because I don’t know whether they judge me, whether they can be kind to me. But after I knew, I get to know one of them, I always asked him for help instead of others student workers, but if he’s not available I have to ask others help, and little by little, I get to know almost everyone. The first step is the hardest one I think, like once they have the experience, it will be easier and easier to ask for help.

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