Perhaps we could broaden our conception of how tutors can work with multilingual writers in their native language(s)?

A tutor who does not speak tutees' native language(s) can nonetheless:
This is but a change of mindset which is free, has no liability ramifications, and might be the difference between tutees experiencing cognitive overload or a-ha moments.

I have often heard the argument made that if we cannot provide tutoring in all students' native languages, we shouldn't provide it only for some. What is striking about this argument to me is that it seems only to apply to languages spoken in the tutoring center. In multi-subject tutoring programs, for example, we can only provide tutors for certain courses in a given semester, based on which tutors we have available to work that term; so, does that mean we shouldn't provide tutoring for any courses at the institution, since we cannot provide it for all of them?

The language for accommodations used by accessible education centers / disability services is that accommodations will be provided pending availability of personnel and resources. Legally, the same should be true for various types of support that we offer in our learning centers. For example, if a student with an accommodation for extended tutoring time wants three hours of tutoring per week, but my tutors' availability is such that we can only offer that student two hours per week, it is legal for us to only offer what we can based on my program's resources and availability. (I had this confirmed by the Accessible Education Center at the institution where I was dealing with this exact scenario.)

Just as it is with accommodations, I imagine the same would be true for multilingual tutoring; our programs can only offer tutoring in languages that our tutors speak and feel comfortable working in, so it is fair to offer tutoring in some languages but not others, so long as we make a good faith effort to support every learner who comes into our center.

Rebecca Tedesco
Southwestern College
CRLA Level 3 Master Tutor
Certified Learning Center Professional - Level 2

On Fri, Jul 17, 2020 at 2:01 PM Debbie Malewicki <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Hello, there is only one time I recall being explicitly requested to provide tutoring with a bilingual tutor for students. I had mixed feelings about it because it was definitely a situation of privilege available to one group of students the school wanted to retain because they brought in so much money to the institution. At the same time, we were being asked to provide focused content tutoring support for only this group who have a track record of not taking advantage of the regular services at the school. (The irony is that we set up a system for them and even let them choose the day and time of the tutoring.  One student came twice and the others all blew it off.)

There are times that some of the tutors and students have conversed in another language with students during a session to ask for clarification; generally it’s on terminology. Often we see international students enter a college or university knowing the fundamental concepts but not knowing what they are called. I think this situation is particularly problematic in STEM classes where we expect students to enter at more advanced levels.

Circling back to the original question: I don’t oppose it when tutors can provide that information, but I think that a very real concern in a higher education environment is making sure that this is a service that you’re making equally available to your ESL students from each language if you’re prepared to offer it as a formal service. I couldn’t begin to cover every language of our international students in the schools where I’ve worked, and I wasn’t prepared to set a formal double standard. Therefore, we let students connect with tutors upon request by the students choosing tutors listed for language support for that language.

Again, when you get into worksheets in particular, I think that you need to be prepared to have them available for anyone who needs them irrespective of their language.

Debbie Malewicki, President
Integrity 1st Learning Support Solutions, LLC
446A Blake Street – Suite 101
New Haven, CT 06515
(203) 800-4100
Facebook: @Integrity1stLSS

From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Carleigh Nicole Friesen <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, July 17, 2020 1:48:49 PM
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: FW for Alexis Smith: ESL Resources at the Learning Center

Hello everyone, I agree with what’s been stated already. We also do not provide first language resources, but we recognize that, if available, we can provide academic and writing supports in a student’s first language. Our Academic Success Centre also provides targeted EAL Supports for students with specialists that are familiar with students’ areas of study and the language needs & vocabulary of that program. If you’re interested in these supports, more information is available here:


Carleigh Friesen

[she, her, hers] (Why is this important?)


A/ Manager, Academic Success Centre




e: [log in to unmask]

Online Supports:


Please note that in response to COVID-19, Red River College has suspended on-campus classes and is moving forward with the transition to alternative delivery models for programs and services. During this time, I will be working away from the office. You can reach me by e-mail at  [log in to unmask] or by scheduling a meeting via WebEx.


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From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Valerie Balester
Sent: Friday, July 17, 2020 11:03 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: FW for Alexis Smith: ESL Resources at the Learning Center


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From: "Smith, Alexis Blair" <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Friday, July 17, 2020 at 10:54 AM
To: My Phone <[log in to unmask]>, Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>
Cc: Alexis Smith <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: ESL Resources at the Learning Center


Hi Valerie and Ruth,


I concur that tutoring in a student's native language is not detrimental, and can even be beneficial, to the development of their writing skills. For example, if they're grappling with how to express an abstract/complex idea in English, working with a bilingual tutor can help them learn how to navigate this process. And, even if a tutor only has an elementary grasp of the student's first language, I've found that even a little bit of language knowledge/exchange can help build rapport between a tutor and client. Finally, having some knowledge of a student's first language can also help tutors anticipate/understand errors clients may make based on the first language's similarities/differences to English.


I also agree that handouts have limited value once second language writers reach the university-level. Most likely, these students have been studying English for years in their home countries and have been exposed to grammar resources in both English and their native language. At this advanced level, frequent practice, feedback, and revision are most beneficial for turning passive knowledge (understanding) into active knowledge (ability to use). This is especially true if writers focus on improving and seeking feedback on specific language points at a time.



Alexis Smith

Writing Consultant Administrator & ESL Specialist

Texas A&M University Writing Center 

From: Valerie Balester <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2020 11:00:36 PM
To: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
Cc: Alexis Smith
Subject: Re: ESL Resources at the Learning Center



I have been a writing center director for many, many years. The research does not support that working in another language would be detrimental in any way to a student learning English. In fact, it can be helpful to think through a writing task (prewriting) in one's native language, a practice that lessens as fluency develops naturally--but it takes time.

We have occasionally tutored in other languages.

However, we have not provided online resources about English in those languages--that is really too much to ask of us as far as creating those resources. One other issue in this regard is that most ESL students have learned a lot of grammar--more than our native speakers--and a handout is not likely to help their writing much. What they need is time to write, lots of constructive feedback, time to revise and practice. I would argue that handouts have limited value.

I am copying our ESL specialist, who is not on this list, to see what she thinks--we have never seriously considered the question, so thanks for bringing it up.

Valerie M. Balester | she/her
Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Studies
Executive Director, Academic Success Center & University Writing Center
Texas A&M University
Rudder 907 | 1125 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-1125
979.862.6422 <> | <>
[log in to unmask]

On 7/16/20, 8:00 PM, "Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals on behalf of Ruth Hwang" <[log in to unmask] on behalf of [log in to unmask]> wrote:

    Hello everyone,

    At our learning center, we mainly do a lot of writing tutoring because a majority of our courses have a writing component to it. Recently, discussions about ESL support have come up, and I was asked to provide support resources in other languages, and I don't know where I land in terms of providing this. I come from a writing center background, and it has always been my understanding that all sessions are conducted in English because classes are conducted in English and all assignments are due in English and to not do that (if, for example, the tutor could speak the student's home language) would be a detriment to the student's learning and growth as a student and writer. I think that when it comes to writing support, because assignments are due in English, it makes sense to provide support in English, especially in my school's context where students are given quite a few writing assignments and are expected to have a certain level of English proficiency in writing. However, when it
     comes to resources, I'm wondering if the same line of thinking applies.

    I don't know if an ELL/ESL student will benefit from a handout, for example, that explains grammar in English, because the purpose of the handout would be to help the student learn the grammatical concepts. While a tutor could use the handout effectively due to the interactive nature of a tutoring session, I want to have stand alone resources that students could access and use on their own.

    What are your thoughts on this? What do you all do at your respective centers and if you do have any language resources, could you share them?

    Thank you,
    [log in to unmask]
    CARE Learning Center
    Pacific Oaks College

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