Contrastive Rhetoric

Contrastive Rhetoric

A Guide for Tutors working with ELL/ESL Students


The field of contrastive rhetoric, founded by Robert Kaplan in the 1960s, emphasizes Kaplan’s belief that ELL students’ development of ideas in writing is systematically different from the patterns that appear to be natural in English. Through the analysis of errors commonly seen in writings produced by speakers of different languages, Kaplan created several diagrammatic depictions of the rhetoric styles of said languages. His explorations led him to propose that English rhetoric is delivered in a direct, straightforward, and logical manner. This then led many to believe English rhetoric to be superior to all other forms of written expressions produced by other cultures.


The representation of ideas and the way writers choose to support their ideas is determined by the rhetorical preferences taught in the schools they attended. English schools focus on the teaching of writing, but, the same in not true for the academic institutions of non-English speaking cultures. Therefore making it challenging for ELL students to quickly adapt to the preferences of the English rhetoric.

The assumption that English rhetoric is superior merely because its structure is logical is flawed and rather ethnocentric. At times ELL students fail to follow the logical patterns of English rhetoric simply because they lack a proper understanding of their audience. The sharing of a culture means that one shares assumptions about reality and knowledge with the other members of their society. ELL students do not share such assumptions with native speakers of English, thus leading them to either over-explain their ideas or to simply assume that their audience understands everything they are saying without having to supply the reader with any detail on the topic.

How do we aid students?:


  • Brainstorming — The tutor may need to provide some guidance by asking questions to elicit vocabulary and structures associated with the selected topic.
  • Word banks- Ask the student to create a word bank for the words they may use in the essay.
  • Drawing and sketching — enable students to illustrate ideas for which they do not have the language.
  • Outlining- help them in creating a rough guide that will aid them in the writing process.

Revising/Editing Techniques

  • Rearranging words within sentences
  • Using dictionaries, including personal dictionaries, and other resource materials such as grammar books and textbooks

To encourage critical thinking, guide the students with questions.

Thinking Skills

Guiding Questions


What do we already know about...?

What are the principles of … ?

How does ... tie in with what we learned before?


Summarize … or Explain …

What will happen if … ?

What does ... mean?


What would happen if…?

What is a new example of…?

How could … be used to...?

What is the counterargument for...?


Why is ... important?

What is the difference between… and…?

What are the implications of...?

Explain why / Explain how?

What is ... analogous to?

How are ... and ... similar?


How does ... affect...?

Why is ... happening?

What is the best ... and why?

Do you agree or disagree with the statement...? What evidence is there to support your answer?

What are the strengths and weakness of?

What is the nature of…?


What is the solution to the problem of...?

What do you think causes...? Why?

What is another way to look at...?

Helpful Texts:

Contrastive Rhetoric in Context: A Dynamic model of L2 Writing by Paul Matsuda.

Toward Critical Contrastive Rhetoric by Ryuko Kubota and Al Lehner.

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

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Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

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I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?


Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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