Diversity in Writing Cultures
Washington College students participated in a round table session at the Spring 2017 Maryland TESOL conference at Howard College in Montgomery, Maryland.
By Amorn Chitkittiwong, Class of 2018
The world is much more open these days, with checking up on international news becoming part of our daily routine. Why do we need to acknowledge other cultures? Why do we have to respect them? Why do we even have to adapt to them? The answer is that as the human race, it’s better to work together for mutual benefits, rather than competing.
I’m an international student myself. I’ve traveled abroad since I was 14 years old. I’ve traveled to places such as England, Singapore, Laos, and all around the United States. I’ve found many differences between my culture and other cultures. I did what most people do when adapting to a new environment– absorb the new experiences and knowledge, and then use this new information to modify my own behavior. These cultural differences are so diverse. These differences have influenced the way I present myself, especially in my behavior, the way I speak, dress, and write.
Writing is one of the most important forms of communication. Writing gives us a way to tell others about our perspectives about the world we live in. Perspective is the keyword here. There are many perspectives to consider. Someone else may not have had the same life experiences that I have, which would give him or her a different perspective about the world than my own. What’s the best thing to do in order to know, and maybe, adapt to different perspectives? That’s where understanding and accepting cultural differences comes into play.
I’m lucky that I was born and raised well; my parents have been able to finance my global travel, introducing me to new cultural insights. Those experiences made me into what I am today. Because I have gained so many cultural insights because of my travels across the globe, I was asked to speak at a conference about academic differences and difficulties international students encounter when coming to study in the United States.
The talk was held at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Maryland, on 1 April, 2017, by the education-focused organization called “Maryland TESOL.” I was joined by three other students from Washington College: Yeuyi “Angela” Qin from China, Girija Geneshan from India, and Marah Tarawneh from Jordan. The talk was quite enlightening for me, as I learned about writing in the other students’ cultures—how writing techniques in other cultures can be very different from techniques that are used in Thai or English writing.
(l.-to-r.) Amorn Chitkittiwong, Girija Ganeshan, Yueyi “Angela” Qin, & Marah Tarawneh at Montgomery College
A culture’s way of writing is not only about different ways of writing, it also reflects everything about where the writing comes from–people’s personalities, historical background, and philosophical thoughts. Even the simplest differences, such as regional pronunciation, can change the whole meaning of a word. I found the technical differences between the writing styles of the various cultures to be fascinating.
The only unfortunate thing I learned from the talk is that all of our cultures (the speakers’) are seeing literacy rates decline. People in our cultures tend to read less, even though we were once extremely well-known for our higher literacy rates. People might say time will change this, but I believe it’s about the way people choose to learn. For me, there was a time that I buried myself in books, but now I tend to go outside and learn about the world from real situations.
Edited by Abby Guise, Class of 2018