Scholarly article on topic 'Attitudes towards Native Speaker Norms: Evidence from an Iranian Context'

Attitudes towards Native Speaker Norms: Evidence from an Iranian Context Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Hojat Jodai, Javad Pirhadi, Mehdi Taghavi

Abstract This study investigated the level of conformity and non-conformity of 102 Iranian EFL learners’ towards native speaker norms (NSNs) in learning English. The quantitative data for the study were collected by a contextualized version of the Timmis (2002) questionnaire. The findings suggested that despite the increasing use of English as an international language, there was an expressed preference for ‘native speaker pronunciation norms’ among these learners. They consider native speaker norms as achievable. The wider concluding remark of this study is that the blind acceptance of NSNs in English language teaching has come into question.

Academic research paper on topic "Attitudes towards Native Speaker Norms: Evidence from an Iranian Context"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 789 - 798

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

Attitudes towards Native Speaker Norms: Evidence from an

Iranian Context

Hojat Jodaia' Javad Pirhadib, Mehdi Taghavic

aHakim Sabzevari University bImam Ali University, Tehran, Iran cEastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus

Abstract

This study investigated the level of conformity and non-conformity of 102 Iranian ETL learners' towards native speaker norms (NSNs) in learning English. The quantitative data for the study were collected by a contextualized version of the Timmis (2002) questionnaire. The findings suggested that despite the increasing use of English as an international language, there was an expressed preference for 'native speaker pronunciation norms' among these learners. They consider native speaker norms as achievable. The wider concluding remark of this study is that the blind acceptance of NSNs in English language teaching has come into question.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: Native Speakers' Norms, Attitudes, Iranian Context;

1. Introduction

For a variety of socio-political, economical, and educational reasons, English has become an international language. So to know English and to be able to communicate in it effectively will be of significant value. Studying the concept of the native speaker became more prominent as a result of the Chomskian paradigm. Chomsky's (1986) 4idealized native speaker-hearer \ as a model of abstraction, has been used extensively in applied linguistics

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: jodai.hojat@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.483

research. During that period, studies considered the native speaker as the ultimate goal of language learning and the perfect model of language teaching and learning. Moussu & Liurda (2008) note that "research on non -native speakers (NNSs) do not involve the study of a language phenomenon or a language teaching procedure, or even a particular behaviour, but instead focus on the characteristics of a diverse group of people whose professional

Crystal (1997) points out that English is taught as the first foreign language in over one hundred countries. There have also been estimates that "up to 80 percent of communication in English is between non-native speakers" (Timmis, 2002, p.48). This growing attention toward English requires defining the models and norms in which language learning and teaching should be based. NSNs are one of those options. Nevertheless, the terms native speaker and non-native speaker, as Timmis (2002) argues, are "ideologically and culturally loaded terms and difficult to define" (p.68). Kachru's (1983) concept of native speaker is a person from certain regional area.

Following an appropriate norm and model in the classroom, especially in the case of pronunciation, can be a help in establishing the aims and goals of pronunciation learning and teaching. Furthermore, of the studies conducted to this date, as Moussu & Liurda (2008) and Timmis (2002) mention, many have been focused on non-empirical reflections on the nature and condition of NNS teachers, personal experience and narratives, survey,

Moussu & Liurda (2008) argue that the first attempt to put (non-)natives onto the central stage of linguistic inquiry by challenging current undisputed assumptions on the matter was Paikeday's (1985) The native speaker is dead, in which it is argued that the native speaker "exists only as a figment of linguist's imagination" (p.25). Then, starting in the 1990s, a body of literature questioned the early assumptions and shifted the focus of interest to the widespread use of English. These arguments demonstrated that being native is not a sufficient or necessary condition for becoming a model of language teacher or language learner. This paradigm shift towards the use of English as an international language can be perceived in the work of some notable scholars in 1990s. Jenkins (1998), considering the English needed for international communication, states that we ought to focus on those core aspects of pronunciation that are essential to international communication. Ur (2009) argues that this view not only is based on Philipson's (1992) concept of "linguistic imperialism" (p.) or Holliday's (2005) "native speakerism" (p. ?) but also, for more pragmatic reasons, is associated with teachers' need to prepare learners for future use of English as lingua franca.

Research on learners' attitudes toward NSNs is a fairly recent phenomenon; however, the studies are not few. Several scholars have investigated non-native learners, directly, for their opinions and attitudes. The results of these studies, generally indicate, in spite of the growing use of English as an international language and the existing debate of appropriateness of NSNs, a preference for NS norms, although there have been some variations. Sifakis & Sougari (2005) show that few of the respondents viewed ELF norms as a relevant target. They conclude that this "reflects a strong norm-based perspective that conflicts with the stated view of some teachers that they should promote intelligibility rather than accuracy when teaching accent" (p.481). Lasagabaster & Sierra (2005) and Pacek(2005) indicate students' positive attitude toward NNs teachers. Furthermore, these studies prove the effect of

Wach's (2012) study investigates the attitudes of 234 Polish English major students toward NS and ELF pronunciation norms. The findings reveal a strong preference for native-like pronunciation models in the subjects' own language development and a less strong preference for such models in pronunciation teaching at all level of proficiency. Furthermore, the results suggest that the intensity of pronunciation training and the level of awareness of native-speaker pronunciation models both played an important role in shaping the subjects' attitudes toward native-like

In order to examine this research theme in the Iranian context, the following specific questions were addressed:

1. What is the level of conformity/non-conformity of NNSs to NSNs in the area pronunciation, among Iranian

2. Are there significant differences between Iranian male and female English language learners' attitudes

3. Is there a significant relationship between students' age and their attitude to conforming to NSNs?

102 English learners, aged from 18 to 33 years old, of whom 59 were female and 43 male, took part in the

To find out how far students wanted to conform to NSNs, we made use of a two-part questionnaire. The questionnaire for the study was a contextualized and translated version of Timmis's (2002) research. The standardized Cronbach's Alpha was used to assess the reliability of the contextualized questionnaire. The analysis

In the first part of the study, respondents were asked to answer 13 questions about their own preferences with respect to NSNs. This part made use of a 5-point Likert scale: 1 (I strongly disagree), 2 (I disagree), 3 (I have no opinion), 4(1 agree), 5 (I strongly agree). This part of questionnaire yielded quantitative findings. The 5-point Likert scale used in this study assumes an average rating of 3.84 as above neutral and 2.71 below. The questionnaire

Before conducting the study a pilot study was carried out, and some problematic issues were revised. The questionnaire was then distributed to participants in the study. To obtain a quantitative analysis, statistical procedures were run by means of the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 19.0, including descriptive statistics and independent-samples t test. Then, statistical significance was set at the level of .05. Moreover, the relationship between preferences to NSNs and variables, including age, gender, and age of starting to

The Likert-type statements fall into three broad categories: the participants' attitudes toward the intelligibility of target language pronunciation, their opinions about attainability of NSNs, and their preferences to conform to NSNs. The findings will be presented under those headings. Moreover, numerical and percentage values for selected

Table 1. Descriptive statistics of the students' questionnaire

Qn SA % A % D % N % SD % Mean Sd N

Iteml 15 14.70 41 40.20 25 24.50 19 18.60 3 2 3.47 1.022 102

Item2 16 15.70 41 40.20 20 19.60 18 17.60 7 6.90 3.40 1.154 102

Item3 2 2.00 4 3.90 14 13.9 38 37.20 44 43.10 3.66 1.112 102

Item4 102 27 26.50 33 32.40 26 25.50 12 11.80 4 3.90 2.08 .864

Item5 1 1.00 5 4.90 21 20.60 49 48 26 25.50 3.02 .901 102

Item6 5 4.90 23 22.50 47 46.10 23 22.50 4 3.90 4.21 .813 102

Item7 41 40.20 45 44.10 13 12.70 2 2.00 1 1.00 3.32 .858 102

Item8 4 3.90 43 42.20 41 40.20 10 9.80 4 3.90 3.28 .872 102

Item9 4 3.90 41 40.20 41 40.20 12 11.80 4 3.90 3.17 1.153 102

Item 10 15 14.70 26 25.50 28 27.50 27 26.50 6 5.90 3.38 1.015 102

Iteml 1 15 14.70 32 31.40 34 33.30 19 18.60 2 2.00 3.60 1.171 102

Item 12 23 22.50 42 41.20 17 16.70 13 12.70 7 6.90 1.84 .941 102

Iteml3A 2 2.00 6 5.90 18 17.60 34 33.30 42 41.20 1.94 1.003 102

Iteml3B 5 4.90 9 8.80 25 24.5 33 32.40 30 29.40 2.27 1.127 102

The questionnaire contained 15 multiple-choice questions (appendix A). Questions (1, 2, 4, 11, 13B), which ask the participants' attitudes toward their preferences of native accents, received a high mean score numerical value (mean=3.5 and p=% 54). Conversely, questions (3,5,8, 13A) elicited their likely lack of interest toward native accent norms; they received a lower mean and percent (mean=1.85 p=less than 15%). Regarding the importance of pronunciation, 80 percent of students pointed out that teaching pronunciation is important. This amount shows that pronunciation is important almost unanimously among EFL learners.

6.1. Desire to conform to NSNs

English language learners' desire to conform to NSNs was obtained by calculating the overall mean score in terms of the Likert Scale for the questions. Table 2 shows the degree of learners 'desire to conform to NSNs.

Table 2. Descriptive statistics of learners 'desire to conform to

N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

NSNs 102 3.38 .48 .04

This level of significance (t=70) and Mean Difference (Mean=3.38) indicate that Iranian EFL learners have strong preferences towards NSNs.

6.2. Desire to learn NSNs

This measure was obtained by considering the overall mean score of students' responses to Item 7 (i.e., It is important to teach international pronunciation norms to learners of English), and item 8 (i.e., Please read the quote below and then answer the question. "It had been estimated that about 80% of communication in English is between non-native speakers" This estimate should influence the type of English we use).

Table 3. Descriptive Statistics of learners 'desire to learn NSNs

N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

Desire to learn NSNs 102 3.60 .61 .061

The overall mean score of students attitudes to learn NSNs was Mean=3.60, Std. Deviation=.61.

6.3. Attitudes toward intelligibility of target language pronunciation

Attitudes toward the intelligibility of target language pronunciation are represented by total mean scores of students' responses to item 1 (i.e., It is acceptable to sound like a NNS, as long as you are understood by others), and item 13A (I want to learn any kind of English that is easy to learn and helps me communicate). As seen in Table 4.9, the mean score of students' attitudes toward intelligibility, as the target of pronunciation learning, was 2.87 (Std. Deviation=.85).

Table 4. Descriptive statistics of attitudes toward intelligibility of target language pronunciation

N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

Attitudes toward Intelligibility 102 2.87 .85 .084

Positive attitudes found toward the concept of the intelligibility of target language pronunciation.

6.4. Attainability of Native Speaker Pronunciation

Attainability of native speaker pronunciation by Iranian EFL learners is calculated by considering the total mean score of students responses to item 5 (i.e., for a second language learner it is impossible to get a native

pronunciation). Table 5 shows its mean score.

Table 5. Descriptive Statistics of students' attitudes toward attainability of native speaker pronunciation

N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

Item5 102 2.08 .86 .086

The mean score of attainability is (Mean=2.08, Std. Deviation = .86). Therefore, it can be suggested that Iranian EFL learners think that native speaker pronunciation is achievable.

6.5. Preferences to native/non-native teachers

This measurement was is represented by students answer to item 10 (Native teaches are mote educated than non-native ones). Table 6 shows the total mean (Mean= 3.17, Std. Deviation= 1.15).

Table 6. Descriptive Statistics of preferences to native/non-native teachers

N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

ItemlO 102 3.17 1.15 .114

The result at .05 level suggests that students prefer native speaker teachers to non-native counterparts.

6.6. Relationship between gender and desire to conform to NSNs

The Independent Sample T Test was used to investigate Iranian male and female English language learners' gender as an independent variable, and their desire to conform to NSNs as the dependent variable in the study. Table 7 shows its result:

Table 7. Group statistics

Gender N Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Mean

Intelligibility F 43 239 .79 .12

M 59 3.22 .72 .09

Attainability F 43 1.97 .91 .13

M 59 2.15 .82 .10

LrngNSNs F 43 3.70 .43 .06

M 59 3.53 .71 .09

NSTs F 43 3.20 1.16 .17

M 59 3.13 1.15 .14

NSNs F 43 3.42 .48 .07

M 59 335 .49 .06

The level of significance was set at .05. The results of independent sample t test are shown in Table 8

Hojat Jodai et al. / Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 789 - 798 Table 8. Independent sample T test

Levene's t-test for Equality of Means

Test for Equality of Variances

F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed ) Mean Differe nee Std. Error Diffe rence 95% Confidence Interval of the Difference

Lowe r Upper

Intelligibi lity Equal variances assumed 1.28 .25 5.4 3 100 .000 -.82 .15 -1.12 -.52

Equal variances not assumed 5.3 5 85.4 6 .000 -.82 .15 -1.13 -.51

Attainabi lity Equal variances assumed .021 .88 1.0 1 100 .313 -.17 .17 -.51 .16

Equal variances not assumed -.99 85.1 8 .320 -.17 .17 -.52 .17

LrngNSN s Equal variances assumed 10.20 .002 1.4 1 100 .159 .174 .12 -.06 .41

Equal variances not assumed 1.5 2 96.9 3 .130 .17 .11 -.05 .40

NSTs Equal variances assumed .11 .73 .31 100 .752 .073 .23 -.38 .53

Equal variances not assumed .31 89.9 9 .752 .073 .23 -.38 .53

NSNs Equal variances assumed .12 .72 .73 100 .466 .071 .09 -.12 .26

Equal variances .73 91.0 .465 .071 .09 -.12 .26

not assumed 4

Table 8 suggests that there are significant differences between female and male students' attitudes toward the intelligibility of the target language pronunciation (t=-.53, Sig=000). Since the mean of males' attitudes toward intelligibility of the target language pronunciation (M=3.22) was higher than that of females (M=2.39), it can be suggested that Iranian male English language learners have a stronger desire toward intelligently of English pronunciation than female.

The results of other t-statistics for mean comparisons were not significant. Therefore, we can suggest that there are no significant differences between male and female students desire to conform to NSNs.

6.7. Relationship between age and desire to conform to NSNs

The relationship between age as an independent variable and the constructs of students' attitudes toward NSNs as a dependent variable was investigated through a two-tailed Pearson correlation analysis. Table 9 shows the results.

Table 9. Descriptive statistics of the relationship between age and desire to conform to NSNs

Mean Std. Deviation N

Age 21.26 6.82 102

Intelligibility 2.87 .85 102

Attainability 2.07 .86 102

LrngNSNs 3.60 .616 102

NSTs 3.16 1.15 102

NSNs 3.38 .48 102

As the table shows, the mean age of students were 21.26 (Std. Deviation=6.82)

Table 10. Correlations

Age Intelligibility Attainability LrngNSNs NSTs NSNs

Age Pearson Correlation 1 .38 .39 .09 -.11 -.54*

Sig. (2-tailed) .06 .05 .35 .23 .01

Intelligibility Pearson Correlation .38 1 .13 -.13 -.02 .05

Sig. (2-tailed) .06 .18 .19 .77 .61

Attainability Pearson Correlation .39 .13 1 .009 -.06 -.21*

Sig. (2-tailed) .05 .18 .92 .52 .02

Lrng NSNs Pearson Correlation .09 -.13 .009 1 .10 .26**

Sig. (2-tailed) .35 .19 .92 .28 .007

NSTs Pearson Correlation -.11 -.02 -.06 .108 1 .66**

Sig. (2-tailed) .23 .77 .52 .28 .000

NSNs Pearson Correlation -.54* .05 -.21* .26** .66** 1

Sig. (2-tailed) .01 .61 .02 .007 .000

N 102 102 102 102 102 102

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). **. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

As Table 10 shows, there was a significant correlation between the students' age and attainability of target language pronunciation (a=.05, Sig=05). That is, older students accepted the attainability of the target language pronunciation more than younger ones. The correlation between desires to conform to NSNs and the variable age (a=-.54, Sig= 01) suggests that there is a significant correlation between students' age and their desires to conform to NSNs. That is, younger students had a stronger desire to conform to NSNs than older ones (negative correlation).

7. Discussion and Conclusion

The results of earlier studies (e.g, Timmis, 2002; Janickaetal., 2005; Jenkins, 2005; Waniek-Klimczak, & Klimczak, 2005; Wach's, 2012), generally speaking suggested that English language learners have relatively strong presences for NSNs.

The study by Timmis (2002) clearly indicated that, despite the increasing use of English in international

contexts, there were expressed preferences for native speaker pronunciation norms. He imputes these preferences to students' desire to sound like NSs. The current study confirms the findings of Timmis's study in an Iranian context, in the sense that Iranian EFL learners have a relatively high desire to learn NSNs. This can be attributed to the fact that teaching English as an international language in Iran is fairly a current trend. This contrasts with McKay's (2003) implication is that there is no need to base the content of teaching materials, the choice of

Considering attainability of the target language pronunciation, this study suggests that from the perspective of Iranian EFL learners, target language pronunciation is achievable. However, one of the problems identified in the definition of the native speaker was the ultimate attainment issue. Achieving the native speaker norms is not a realistic goal, because it fails to take into account the social and cultural aspect of English as an international

It may seem paradoxical in light of past studies that students in the current study had strong preferences for NSNs and had a positive attitude toward the concept of intelligibility. This surprising outcome can be ascribed to different interpretations of intelligibility As Jenkins (2002) discussed, there have not been universally agreed upon

Despite their strong desire to conform to NSNs, the majority of participants in this study preferred NNST over NSTs. This insight was obtained from students' perceptions through the questionnaire. For example, the majority of participants did not agree with the item that "native speaker teachers are more educated". This finding confirms some studies conducted in the field, like Braine (2005). The majority of participants had a positive attitude toward

The major objective of this research was to determine the status of conformity and non-conformity among NNSs with respect to NSNs: namely, pronunciation in an educational environment. The following is a summary of

• Iranian EFL learners have positive attitudes toward the concept of intelligibility of target language

• Iranian EFL learners have a relatively high desire to learn NSNs in the case of English pronunciation.

• There is no significant difference between male and female students' desire to conform to NSNs.

• Attainability of native speaker pronunciation is mainly dominant among younger students.

The implications of such studies are straightforward. First of all, this study indicates that participants in the study have largely positive preferences for NSTs. This can be related to the fact that the "native speaker fallacy" (Author, date, p. ?) is still dominant among Iranian EFL language learners. Hence, non-native teachers' contact with

Teachers should make their students aware of current trends in language learning and teaching, and explain the importance of teaching English as an international language rather than any specific form of English. Teachers should have programs to change the attitudes of Iranian EFL learners toward the definition of nativeness to make

As teachers play a significant role in language instruction, future studies can consider Iranian university and EFL institute teachers' level of conformity and non-conformity to NSNs. Students and teachers' level of education has an impact on their understanding of NSNs. This could be another topic for investigation. Investigating the performance of learners, and teachers and the level of their conformity and non-conformity to NSNs, by making use of triangulation through using different methods, could also be one further possible research area.

References

Braine, G. (2005). A history of research on non-native speaker English teachers. In E. Llurda (Ed.), Non-native language teachers. Perceptions, Challenges and Contributions to the Profession (pp. 13-23)

Chomsky, N. (1986). Barriers. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Crystal, D. (1997). English as a global language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an international language. New York: Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, J. (1998). Which pronunciation norms and models for English as an international langauge. ELT Journal, 52(2), 119-126.

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

Kachru, B. (1983). Regional norms for English. Retrieved October, 2012 from

www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/recordDetail?accno=ED278230

Lasagabaster, D., & Sierra, J. M. (2005). What do students think about the pros and cons of having a native speaker teacher? In Llurda (Ed.), Non-native language teachers: Perceptions, challenges, and contributions to the profession, (pp. 217-242). New York: Springer.

McKay, S. (2003). Teaching English as an international language: Implication for cultural materials in the classroom. TESOL Journal, 9(4), 7-11.

Moussu, L., &Llurda, E. (2008). Non-native English-speaking English language teachers: History and research. Language. Teaching, 41(3), 315348

Pacek, D. (2005). 'Personality not nationality': Foreign students' perceptions of a non-native speaker lecturer of English at a British university.

In E. Llurda (Ed.), Non-native language teachers: Perceptions, challenges, and contributions to the profession. New York: Springer.

Paikeday, T. (1985).The native speaker is dead! Toronto: Paikeday Publishing.

Philipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pickering, L. (2006). Current research on intelligibility in English as a lingua franca .Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 2(5(8), 219-233.

Sifakis, N., & Sougari, A. (2005). Pronunciation issues and EIL pedagogy in the periphery: A survey of Greek state school teachers' beliefs. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 467-488.

Timmis, I. (2002). Native-speaker norms and international English: a classroom view. ELT Journal, 56(3), 240-249.

Ur, P. (2009). English as a lingua franca and some implications for English teachers. Retrieved October, 2012, www.tesol-france .org/Colloquium09/Ur_Plenary_Handouts .pdf

Wach, A. (2012). Native-speaker and English as a lingua franca pronunciation norms: English majors' views. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 1(2), 247-266.

Waniek-Klimczak, E., & Klimczak, K. (2005).Target in speech development: Learners' views. In K. Dziubalska-Koijaczyk & J. Przedlacka (Eds.), English pronunciation models: A changing scene 229-249 Bern: Peter Lang.

Appendix

Questionnaire

Item 1: It is acceptable to sound like a NNS, as long as you are understood by others. Item 2: If you speak with a perfect NS accent, you are perceived as a more intelligent knowledgeable person. Item 3: If you achieve a very high standard of NS pronunciation, your identity as an Iranian person suffers Item 4: For me to speak English with native pronunciation is...

Item 5: For a second language learner it is difficult to achieve a native pronunciation. Item 6: NS pronunciation standards are important when you communicate mostly with other NNSs. Item 7: Teachers of English should have NS pronunciation.

Item 8: For a non-native teacher it is unacceptable to make a mistake in classroom.

Item 9: Teachers with non- native accents are as less qualified and less effective than native ones.

Item 10: Native teacher tin: moiu educated than non-native ones.

Item 11: There is only two correct way to speak English (British or American).

Item 12: For me speaking English like a native speaker is very important, and

Iteml3A: I want to learn any kind of English that is easy to understand and helps me communicate.

Item 13B: I want to learn the English that native speakers use.