A student walks into the Writing Center looking for help with their research paper. The tutor comes over and introduces himself.
“Hello, my name is Johnathan,” the tutor says. “I will be your tutor today.”
The student may be a little curious because Johnathan has an accent.
Johnathan Gonzalez, a freshman studying construction management, has had a lot of experience helping people learn English.
Before coming to BYU-Idaho, Gonzalez worked at the Mexico City Missionary Training Center teaching Spanish to native English speakers. In addition, he taught English at his local university to basic and intermediate students.
“One of the things that we talked about in the interview (for the Writing Center) was that there were a lot of international students here at BYU-I, and he (the director of the Writing Center) would like someone that could help Spanish-speaking people,” Gonzalez said.
The Writing Center’s goal is to help students become better writers by giving them personalized instruction and helpful feedback on any part of the writing process.
“At times there are some expressions … and there are some words that we cannot directly translate from Spanish to English,” Gonzalez said. “I think he really likes the opportunity to have someone that is not native English speaker as a writing tutor to have a little bit more of diversity in the Writing Center.”
When Johnathan started working at the Writing Center, he had a lot of reservations about teaching native English speakers how to write. He still had an accent and was learning how to better express himself in English.
He said he doesn’t feel confident with his English abilities because he still thinks and speaks in Spanish. To feel more confident, he began to speak English more often.
“The first thing that I did, I started to pray, mornings and nights, in English,” Gonzalez said. “After that, I started speaking English to everyone. Even if they knew Spanish, I would try to speak to them in English.”
After trying this for a while, he began to see improvement with his English. He began to adopt a common expression he would hear and notice others say. Soon he was living in English.
“I still have some fear of teaching or helping native speakers, but I feel better every time when I can help them (students) notice something that they don’t catch,” Gonzalez said. “That builds up my self-confidence, and that makes me feel better; it makes me feel that I can do it.”
The student leaves the Writing Center feeling better about their paper. For Gonzalez, he leaves feeling better about his ability to communicate, even if English is not his native language.