Scholarly article on topic 'Attitudes towards English as a Lingua Franca'

Attitudes towards English as a Lingua Franca Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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{"English as a Lingua Franca" / ELF / attitudes / beliefs / accent}

Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Paramjit Kaur

Abstract There are now more nonnative speakers of English than native speakers, and the number of nonnative speakers is growing rapidly. Together with the growth of nonnative speakers of English, the roles and functions of English have also changed, and along with this the emergence and growth of a variety of Englishes. One evident manifestation of the diversity of English t hat is spoken and exists in different parts of the world is the accent that is ascribed to the different speakers of English. The emergence of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) has offered us an avenue to re-examine and reconsider the relevance and appropriateness of the traditional native speaker models in English language teaching. This paper examines, in general, the perception towards ELF or non native speaker (NNS) accents in relation to native speaker (NS) accents. Specifically, this study examines how a group of trainee teachers view ELF accents, i.e. if ELF accents are perceived to be inferior and deficient to non native speaker accents or as legitimate English accents for lingua franca communication. A questionnaire adapted from Jenkins (2007) was used. The respondents were a group of trainee teachers of English in a public institution of higher learning. The questionnaire elicited perceptions regarding ten pre-selected accents shown on a world map, comments regarding accents the respondents were familiar with, and selecting and ranking five English accents that the respondents felt were the best accents. The findings show that the respondents perceived the NS accents as being better and described them in more positive categories than the non NNS accents. The NS accents are preferred by the respondents. The findings here reveal biasness towards NS accents as being more correct and proper as opposed to NNS accents. Although there is a shift in the users and uses of English in recent times, these teachers still think and believe that ‘proper’ English still remains to be in the inner circle countries.

Academic research paper on topic "Attitudes towards English as a Lingua Franca"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 118 (2014) 214 - 221

SoLLs.INTEC.13: International Conference on Knowledge-Innovation-Excellence: Synergy in Language

Research and Practice

Attitudes towards English as a Lingua Franca

Paramjit Kaur*

*Universiti Utara Malaysia, Department of Language Studies, School of Education and Modern Languages, Sintok 06010, Kedah, Malaysia

Abstract

There are now more nonnative speakers of English than native speakers, and the number of nonnative speakers is growing rapidly. Together with the growth of nonnative speakers of English, the roles and functions of English have also changed, and along with this the emergence and growth of a variety of Englishes. One evident manifestation of the diversity of English that is spoken and exists in different parts of the world is the accent that is ascribed to the different speakers of English. The emergence of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) has offered us an avenue to re-examine and reconsider the relevance and appropriateness of the traditional native speaker models in English language teaching. This paper examines, in general, the perception towards ELF or non native speaker (NNS) accents in relation to native speaker (NS) accents. Specifically, this study examines how a group of trainee teachers view ELF accents, i.e. if ELF accents are perceived to be inferior and deficient to non native speaker accents or as legitimate English accents for lingua franca communication. A questionnaire adapted from Jenkins (2007) was used. The respondents were a group of trainee teachers of English in a public institution of higher learning. The questionnaire elicited perceptions regarding ten pre-selected accents shown on a world map, comments regarding accents the respondents were familiar with, and selecting and ranking five English accents that the respondents felt were the best accents. The findings show that the respondents perceived the NS accents as being better and described them in more positive categories than the non NNS accents. The NS accents are preferred by the respondents. The findings here reveal biasness towards NS accents as being more correct and proper as opposed to NNS accents. Although there is a shift in the users and uses of English in recent times, these teachers still think and believe that 'proper' English still remains to be in the inner circle countries. SIMILAR TO INTRODUCTION

© 2013 The Authors. PublishedbyElsevierLtd.

Selection and peer-review underresponsibilityof UniversitiKebangsaan Malaysia. Keywords: English as a Lingua Franca; ELF; attitudes; beliefs; accent

* Paramjit Kaur. Tel.: +6-019-417-0666; fax: +6-04-928-5750. E-mail address: paramjit@uum.edu.my

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.02.029

1. Introduction

There are now more nonnative speakers of English than native speakers, and the number of nonnative speakers is growing rapidly. Together with the growth of nonnative speakers of English, the roles and functions of English have also changed, and along with this the emergence and growth of a variety of Englishes. One evident manifestation of the diversity of English that is spoken and exists in different parts of the world is the accent that is ascribed to the different speakers of English. The emergence of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) has offered us an avenue to re-examine and reconsider the relevance and appropriateness of the traditional native speaker models in English language teaching. This paper examines, in general, the perception towards ELF or non native speaker (NNS) accents in relation to native speaker (NS) accents. Specifically, this study examines how a group of trainee teachers view ELF accents, i.e. if ELF accents are perceived to be inferior and deficient, or as legitimate English accents for lingua franca communication. A questionnaire adapted from Jenkins (2007) was used. The respondents were a group of trainee teachers of English in a public institution of higher learning. The questionnaire elicited perceptions regarding ten pre-selected accents shown on a world map, comments regarding accents the respondents were familiar with, and selecting and ranking five English accents that the respondents felt were the best accents. The findings show that the respondents perceived the NS accents as being better and described them in more positive categories than the non NNS accents. The NS accents are preferred by the respondents. The findings here reveal biasness towards NS accents as being more correct and proper as opposed to NNS accents. Although there is a shift in the users and uses of English in recent times, these teachers still think and believe that 'proper' English still remains to be in the inner circle countries.

2. English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)

With the growth of NNSs of English and the shift of roles and functions of English worldwide, has given rise and validation to the notion of English as an International Language (EIL) or English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). Jenkins (2006) defines ELF as a "world language whose speakers communicate mainly with other non-native speakers, often from different Lis than their own" (p. 140). ELF interactions involve members (usually from different cultures) for whom English is not a mother tongue or a first language (L1). In ELF interactions, English is used as the common language of choice, among speakers who come from different linguacultural backgrounds (Jenkins, 2009). Most often NSs of English are not present in the interactions, and English is used and learnt for communication with other NNSs of English. The ELF paradigm denotes a shift in viewing varieties of English that exist and are used in various contexts as the variety of English that is used is viewed as a legitimate variety and not a deficient variety or an interlanguage (Jenkins, 2009). ELF has allowed us to ask "difficult, unorthodox questions and posed major conceptual challenges" (Seidlhofer, 2009, p. 237). ELF offers us an avenue to reexamine and reconsider the relevance and appropriateness of the traditional NS models in English language teaching in contexts like Malaysia. Research in ELF flourishes and provides novel insights of the users and uses of English in local contexts; however, attitudes towards ELF are often less than satisfactory even among NNSs. Holliday (2005, p. 10) observes that "native speakerism is so deep in the way in which we think about TESOL that people are standardly unaware of its presence and its impact". Most NNSs display a more positive attitude towards NS English models than local or NNS English models. This is due to the ELT industry being reliant on textbooks, teacher education, syllabus etc. that are based on NS English standard norms. Success and failure in the English language is judged based on NS English norms and standards. Thus the NS English ideology is deeply entrenched in contexts like Malaysia, and veering away from this 'standard' norm is usually considered to be rare and most likely wrong. Thus, attitudes towards ELF, most often than not displayed through the language and words that researchers use to describe ELF as accepting 'errors' and 'anything goes' (Jenkins, 2007; 2009). NNS English speakers or ELF speakers themselves have been shown to be biased towards the NS ideology, where NS English is considered to be the norm and anything else as a deficit or errors (see Holliday, 2005;

Jenkins, 2000; 2007). Jenkins' (2007) study showed that NNSs English teachers showed attachment towards 'standard' Inner Circle NS English models.

3. Objectives of study

The general objective of this study was to examine the perception of the trainee teachers towards ELF or NNS English accents in relation to NS English accents. Specifically, the study examined how the trainee teachers viewed NNS and NS English accents, i.e. if NNS English accents were perceived to be inferior and deficient accents or as legitimate English accents for lingua franca communication.

4. Method

4.1. Questionnaire

The findings of this study were collected using a questionnaire adopted from Jenkins (2007). The questionnaire designed by Jenkins (2007) was based on perceptual dialectology. Perceptual dialectology is aimed to explore people's beliefs about various language varieties by exploring how people categorize and judge the varieties (Jenkins, 2007). Jenkins (2007) argued that this method would elicit attitudes and beliefs towards ELF and NS English accents. The questionnaire that was used in this study comprised two parts; the first part elicited personal information of the respondents which included sex, age, mother tongue, and other languages. The second part of the questionnaire comprised five items. These items were meant to elicit how the respondents perceived ELF accents in relation to NS English accents. The first item required respondents to comment on ten pre-selected accents that were shown on a map. The second item required respondents to label and comment on the map, the English accents that they were familiar with. Item three required the respondents to select and rank the best English accents in their view. The fourth item required respondents to rate the ten specified accents in terms of correctness, acceptability for international communication, pleasantness and the respondents' familiarity with the accent. The last item was an open question which invited the respondents to give any comments that they wished to. However, in this paper only answers pertaining to items one and three will be discussed.

4.2. Respondents

The questionnaires were distributed to 72 pre-service English for young learners' trainee teachers, in their final semester in a public university. However, only 36 questionnaires could be tabulated for the final analysis, after the questionnaires were returned. The age range of the respondents was between 22 to 25 years of age. The trainee teachers had undergone six years of training; i.e. two years in pre-university Ministry approved foundation program, followed by a four-year of undergraduate teacher education training at a local public university. These trainee teachers have been exposed to concepts relevant to this study such as ELF, EIL, ENL, NS and NNS in their undergraduate courses. Of the 36 responses, 16 were from male respondents and the rest from female respondents. 29 of the respondents listed Malay as their first language (L1), 2 listed Tamil and five respondents listed indigenous languages (Iban, Melayu Sarawak, Dusun, Bajau, Melanau). The respondents' second as well as third languages included English, Bugis, Malay, Arabic, Kadazan, German, and Mandarin.

5. 0 Findings

5.1. Describing NS and NNS English accents

Item 1 required the respondents to comment on ten pre-selected accents that were shown on a map of the world. The pre-selected accents included English accents from the USA, the UK, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Sweden, India, China, Japan, and Australia. These accents included accents from NS circles (USA, UK and Australia) as well as NNS English accents (Brazil, Spain, Germany, Sweden, India, China, Japan). The NNS English accents consisted also of Asian English accents that included India, China and Japanese English accents. Respondents were asked to use their own words to describe the ten pre-selected accents to discover more precisely how NS and NNS English accents are evaluated and categorized by these NNS teachers of English. Overall, the descriptions provided by the respondents had a wide range. Some English accents were painstakingly commented on in detail and some were described in vague ambiguous terms. There were also some strong, pejorative and emotional words for some accents. In this paper, the focus will be on two NS English accents (USA and the UK English accents) and three NNS English accents (Spanish, Indian, Japanese English accents).

5.2. USA English accent

Some respondents who liked the USA English accent made pejorative and negative comments about the UK English accent. For example one respondent who used 'normal' to describe the USA English accent, used 'snobbish' for the UK English accent. Another respondent used 'plain and simple' for the USA English accent but 'snobbish and a little classy' for the UK English accent. However, there were also respondents who were more aligned to the UK English accent than the USA English accent. One respondent described 'RP' for the UK English accent but 'fast, harsh' for the USA English accent. 'Standard' was used by five respondents to describe the USA English accent. This term, 'standard' was only used to describe the USA English accent and the UK English accent. 'Standard' was never used for any of the NNS English accents. Some of the responses were tabulated as being positive and negative comments and are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Description of the USA English accent

Positive terms Negative terms

Easy to understand Fast

Understandable Harsh

Normal Colloquial

Intelligible Overexposed

Cool Show off

Tone is clear Simplified Standard Clear

5.3. UK English accent

As explained above, some respondents who were more favorable to the UK English accent would make unfavorable or negative comments about the USA English accents. For instance, the UK English is 'understandable' but the USA English accent is 'harsh'; or 'show off for the USA English accent and 'professional' for the UK English. However, there were also respondents who described both these English accents (UK and US) as being 'easy to understand' and some respondents who attributed both as being 'standard'

(and Australian English accent as being 'ok'). Some of the responses were tabulated as being positive and negative comments and are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Description of the UK English accent

Positive terms Negative terms

RP Its like there is something in their mouth

Standard Hard

Very good accent High class

Easy to understand Lots of speed speech

Clear Fast

Quite ok Snobbish

Understandable Snobbish

Beautiful A little bit classy

Melodious Like a bullet train

I love this accent

5.4. Spanish English accent

Many respondents gave rather vague answers for this accent and some even indicated they did not know the accent. Some of the responses for the Spanish English accent were tabulated as being positive and negative comments and are shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Description of the Spanish English accent

Positive terms

Fast and precise

Still easy to understand

Melodious

Expressive, lots of stress

Romantic

Classic

Negative terms

Cannot be understood Barely intelligible Hard to understand Fast

5.5. Indian English accent

Similar to the Spanish English accent, many respondents gave some vague answers for the Indian English accent, but were more responsive to this accent as compared to the Spanish English accent. Some of the responses for the Indian English accent were tabulated as being positive and negative comments and are shown in Table 4.

Table 4. Description of the Indian English accent

Positive terms

Negative terms

Precise

Easy to understand

Fluent and fast

Can be understood

Like Malaysian English

Melodious

Fluent

Thick No idea

Hard to understand Drawly

Twisted

Machine gun Tongue twister Confusing

Difficult to understand Fast

5.6. Japanese English accent

The responses for this accent, was rather similar as the Spanish and Indian English, in terms of the terms that were used were rather vague and there were fewer responses as compared to the two NS English accents. The negative comments seemed to be more than the positive comments and there were some pejorative terms that were used. Some of the positive and negative terms used to describe this accent are given below in Table 5.

Table 5. Description of the Japanese English accent

Positive terms

Uniqueness of pronunciation Rhythmic, use of L1 ending sounds Nice 'sounds' Sometimes acceptable Polite

Too nice, slow pace

Negative terms

Not easy to understand

Hard to understand, they add sounds

Hard to understand

Machine gun

Maybe not correct

Not clear in pronunciation

Very robot-like No intonation

Feel too tired to listen to them Like a snail

5.7. Ranking of English Accents

Item 3 required the respondents to select and rank the best English accents in their view. They were asked to provide five of the 'best' English accents and rank them in order of preference. They were not given any choices, the choices and rankings were what the respondents felt were the best English accents. However, most of them only ranked three English accents. The findings for the top three accents and the number of responses for each

are provided in Tables 6, 7 and 8 respectively. Both the UK and US English accents were ranked first and second 'best' accents by a majority of the respondents. The UK accent was ranked the 'best' accent by 22 respondents followed by 10 respondents who ranked the US English accent as the best. For the second best accent, 20 respondents indicated the US English accent as the second best, followed by the UK English accent by eight respondents. For the third 'best' accent, 14 respondents chose the Australian accent, followed by five for Filipino and three each for Scottish, USA, Canadian and Indian accents. The respondents overwhelmingly believed that the UK and US English accents were the best accents in comparison with other accents. NS English accents, i.e. the UK, US and Australian English accents were all deemed to be better than the respondents own accents. Only four respondents ranked the Malaysian English accent as the best accent and one respondent who ranked the Malaysian English accent as the third best accent. This highlights that the respondents do categorize and polarize between the NS and NNS English accents, where the NS English accents are ranked above the NNS English accents. The top three ranked (first, second and third) English accents were all NS English accents. Although there were some respondents who ranked NNS English accents in these categories, the overwhelming response was for NS English accents. Ironically, these trainee teachers who have been taught and exposed to concepts of ELF and EIL did not perceive their own accents as one of the best accents, apart from the four respondents who ranked the Malaysian English accent as the best English accent. NS English accents were perceived to be the best accents for these trainee English teachers.

Table 6. English accents ranked first

Accent Number of responses

USA 10

Malaysian 4

Spanish 1

Total responses 36

Table 7. English accents ranked second

Accent Number of responses

USA 20

Filipino 2

Indian 2

Australian 2

Russian 1

New Zealand 1

Total responses 36

Table 8. English accents ranked third

Accent

Number of responses

Australian

Filipino

Scottish

Canadian

Indian

Swedish

Korean

Japanese

Malaysian

Total responses

Accent

14 5 3 3 3 3 2 1 1 1

Number of responses

6. Conclusion

The findings reveal that NS English accents take precedence over NNS English accents for the respondents in this study. Overall, the NS English accents are described in more positive tones; pejorative and emotional words are used more often with the Asian English accents (e.g. robot-like, flat, twisted, tongue twister, weird, confusing etc.). There seems to be a pattern of favoring the NS English accents over the Asian English accents, in fact the Spanish, German, Brazilian and Swedish English accents did not elicit as strong and negative descriptions as the Asian English accents. Attitudes towards NS English accents are more favorable than to NNS English accents. NS English accents are ranked the best accents over NNS English accents. None of the NNS English accents were given priority in terms of ranking as the best accents. The findings from the map task are supported by the findings from the ranking task. NS English accents, particularly the UK and US English accents are viewed as being superior and 'standard' compared to the other NNS English accents. One reason for the more favorable and positive attitudes towards NS English accents could be the deeply entrenched attachment to NS English accents as most textbooks and materials are NS-centric. These trainee teachers, although exposed to concepts of ELF and EIL, still consider the NS as the norm provider and the model of English in Malaysia. Thus, the ideology of the NS of English as the model and norm provider is prevalent in these trainee teachers. NNS English accents may be viewed as being deficient in comparison with NS English accents. It is important to investigate the attitudes and beliefs of teachers of English as this will give us insights into the viability of using ELF norms in international communication and as models in ELT in Malaysia. However, a note of caution, very little generalization can be drawn from the findings here as the sample size in this study is rather small. The findings, however, do implore us to think about the deeply entrenched belief that the NS is still considered to be the norm provider for Malaysia. There is a need to think of the users and uses of English in Malaysia rather than benchmark ourselves based on exornormative models that may be obsolete in their own contexts.

References

Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, J. (2000). The phonology of English as an international language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, J. (2006). Points of view and blind spots: ELF and SLA. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16(2), 137-162.

Jenkins, J. (2007). English as a Lingua Franca: attitude and identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, J. (2009). English as a lingua franca: interpretations and attitudes. World Englishes, 28(2), 200-207.