Jump to content
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt
  • advertisement_alt

Writing Sample Dilemma


HopefulGrad2B
 Share

Recommended Posts

Ok, so I'm freaking out. I'm applying for a Ph.D in a foreign language department. I've been really confident about my applications so far (e.g. high GRE and grades, solid LORs from well-respected profs at an Ivy, very well-focused SOP) but now my writing sample is a big question mark. I wrote my senior thesis (which won a departmental award) in English (the language, not the major) rather than in the language of my major (which, by the way, also happens to be my intended grad field). Since most of the departments to which I'm applying will accept both an English text and a text in the other language, for a while I've had this idea that I should attempt a "creative" bilingual submission where for the English part I'd send an excerpt from my thesis and for the other part I'd send a translation of a related part of my thesis. This would meet the length and language requirements of most of my schools. I sent my translation to a native speaker friend to help with little mistakes and then I sent the polished version to one of my profs (who happens to be one of my rec letter writers). She said it was great but that she doesn't really feel its my authentic voice in that language but rather my English thoughts rendered in that language. I'm inclined to trust her judgment as she was the Chair at one of the programs on my list and has many years of experience. She knows what she's saying! She suggested that I send an excerpt from my thesis (in English) along with a brief text in the relevant language and a note explaining my submission. She's confident it won't hurt my application. I, on the other hand, feel bummed not to use the translation on which I worked so hard. Part of me feels like going with my "creative" submission approach anyway and perhaps either unearthing a short paper in the language from a past course or writing one in the next two or three weeks (it would probably be just 5-10 pages... to show that I have a strong written command of the language).

Anyway I'm lost. I'm not sure whether to go with my professors advice (thesis excerpt in English plus a short paper in the language), go ahead with my original plan (one half: thesis excerpt in English; one half: another thesis excerpt in translation), or to try the hybrid I proposed earlier (basically my approach plus my professor's suggestion to send a text I wrote directly in the language). Despite majoring in that language and having written substantial research papers, I don't feel I have many suitable texts in the language that really best show my interests (and to make matters worse, I wrote a lot of my research papers in English). But I am fluent! I feel like if I had a chance to meet some professors and speak with them informally, it would be a way to prove to them that I'm fluent. I was feeling so great about my chances up until now... I really don't want the writing sample to be the thing that ruins my chances since I realize how important it is. Does anyone have any thoughts for me? I have a deadline coming up mid-next week for which I'm most likely going to submit the translation because I don't think I'll have time to come up with something else. However, for my other schools, there's definitely still time as long as I settle on a solid approach soon. I don't want to come across as an unprepared, last-minute kind of applicant because I've actually been working dutifully on my applications for a while now (several months of careful attention to everything). I guess I just didn't anticipate the translation issue coming up. I minored in translation so part of my plan was to show the departments my translation skills... My sense is that adcomms want to see that I'm competent in the language and that they'd understand that my most impressive writing is in English, so I probably shouldn't be so worried. I feel like this is what my professor has been trying to get me to understand. Sorry about this desultory post but like I said, I'm stressed about this particular component of my application. If anyone could offer me some advice, I would greatly appreciate it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think submitting an original text is much better than submitting a translation into another language, especially if a professor has already told you that it's noticeable that it's a translation and not original thoughts in that language. I'd go with the professor's suggestion of submitting your original text in English in addition to some other text which was composed in the other language. I assume that you record reflects your translation minor and that your recommenders will be able to address your fluency and skills in the other language as well. I don't think you have to demonstrate your language skills through the writing sample specifically -- it's more important to submit the best instance of your work. An additional sample (plus LORs, language classes I assume you have taken, an the translation minor) will take care of the fluency issue.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you, fuzzylogician! I especially appreciate your opinion since you're studying linguistics. I'm leaning toward sending another text written directly in the language. You're right about the question of fluency; they'll have other ways to gauge that. The whole application process is just so stressful and lends itself to occasional panic attacks about small details. Again, that's just been my experience, but from reading threads on this forum it seems rather pervasive. If anyone else has some advice, I'm still open to it. I have, however, more or less settled on a solution. Let's hope things turn out alright! Good luck to everyone! :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad to help :)

It's completely understandable that you worry about all these things.. so many things are out of our control that we want to do our best controlling what we can.

I don't know how relevant my linguistics education is to a foreign languages concentration, but I was a translator in a past life and so I know just how hard it is to convey nuances of meanings from one language to another, even a closely related one. Often you can't use the same syntactic structures, the same words don't quite work, ambiguities are created or disappear because of word-choice or structure decisions. It's easier when you're translating your own text because you have the freedom to stray from the original text and favor content over structure, but still. Original thoughts in a language are necessarily different from translated ones.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.