One of our instructors asked us (the Americans) to help some of the other foreign students with their papers for class. We feel a little sketchy about this, because the students didn't actually ask for help. When they turned in their papers, well, we assume that they were happy enough with them. It's a pass-fail class anyway, so having really great papers isn't that high a priority. At least, it isn't for us, the Americans. Norwegians can be tactless in their directness sometimes.* But one of the American professors here presented the subject to these exchange students in a gentler way, and I just finished going through one of the guy's papers with him. St Olaf helped one of the others with his paper, and reported that she spent five hours just getting the English grammar into something that made any sense what so ever. They didn't even get into elements of composition. My fellow and I had a slightly easier time. Paper writing help from me is not nothing. For one thing, there is cake. Tasty home made carrot cake with creme fraiche frosting and a cup of tea. But the other part of it is that I didn't have very much confusing grammar to work though, so we worked on structure and flow. A paragraph really needs to be more than one sentence. Even if you are a scientist, a paragraph needs to be more than one sentence. I feel even more sketchy, because I did some of his rewriting for him so that we wouldn't spend five hours working things out. The help I gave him wouldn't fly if I were an assistant in the Writing Center on campus back home. But it was still his thoughts, and I tried to restrict my vocabulary and sentence construction to words and phrases he might actually use. This was hard for me, because I am very fond of big words and complicated sentence structure. But I am also fond of having my evening back to work on my own plethora of papers. We used two and a half hours with a smoke break for him.

*This isn't a blanket statement. There are also polite Norwegians.

No comments: