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Recommenders with poor English.


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Hey all! This is my first post. I'm currently applying for PhD programs in History. Most of the programs I'm applying to are quite competitive, and I reckon should require a pretty much airtight application. I would like to think I'm a competitive candidate overall - I have good GRE scores, a good GPA for my MA, and can get positive references.

Now, here's the problem. I did my MA outside the United States, and most of my professors are not native English speakers. In fact, one professor, who I know will write me a glowing recommendation if I ask him to, has... and it pains me to say this, because he's a great guy and a great teacher... a very poor grasp of English grammar, and (judging by his handouts) is not the number 1 fan of spell check.

Complicating things is the fact that I want to ask him because I studied with him in a social sciences related class (my MA is in Southeast Asian Studies). I've already asked one of my literature professors for a letter, and if I get one recommendation from a historian and two from literature professors, I'm worried that the departments I'm applying to will doubt my personal dedication to the field of history.

Honestly, I feel very mean even mentioning this. But, I'm still worried.

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Try and see if you can work together on the LOR. Drop by during office hours and that way you can check his spelling, see if it makes sense, etc.

I remember reading somewhere on these forums that someone else did that at some point and it took hours and lots of agony but finally got it done and it was an amazing letter.

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Another option would be to get the letter in his native language and translate it yourself. Send the translation directly to the DGS for the department and explain the situation. I would think they would trust the translation from you, since they could easily verify it. The only problem would be that the writer would have to give you a copy as well as sending it, but if they would work with you on it then you'd see it anyway.

If that doesn't work, I don't think a letter from someone who is obviously ESL will hurt your chances. With international students it seems like this would be very common, and someone else's grammar isn't going to reflect poorly on you. Your grammar has to be great in your own writing, but the LORs are not about the writing, but about the sentiment.

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