chapter  2
14 Pages

Rhetorical Structures for Multilingual and Multicultural Students

WithAnne Bliss

Multicultural and multilingual students at the college and university level present diverse approaches to reading, writing, and critical thinking, often based in the patterns of their home languages and cultures. Frequently, these students may use different ways to convey ideas logically and persuasively than those with which native English-speaking faculty and students are familiar. Kennedy (1998) discussed textual “arrangement” of the type most used in American academic prose:

“Arrangement” in traditional Western rhetoric concerns the division of a work into identifiable parts that perform specific functions: the “proemium” or introduction should get the attention, interest, and good will of the audience; the “narration” should provide the audience with background and necessary fact to understand the argument; the “proof” should identify the question at issue and the thesis, followed by supporting arguments. It may also refute the arguments of an opponent. The final part is the “epilogue,” which should recapitulate the main points made earlier and stir the emotions of the audience to belief or action, (p. 7)

Multilingual and multicultural students may not present knowledge and ideas according to this typical academic pattern, and, as a result, they often find themselves and their written or spoken work either not understood or not accepted. As Hauser (1986) stated, “Insofar as our utterances are within the cultural framework of our audience, its members may participate actively in reconceptualizing their experiences in terms that we provide” (p. 146). When the cultural frame, as well as the language structure, differs between writer and audience, the interaction between reader and text, and the reconceptualization of the notions conveyed, may be skewed.