The discourse of first year writers at Border sites: Discerning the transcultural, bilinguistic strategies of English Language Learners in college

Beatrice Mendez Newman


The ELL population in American colleges and universities is an overlooked segment of our college attenders. At border site institutions, a substantive number of students would be classified as English Language Learners if the federal regulations for ELL distinction extended to post secondary settings. When these “residual” ELLs arrive in our first year writing classes, they develop patterns of adaptation that enable them to reconstruct the college landscape through transcultural and bilinguistic negotiation. In the transcultural environment of border sites, college-level ELLs forge and implement robust strategies for becoming their own agents of success. I propose several patterns of transcultural adaptation in academic spaces that bilinguistic students adapt in adjusting to the first year writing environment: hybrid rhetorics, silent observation, educational architecture, resolute persistence, and community (re-) construction. These transcultural and bilinguistic patterns of adaptation create a two-way directionality with the college-level English Language Learner assuming a proactive role in the construction of meaningful literacy experiences. The fluidity of border sites promotes a culture of transcultural and bilinguistic adaptation that merges attitudes and ways of thinking to forge an inclusionary reality scaffolded on diversity, tolerance, and endless possibilities for reconstruction.


college-level ELLs; transcultural adaptation; hybrid rhetorics; first year writing at HSIs

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