The paper below is a diagnostic essay produced for an English class in approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. The writer is a Chinese woman from Taiwan. Many new tutors are overwhelmed by the grammatical errors in such a paper, and indeed, this paper would be impossible to "mark" or "correct" in the traditional way. However, if you keep the principles above in mind, you can read and understand most of what the student is trying to say. Read the paper and imagine you are conferencing with the student. What would you discuss first? What parts do you understand? Where do you get confused? What questions would you ask about the meaning? What grammatical problems would you work on?
I was open the restaurant in Killeen Texas. Killeen is a beautiful country town leaving capital Austin has ninety miles. In that period (1982) I was wondering can become boss. I hate work for big firm or individual company everyday 8 hours work and do same jobs. Sometimes supervisors give you hard time. Sometimes have politic problem around the company. So I almost crazy become a boss.
Ending 1985, the dream become true. I one person from start contract to hire people repair the building and grand open. I am happy and exciting. God bless me I can't believe the business going very well. Keep first 6 month so I don't need worry future sales.
I can forget in built this business that period working fourteen to eighteen hours per day but I can't forget when I almost success all the job in restaurant I lost my friend Janey Lee. She is very nice girl. I was 1979 met her in University of Georgia admission office. She got nice smile. I go talking to her first and after one month we become roommate. Since that time we help each other but I leaving Georgia to Killeen Texas. Considering her job very good, I don't won't she quit her job, so by one person to Texas. Until restaurant everything done, I call her, If she want to come here. But one year leave when I see her I feel something change but I still happy she's coming and hope can share enjoy the business success. After she come three month business up every month. I take care kitchen and general affair. She in charge whole restaurant Adm. & Management. I have communication problem because I came from China especial writing problem so I shall be depended on her in English matter.
So we trust each other, but I lost her because I can't understand power alternate and proxy meaning. I signed unlimited power alternate give her instead of proxy when I was vacation in California.
I don't blame nobody I hate myself. Because since 1976 come to United States, I wish to become boss never try to learn English. Until now still got poor English.
Many new tutors are overwhelmed by the grammatical errors in such a paper, and indeed, this paper would be impossible to "mark" or "correct" in the traditional way. However, if you keep the principles above in mind, you can read and understand most of what the student is trying to say. Read the paper and imagine you are conferencing with the student. What would you discuss first? What parts do you understand? Where do you get confused? What questions would you ask about the meaning? What grammatical problems would you work on?
Both narrative time and tense are a problem in this paper. The problems are most acute in the second paragraph, where we have one sentence, "I one person from start contract to hire people repair the building and grand open," which telescopes a long period of time together, and another, "Keep first 6 month so I don't need worry future sales," which doesn't give the reader enough information to be comprehensible. Thus a discussion of these two problem sentences is a good place to begin the conference. (When I asked the writer about these sentences it resulted in several paragraphs about a trip to New York to purchase special kitchen equipment, including stoves, for a Chinese restaurant.)
To understand the second sentence you need to know something about the restaurant business. The writer told me that when you start a restaurant, the local people are curious about it so you get fairly good business for the first six months. If business continues to be good after that, you are getting repeat customers and you have a successful restaurant. This conversation was important to the student because it showed her that she knew some things that the instructor didn't know, and helped establish her authority as a writer.
After discussing the second paragraph I jumped back to the first sentence. I told the student that "was open" should be "opened," and mentioned that there were other problems with tense and time that we would work on. I also mentioned that "the" should probably be "a" because it is the first mention of the restaurant. But then I asked her if she didn't think that this sentence wasn't a bit abrupt as a beginning, and we discussed what the paper was really about. Is it about friendship? Is it about trust? Is it about false confidence? We talked about introducing Janey Lee in the opening, and how it might be done.
This global restructuring would undoubtedly invalidate many changes that would have been made if we had simply launched into correcting the text as it stood. Approaching the conference as an opportunity to model the communicative process and provide reader feedback that is normally missing from written communication allows the student to learn what a reader needs to know to understand what she is talking about, and how to restructure a paper for a specific purpose, as well as something about what grammatical problems she needs to work on. The focus of the conference, however, was never on grammar, but always on meaning and communication.