Writing studio aids English language learners

Canon Wright, News Contributor

A resource for all Oregon State University students, the Valley Library Writing Center & Studio is an especially valuable place for international students, and English language learners alike, to come and get free help with all aspects of the english writing process, Vanessa Petroj, English language learning coordinator at the Writing Center, said. 

The Writing Center is located on the second floor of the Valley Library, behind the glass walls on the back end of the main study room. Here, students can come for assistance and help on any portion of their writing process. From conceptualizing an argument, to revising a final draft, the faculty and staff of the writing center aim to meet students where they are in the writing process. According to some English language learners, a title which encompasses many international students, the Writing Center is an especially great resource for adapting their language skills to the English language.

Isaiah McGuire, research consultant staff at the Writing Center, explains what he and other consultants do for students at the writing center.

“We really try and work more to help people throughout the writing process,” McGuire said, “And I think we do that pretty well with non-native speakers by trying to help them break down some of the rules of the language, and just improve their writing.”

The writing center is broken up into three different pieces: the undergraduate research and writing center, the graduate writing center and the online suite. Each section of the writing center is meant to provide aid in a more contextual form to the various levels of the student body at OSU. For many international students this is a common place to meet consultants for help writing in English.

“They’re (international students) probably some of people who come in the most, and they’re often our repeat visitors,” McGuire said.

For international students who are learning English as a new language, both undergraduate and graduate, the writing center is a resource for learning and understanding the English language. Not only learning how to write in English, but also how to conceptually understanding the language as a whole.

Petroj is primarily concerned with the grammar aspect of English teaching, however. She emphasizes that this is only an afterthought as far as the rest of the Writing Center is concerned. 

“We work on how to present an argument, how to provide evidence,” Petroj said. “So the grammar part is, I would say, useful, and concrete, but what the writing center really does is helping them become better writers, better thinkers.”

For Petroj, her job entails not only meeting international students where they are in the writing process, but also helping them understand the differences between their native language and English.

“I look a lot at the structure of the students native language and then based on that I can provide more targeted support for international students of various native languages,” Petroj said.

Shixiao Yu, who goes by Alicia, is an international graduate student who frequently meets with Petroj for writing advice. Yu has come to the writing center at least nine times this term.

 “She helps me in a lot of different areas,” Yu said. “It’s very helpful, especially writing because speaking is more casual than the long sentence structure in writing. I feel like, for international students, they all have different progress stages. Writing is something I want to focus on right now, I feel like I’ve been stuck there for a while.”

The writing center is a place for non-native English learners to come and develop a firmer grasp not on on the writing aspect of English, but also the cultural differences that are presented with any translation between languages.

“We see a lot of essays over and over again so we end up picking up a lot of mistakes that tend to get through that are just kind of how the language flows, and that can be a big struggle for non-native speakers,” McGuire said.

Petroj draws on her past experience as an international student and especially focuses on making the connection between a non-native speakers’ language and English.

Each with their own skills to teach, workers at the writing center present an opportunity for not only native English speakers to hone their English writing skills, but also for English language learners to find help in all aspects of learning English.

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