Teaching World Englishes to Undergraduates in the US

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  • 1.Teaching World Englishes to Undergraduates in the US
    Xuan Zheng, PhD candidate,
    English Department
    University of Washington

2. Agenda
Why teaching World Englishes?
Course design and teaching materials
Findings: Students responses
My reflections as an NNEST
Suggestions and discussions
3. Why World Englishes?
Global spread of English (Kachru, 1985)
The ratio of native speaker vs non-native English speaker is 1 to 3 (Crystal, 1997)
68% of English speakers speak some form of English as a global language, while only 20% speak American Standard English, 8% British Standard English, and 4% other World Englishes (Graddol, 2007).
Most people live in multilingual settings (Kirkpatrick, 2007)
4. Problematic terms
Native speaker vs. non-native speaker?
Standard English?
World Englishes: varieties of Englishes used in the inner ,outer, and expanding circles; narrow sense (less privileged, non-mainstream varieties of Englishes)
Multilingual speaker:people who use more than one varieties of language; narrow sense (people who use less privileged, non-mainstream varieties of Englishes)?
5. Why Teach World Englishes?
With the international spread of English, native speakers of English (inner-circle countries) are increasingly exposed to speakers of World Englishes (WE). While WE speakers are trying to gain knowledge and skills to communicate with native speakers, current research has pointed out that native speakers are rarely encouraged to learn to understand WE speakers, which often makes intercultural communication a one-way street (Canagarajah, Kubota, Lindemann).
Members of the dominant language group feel perfectly empowered to demand that a person with an accent carry the majority of responsibility in the communicative act. (Lippi-Green, 1997)
6. Teaching WEs to native speakers
English class, public high school, North Carolina (Kubota, 2001)
Some students interviews show that they became more open-minded; but only those who had been exposed to diverse NNS populations. (suggestion: other than using multi-media, Ss need to interact with WE speakers)
Graduate course (TESOL or related field) (Oxford and Jain, 2010)
The course has challenged students original misconceptions of English, English speakers and teachers. Ss started to reflect and critique their own misconceptions. (due to diverse student body, cross-cultural experience, maturity )
7. Why WE in college composition
Shift in demographics in higher education:
The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 3% to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year (Open Doors, 2010).
The population of non-native English speaking students, including international students and immigrant students, makes up 13% of undergraduate students in the U.S (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000; cited in Kang, H.S., dissertation proposal, 2009)
A dominant discourse in college accepts the myth of linguistic homogeneity, assuming students to be NESs (Matsuda, 2006). WEs are still marginalized in Freshmen Composition courses (Canagarajah, 2006, cited in Tardy, Christine and Hobmeier, Amanda, forthcoming).
8. The Setting
First-year College Composition course at University of Washington
Student population in the composition class I teach
Winter 2010: 10 out of 22 are multilinguals
Spring 2010: 13 out of 22 are multilinguals
Writing sequences and assignments
9. Course goals
Ss will be able to achieve the four academic writing outcomes set by the Expository Writing Program (genre awareness, critical reading, generating claims, revision)
Course theme: multilingualism and identity
-Ss will be more aware of the linguistic diversity in the U.S. and around the globe
-Ss will read, think and write critically the issue of intercultural communication, linguistic discrimination, varieties of Englishes and values of multilingualism.
10. Course materials and assignments
11. Methodology and data analysis
As the course instructor, I used practitioner inquiry in my own instructional setting (Cochran-Smith& Lytle, 2009)
Qualitative approach which goal is to identify participants perceptions and changes regarding language variations and their speakers. Additional themes emerged during the analysis.
12. Findings
Most students embrace the idea of linguistic diversity, and they acknowledge the shared responsibility in an intercultural communication.
Some students, in particular international students, shared their feelings of empowerment as multilinguals; some, however, were reluctant to critique the standard English which they aspire to speak and write.
The differences in their responses might be influenced by the nature of the course, my self-positioning and teaching skills, and their previous inter-cultural experience.
13. Findings: Theme 1: There are many Englishes spoken in the U.S.
As discussed in class, there are many types of English spoken in America. Everyone has their own dialect and everyone has their own accent. I do not believe that it is possible to decipher what perfect English really is.
With one of the worlds largest and most diverse populations, spread across thousands of miles, it is impossible to say that there is a spoken Standard English in the United States. Ranging from different accents and pronunciations to geographical and cultural slang, this variance has helped develop a culture of diversity.
14. Theme 1 cont.: Yet, non-native speakers are still inferior to native speakers because they cant switch between Englishes.
Tans mother was not able to switch between Englishes and therefore was always identified as the incompetent and helpless woman. (Response to Amy Tans Mother Tongue)
Reality: many non-native speakers of English also speak other languages/dialects fluently.
15. Theme 2: Victims of the powerful monolingualism (ESL students hardship stories)
Because of my broken English, I am afraid of speaking in English in publicI pretended that I was an introverted person when taking to a native speaker. However, there was a strong desire that I wanted to fit into this country. I have even prayed to the God. I said I was willing to sacrifice some of my Chinese skills to become a better English speaker. (international S)
After graduation, I will encounter many job interviews which I have to speak appropriately and effectively to present myself in English.The good or bad images which speakers give to the audiences depend on words. (international S)
16. Theme 3: Ambiguous multilingual1) negative connotation as non-native speaker
bilingual programs distract multilingual speakers from learning English fluently.
Despite the fact that multilingual speakers struggle with standardized English
Ss are reluctant to be labeled multilinguals in class interviews
17. Theme 3 cont. Ambiguous multilingual 2) Advantages of being multilingual
At times I have to translate and explain to others my moms message, but after being exposed to her English, many people such as my moms business clients start to adapt and understand her.My mothers experience has allowed me to realize that people who are multilingual, have the ability to communicate more effectively. Integrating both my Vietnamese and American cultures has allowed me to understand other cultures better
Being multilingual is actually a big advantage compared to those who are monolingual. As I work in the Asian industry, it is required that I speak more than one language because most of our clients are like Amy Tans mother whose English is also limited.
18. Theme 3 cont. Ambiguous multilingual 3) heritage speakers desire to retain their mother tongue
because my mother speaks Mandarin and father speaks Cantonese so English is the predominant language spoken in the house. This is very annoying being Chinese but not being able to speak either of the main dialects and I have to tell people this in every conversation that brings up this subject.
My mother, born and raised in China, is someone that I have at times understood the least about because of the language barrier between us. Having never known Mandarin, I could never follow her conversations, and her culture and history along with that of her family has been left unknown to me.
19. Theme 4: Getting to understand language learners (challenges the English Only Education )
Traveling abroad, studying a foreign language, as well as the interview assignment made students understand the hard reality of learning an additional language.
My fractured combination of Norwegian and English could express basic needs and ideas, but I couldnt articulate what I really meant, and I felt masked.I excelled in math and art, mostly because those were the subjects that circumvented my handicap.I can empathize with Amy Tans struggle in school, and admire her ability to take the more difficult route.
20. Theme 4: Getting to understand language learners (challenges the English Only Education )
, a 21-year-old business student at the University of Washington and second language English speaker, said that while she had about 3 years of English classes in the Ukraine, it took an additional 2 or 3 years in the US to learn to converse in English.
has lived in the US for almost 10 years, does not think that she can ever feel like [shes] fully adjusted. In addition, though she can now speak fluent English, she still describes herself as a Russian person who has lived in the US for a long time.
21. Theme 5: Sharing communicative responsibility
For native speakers, there is a need for tolerance and patience. While it is understandably f