Matsuda, Paul Kei. “The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition.” Cross-Language Relations in Composition. Eds. Horner, Bruce, Min-Zhan Lu and Paul Key Matsuda. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010. 81-96. Print.

  • Matsuda begins by identifying a problem:  While Horner & Trimbur’s work on monolingualism demonstrated that the dominant move in English writing/composition is to move the student toward Standard/dominant English in order to address language deficiencies, very few of our graduate education is dedicated to professional preparation to deal with language issues.  In other words, composition teachers don’t know how to teach the dominant form of English to students from different backgrounds because they have never received an education in how to do so.  What results is a double-problem:  first, the problem of US English monolingualist policy; and 2) the inability to teach non-standard English / nonnative English speakers the dominant form of English (637).  M. claims that “the dominant discourse of U.S. college composition not only has accepted English Only as an ideal but it already assumes the state of English-only, in which students are native English speakers by default” (ibid.).
  • M. claims that the lack of profession-wide response to “strong forms of language differences” is U.S. writing classes results from what he calls the “myth of linguistic homogeneity” (638).  This idea is “the tacit and widespread acceptance of the dominant image of composition students as native speakers of a privileged variety of English” (638).  To demonstrate its existence, Matsuda looks to histories of “linguistic containment” as a way to highlight how policies of dismissal toward linguistic difference became normalized and commonplace (638).  His greater project is pushing composition teachers toward realizing that they need to be and are responsible for developing pedagogies that better recognize the second-language writer as distinct, different, and valuable.
  • M. notes that student-image from faculty/administration becomes a problem when the image held no longer links up with the actual reality, prohibiting the teacher/school from addressing the kinds of differences that problematize the ideal classroom.
  • M. notes that this myth also holds nonnative speakers of English accountable to standards that aren’t being taught or considered in the classroom (640).
  • Policies of containment:
    • Filter out linguistic difference at the level of admissions.
    • Blame linguistic difference on inadequate preparation for university.
    • Use placement through language proficiency tests to place students in remedial courses in order to erase their differences before enrolling in standardized English writing courses.
  • M. claims that we need to understand/think of the comp classroom as a multilingual space by default in order to combat the myth of linguistic homogeneity.

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