A case study of six low-level Turkish EFL students' compositions written in English and Turkish
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This synthetic/heuristic study attempted to analyze and describe the composing process in order to identify the factors affecting Turkish students' overall perfoemance and to come up with findings to improve the present teaching situation. There were several questions to be investigated including the possible influence of LI on composing in L2, the types of the writing strategies used by Turkish low-level EFL learners, and the influence of background knowledge of the culturally-unfamiliar topic on the quality of the written product. The data suggested some information about the influence of translation from LI to L2 on the quality of writing although this was not intended to be investigated. A total of 6 students participated in the study. The participants composed twice both in Turkish and in English, filled out a writing strategies questionnaire, a writing inventory and a personal information form including self-reports on writing and their difficulties in writing. Regarding the second question (the possible relationship of culturally-unf amiliar topics on background knowledge), both the composition scores and the analysis of students' self-reports on writing showed that they shared a general sense of difficulty in composing on certain topics due to the lack of experience or prior training which was also supported by the need they had to incorporate writing with preceding discussions as one of the strategies in the writing strategy inventory. The relation between translation from LI to L2 and composing in L2 was found to be negative according to the analysis of the data due to the fact that it distracted the students' attention and led them to lose track of the ideas as one of the participants clearly states, "When I write in Turkish and then translate, I am lost and don't know where I am going." It was also found that the general perception of writing played an important role in writing processes of low-level Turkish EFL students. The students who claimed that they love writing performed better than those who do not. About the third research question, the findings revealed that low-level Turkish EFL learners use very limited writing strategies and generally stuck with overmonitoring what they write especially in terms of grammar and spelling. In addition to that, a striking finding is that 5 subjects among 6 felt the need to use the dictionary when composing. The fourth question (the influence of writing expertise), the analysis of data confirmed that the cases who lacked writing expertise in LI produced deficient compositions in L2 because of various reasons including not knowing rhetorical patterns, lack of practice, and lack of positive transfer. On the other side, the ones who lack writing expertise in L2 were able to compose well in LI because of mastering it long before. Finally, it was found, in relation to the question of writing strategies' transfer, that all the students who participated in the study seemed to transfer any strategies they had in LI to L2 writing. Their proficiency levels in this transfer didn't play a great role except that the proficient ones wrote compositions longer than the unproficient ones.