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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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.


So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?



Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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American Or Christian?

Can you really be both?


This is a thought that has lingered in my mind for a very long time.

Personally, I hate news and politics. It's depressing and it seems like both parties (and people in general) just don't get it. Political conversation gets on my ever-loving nerves and literally gets me down in the dumps for the day.

I just simply don't watch it anymore. There is too much negativity.

That doesn't mean that I am uniformed. I am not advocating for ignorance or anything like that. I prefer to read and figure out my information from sites "in the middle."

As I was eating dinner with my wife the other day we started talking about the new Abortion laws in Alabama and Georgia. As a Christ-follower and a staunch defender of Biblical inerrant, I detest abortion.

Before you read any farther, you must understand something: This article is not about my defense of my beliefs regarding hot topics like abortion or homosexuality. I do not have the time to write about said topics now. I am just asking you to accept what I believe for the sake of the article.

But, anyway, these abortion bills. I can make a pretty good case that they are Constitutional because they are protecting the Life (one of the Rights given to American Citizens) from others. Yes, I know the arguments against said point but continue with me please.

This led our conversation to talk about Homosexual marriage, something that I am against as well. And not just because of Leviticus but because of the New Testament as well.

But, shaking my head, I said something that my wife seemed to agree with:

"As a Christian, I know it's wrong and I cannot agree with it. As an American, I see no reason why it should be illegal. Unless your choices infringe someone's Rights, you should be free to do what you wish (technically speaking)."

This is my dilemma. Well, actually it's not a dilemma. I know that I am a Christian before I am an American. I love this country greatly, and I know how blessed I am to be born here. For all the hate this country gets (and some of it is deserved) and all the problems we have (and we have a lot), we are shoulders above other countries in many ways. I am so thankful for all the men and women who have served to protect me and keep me safe. I'm thankful for a lot of things. And I am proud to be an American.

But my identity in Christ comes first. This is why I do not get into politics much. I don't really care at the end of the day. Because while America has been blessed, we still have work to do here. And this is not my forever home. This is not where I will spend eternity.

I try and respect everyone's opinions, and I earnestly try to love everyone, even when they trash and disrespect my beliefs and convictions. But I must put my call to Christ about anything that has to do with this nation. I will pray for ALL our leaders because I was told to do so (I prayed for President Obama when he was in office). And I will be here to support this nation. But I cannot put it above Christ's commands.

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