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Page history last edited by Ana Wu 11 years, 2 months ago

This is a summary of the online discussion. Find the complete threads at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nnest_evo2009/ and the reading materials here.




Teaching World Englishes:


Aiden: Learning about World Englishes from a linguist's point of view can be very interesting- but for EFL students, even for 4th year

undergraduates, the linguistic features of various English varieties particularly those of the outside circle i.e. Philippine English,

Indian English, Singaporean English, etc. can be very difficult to digest. I'm not referring only to pronunciation but grammatical andsyntax features as well. It is when things get too 'linguistically oriented' when my students' question the need to learn all these. Surely, there has got to be some way to make my lectures more interesting.


As a CALL enthusiast, I turned into blended learning and online video

conferences. I was lucky to have met Prof. Michiko Nakano of Waseda

University, who happens to be the person behind World Englishes and

miscommunications Online course offered by her Uni. Together with 4-5

other Asian universities, my students engaged in both synchronous and

asyhcronous discussions. Video lectures of kramsch, Jenkins, and other

known figures in WE were made available for students to watch online.

In addition, we had about 5 live video conferences where all

participating Asian students meet online and discuss the lecture notes.

Japanese students present a brief overview of the lectures e.g.

Japanese English, Indian English, etc. There's a 10-min Q & A after

each presentation where all students get to ask and answer questions.

True enough, these EFL/ESL students find it difficult understanding

each others' Englishes. they were using English as a lingua franca, but

at the same time, they were also exposed to World Englishes. They

experienced first hand how it feels like when people don't understand

the kind of Englisht that they speak. Without the proper

exposure/awareness of how other Englishes sound like, they knew that

miscommunication is inevitable. […]



See the presentation slides I used in HKAL 2007 (in Hongkong)




Terry: [From Ana Wu’s blog interview with Prof. Henry G. Widdowson]

In particular, there are two points:

1. Widdowson says,"The English language has now been appropriated as an

international means of communication and can no longer be considered the

exclusive property of its native speakers."

We have been discussing this issue the last couple of years, ever since the


of which English we should respect and which we don't when candidates are


2. Widdowson says, "There is a firmly held conviction in our profession that

knowing the language as a native speaker bestows upon you an authority to

pronounce on how it should be taught. So it is that NESTs will frequently

appoint themselves experts as advisers, teacher trainers and even teacher

trainer trainers simply by virtue of the fact that they are NESTs, apparently

with no other credentials except this and their experience. "



Basics of World Englishes:



Ela asked: After reading about World Englishes, a question came into my mind. What if the varieties of English become so different that speakers of different varieties cannot understand each other? I guess with today's globalization this is either impossible or it will take longer time. What do you think?



Aiden responded: You have brought up an important issue about 'intelligibility', and I think that

this difficulty of understanding other English varieties is one reason that my

students prefer American English. They argue that awareness of these varieties

is acceptable; they know that they exist and should be respected, but when it

comes to learning English, they'd rather learn American English. So I asked my

students what they think of teaching their English- Taiwanese English, they

said- that they're trying to teach 'American English' and they're still working

on it.


FYI, Taiwanese English is relatively new and lingustic features vary depending on the educational background of the speakers, but it is definitely evolving.


Here's an interesting article on 'Intelligibility', http://www.melta.org.my/ET/1989/main4.html



Masakazu responded to Aiden: I just thought of making a quick comment on what you metioned about why students

prefer American English. Please read it as a kind of a side note to your comment.

I personally think that there is no puarticular order in any varieities of

English in terms of their intelligiblity (I mean "intrinsically").

I also doubt that American English is the most intellegible variety of English.

It's certainly not for Japanese speakers. I think whether or not one varieity

may feel more intelligible or not is relative to the educaitonal as well as

linguistic backgrounds of learners.

Yet, in many cases, students prefer American English or British because these

two are perhaps the most popularly taught standard English varieities in many

parts of the world. The sense of authenticity and correctness is really what

makes them wish to learn and highly value these standard varieties.

But these feelings (authenticity and correctness) are a product of education.

People don't choose to learn them because native varieties are more beautiful

than other varieties of English.


Tommy responded: I always tell my colleagues that they oughtn't get too high-and-mighty about

English. Only 50 generations ago, it was a minor language on a remote island,

and even then it was unrecognizable to today's speakers. 50 generations before

that, Latin was the lingua franca. How widely spoken is it today? English is

having its moment in the sun, but that's all it is—a moment. I'm reminded of

Blade Runner, set in 2019 Los Angeles. There the lingua franca is "Cityspeak, a

street-level pidgin, spontaneously arisen in the multi-cultural and over-crowded

city," which the hero describes as "'Gutter talk, a mishmash of Japanese,

Spanish, German, what have you.'"

(http://www.brmovie.com/Encyclopedia/09ABC.HTML) And yet to the viewer's

English ears, it is all perfectly intelligible.

One of the things that disappoint me is the move toward language as purely

utilitarian. Certainly no one would strive to speak American English

(hilariously reductive in itself, as anyone who has traveled in the USA can tell

you) if they were seeking to become a language artist. To borrow from what Kaz

said, South Indian/Sri Lankan and sub-saharan African English are by far the

most pleasing to the ear. Likewise, the Konglish/Spanglish/Japlish varieties

used by periphery-country young people /whn dey snd da txt msgs/ is much more

efficient in a world where language is ever more pared down into bits and bytes

than any standard variety.

If anyone's interested in reading a well-written novel that traces one NNESs

path through SLA, I recommend _A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers_,

by Xiaolu Guo. The feminist in me had trouble with some of the personal

relationships presented, but the story and its telling are impressive.



Suresh responded: Interesting question, Ela. But I agree with David Crystal that for the

very reason of global interconnections today, the chances of English

becoming splintered and unintelligible are remote. What Crystal argues

is that through media, travel, and intensified contacts with each

other, we'll keep our differences within a manageable level. This

might occur unconsciously. We'll keep each other on check. If ever a

community is totally separated from another, their English might

develop on its own and become different. But Crystal thinks that is

not bound to happen in today's world.



[…] But let me take up here the possibility that we won't understand each other with the varieties we already

have. They say, this fear is the bias of monolinguals who expect

everyone to speak the same language, or assume homogeneous speech

communities. As for multilinguals, they always work with diverse

languages in their communities. The secret is that they negotiate

(through effective sociolinguistic strategies). WE are also finding

that multilinguals can conduct effective communication while keeping

their differences intact--without resorting to sameness. This is a

paradox, but it is possible. There is a new technical term for this:

polyglot conversation--where people speak in different languages and

still manage to conduct a conversation. If multilinguals can do this

for diverse languages, I am sure they can do this for diverse

varieties of the same language (English).



[…] I have written an article about multilingual strategies of

communication and acquisition in Modern Language Journal (Dec. 2007).

Take a look! (But of course you have to be open minded to learn, as

multilinguals always are. They never expect to encounter the language

they know when they step into the streets in India or Nigeria!).



How to Motivate Students to treat other varieties of English seriously:



Ana asked: I am interested in learning how to motivate my students to

accept the "other" Englishes: English from Chinese speakers, Indians,

Russians and Latinos.



Suresh responded: The best way to motivate students to treat other varieties

seriously is to impress upon them that we can't avoid engagement with

any community in the age of globalization. My favorite example is

how a prejudiced midwestern (American) grandmother takes a call to

her computer manufacturer as her system is crashing. Lo and behold,

the call goes to India! Would she ask the curteous and professional

technical assistant on the other end of the line to correct his/her

accent? Research by Sue Hood on call centers shows that the variety

of English is never the cause of problems. Because the clients are

focused on the issues they like to get resolved, they negotiate the

different varieties of Englist effectively. So, even native speakers

can't avoid engagement with other varieties of English. The ability

to negotiate Englishes is a economic and social resource in today's




Terry: I teach a Video ESL class for "intermediate to advanced"

learners in a non=credit class for adult learners in San Francisco.  There are

studnts from all over the world, and also all ages and educational backgrounds

(from young students preparing to go to the credit classes in our college or to

go out to work to seniors who worked in high level jobs in their home countries

(one woman used to be a professor of mathematics at Moscow Unversity).


[…] I think choosing the appropriate movie can get students and also myself thinking

about other Englishes and taking them seriously, but I need to experiment

with which movies can do this.

By the way, I think there are basically two ways to use movies in teaching. 

First, the movie provides something for stduents to discuss.  Second, the movies

gives language which contains a lot of useful idioms and vocabulary for students

to learn from. (Of course, there can be a combinations of these, which I try to

do in my classes.) 



Suresh responded to Terry: It might be possible to get some movies where different Englishes are

negotiated--where speakers of different Englishes interact with each

other in their own varieties. I think Bride and Prejudice is one such

(where Indian and American characters interact). The current

Hollywood/Bollywood production Slumdog Millionaire is also

interesting. However, I don't think they use too much Indian English.

The characters seem to use an approximated variety.



Aiden responded to Terry: Movies are great materials for introducing your students to other English

varieties :-) Other than learning idioms and vocabulary, you can also ask

students to watch out for dialogues that they think may contain 'errors'. You

then ask them whether they understood the message or what the dialogues are

about and then ask them what could be the reason for this misunderstanding. You

then point out the issue of 'intelligibility' and about certain linguistic

features of the kind of English that was used in the movie focusing on the

'error' that they pointed out- and tell them that in that particular variety of

English the 'error' is not a linguistic error but an acceptable/special feature

of that English variety.


Here are some of the movies that I think you could use in the classroom (you can

break them down into several class meetings)


1) Bend it like Beckham

2) Slumdog Millionaire

3) The Joy Luck Club

4) Life isn't all ha, ha, hee, hee



[…]I agree with Kaz, the students' English language preference is highly influenced

by their previous (learning) experiences. Teachers's opinions and attitudes

matter and they can affect students in a way that will alter their (mis)

conceptions. In other words, it could be the teachers themselves who propagate

the use of a more famous English variety in the classroom. But does that mean

that language preference leads to preference for teachers who are native

speakers of the preferred language? Are there any studies that support this



This now leads me to Suresh's comments about motivating students to seriously

treat other Englishes so they can successfully survive in this globalized

economy. In this respect, it is also the teachers job to bring language

awareness into the classroom.


With these two comments, we can say that teachers do play a big role in

influencing their students. Whether we support World Englishes or stick to what

conservative linguist advocate, it will depend on our own language preference

and our attitudes toward our own language and identity.


Masakuza response to Aiden:

>But does that mean that language preference leads to preference for

teachers who are native speakers of the preferred language? Are there

any studies >that support this thesis?

I think it is a very insightful question you've posted here.

As it happens, I'm on the same line of thoughts as you are but I don't know

any research study that directly tackles the issue.

However, I know one article that holds relevancy to your question.

Check out Ryoko Kubota's article in Journal of World Englishes

Volume 17 Issue 3, Pages 295 - 306 [Find the article in the Week 3 folder]

She mentions that Western centered internationalization in Japan lead students

to develop negative views on countries with which they are not even familiar.



Terry: Thanks, Suresh, for your comments and suggestions about movies to use

where diffeent Englishes are negotiated.  I think movies from India or about

people from India living in the United States would be a good resource to encourage my

students to think about language issues, as well as immigrant issues (such

as access to health care, finding jobs, etc.) which most ESL teachers already

are used to dealing with.  We ESL teachers are not used to bring up language

issues such as code-switching, home language maintenance, and negotiation of Englishes or "dialects" of other languages. (I have never seen a textbook where such issues are discussed).  I remember when I was doing research in the middle 1990s for my dissertation on home language maintenance among Chinese families in San Francisco, I decided to bring this issue to my ESL classes. I'll never forget one student's reaction. Her face lit up and she said, "This is my problem." She and her husband were struggling with how to encourage their son to learn Chinese while growing up in San Francsico.



About assessing students’ performance in WE:



Suresh: I am copying here an example I offered in an article about testing in

the Language Assessment Quarterly 3(3), 229–242.



Tommy asked: I really like the changes you recommended here, Suresh. But--like many of

us--it is difficult to implement in an EFL environment, where it can be almost

impossible to find assessors from multiple language traditions (apart from

different inner-circle countries). I'd also like to ask, as a teacher who does

as much peer-asessement as possible, how you think such a model could work

within a peer-assessment framework.



Aiden responded: Suresh suggestions are based on f2f traditional modes of assessment.

Tom is right- it's difficult to get 2 assessors from 'multiple language

traditions', but do the assessors have to come from multiple language

backgrounds to be able to do the job? I don't think so. So what are you

going to do if you're the only one to do the assessment? Technology,

man ;-)

I use a digital camera to video record students' oral performances, so

I think that the same method can be used here. To assess different

speech/discourse strategies, you simply playback the video. One thing

is for sure, one week is not enough to finish all the assessments :-(



Karen added: I don't know if this question comes too late... but I am wondering if you think

there is potential in Poehner and Lantolf's work in Dynamic Assessment? (out of

CALPER). I haven't researched it extensively, I must admit, but I am intrigued

by the ideas of scaffolding and contextualizing assessment methods. Marysia

Johnson also supports this kind of tailored assessment... Just wanted your

thoughts on it.



Suresh responded: Karen, As a theoretical model, I do gain a lot from a sociocognitive

perspective. I adopt that perspective more for issues of SLA. I refer

to this model in my article in MLJ. The model enables us to theorize

how language learning is holistic and ecological, not a purely form-

focused activity in the mind. I haven't studied how it relates to my

view of testing, though as you point out, learning by using the input

of interlocutors for scaffolding is one of the ideas I am interested

in. Similarly, I do think language performance is context-bound, and

it is unwise to evaluate it otherwise. So, I reject the notion of

a "general proficiency" free of context.

As for LFC, this is a controversial topic. Scholars like Jennifer

Jenkins and Seidlhofer are on a mission to describe it. However, I

believe there is no core. What multilinguals use in their

communication, as a "core" if you will, changes from interaction to

interaction, based on the type of interlocutors. It is for this

reason that rather than focusing on a form-based core, I encourage

speakers to focus on pragmatic strategies to negotiate any and every

variety they meet.



Karen responded to Suresh: Thank you so much for your reply. Much to think about.  Hmm... yes, it seems as

if a move toward a new assessment model is in order. In reading your article in

MLJ, I was struck by the interconnectedness of the ideas in not only that issue,

but in that year of MLJ. A new understanding of identity as it relates to

multilingual speakers of English and the ways in which meaning is negotiated

among those who use ELF really calls for assessment that is contextualized to

domains of use, and individual needs, and takes into account the multicompetence

of individuals' learning strategies and sociocultural awareness. As far as I

know Matt Poehner with James Lantolf (still there at Penn State?) and Marysia

Johnson (out of University of Arizona at last sighting) are the only ones that I

know of that have tried to develop frameworks for such an assessment... my

experience is not broad, though and you may know of a number of others?

Your comments on the non-existent(?) LFC have really sparked thoughts for me in

great directions. I think an understanding of ELF as a strategy based, ever

changing medium of communication may inform the analysis of corpora studies

being done out of CALPER (McCarthy) and through the VOICE project (Seidlhofer)

-- for instead of (or in addition to) looking for a common reference point (a

Lingua franca Core)- they could collate and categorize a variety of different

successful strategies for meaning negotiation that may in turn inform our World

English pedagogies. Hmm... More thought needed here... some part of me still

likes the structure of being able to teach a basic phonology for interlinguistic


Thank you again, Suresh, for your thoughtful replies to each of us. We have been

enriched by our interactions with you.


Karen Rauser

For those who are interested in the resources:

Canagarajah, Suresh. (2007). Lingua Franca English, Multilingual Communities,

and Language Acquisition. The Modern Language Journal, 91 (5), 923-939.  

Poehner, Matt. (2007). Beyond the Test: L2 Dynamic Assessment and the

Transcendence of Mediated Learning. The Modern Language Journal, 91(2), 323-340.

Johnson, Marysia. (2001). The Art of Non-Conversation: A Re-Examination of the

Validity of the Oral Proficiency Interview. New Haven, CT: Yale University






World Englishes in Creative Writing:


Aiden asked: If I were teaching Creative Writing, I would encourage my students to write

stories in English that touch on their language, culture, and identity. With

such theme, it would be impossible not to use lexical borrowing as there are

many terms in the local dialect that can't be translated in English.

This strategy supports Larry Smith's argument about the huge amount of 

Literatures using World Englishes that touch on various cultures and languages.

We have many Asian writers who have written such novels: Amy Tan, John Okada,

Salman Rushdie, F. Sionel Jose, Anita Desai, etc.


I'd like to share with you an article written by Charlene Rajendran, Performing Identity: a Stage for Multilingual English and Multicultural Englishness

available at http://www.britishcouncil.org/studies/england/rajendran.htm


Look at how she uses her own kind of English in different situations, thus she calls it 'performing identity'.


Has anyone tried changing your accent or the way you speak when you're in the market, restaurant, or any situation that calls for this change?


Suresh responded: Using other varieties of English in creative writing has been there

for a long time. I teach postcolonial literature, and teach such

examples all the time. However, using other varieties in more

serious/academic writing is still censored. This displays a bias. It

is made to appear that World Englishes are not suitable for serious

purposes. It is for this reason that I am now exploring how we can

bring other varieties of English into academic writing. If you think

about it--it is Latin that was the lingua franca for academic writing

before the 16th century. Vernaculars of that time, like English and

French, had to be used by courageous individuals to democratize

scholarly writing. I am sure the dominance of British and American

English in academic writing will also be challenged soon.



[…]Yes, and we need to tell our students that some of these writers who

use their own varieties of English have gone on to win prestigious

awards--Nobel Prizes for Soyinka, Walcott, and Naipaul. Booker prize

for Rushdie and Arundathi Roy. And Pulitzer for Jhumpha Lahiri. So,

there is nothing to feel ashamed of. . .!



Karen suggested: If you would like to go deeply into this writing in the voices of new

varieties... Check out Narratives for a New Belonging: Diasporic Cultural

Fictions by Roger Bromley. Bromley focuses on texts from the perspective of the

edge, written by authors who are engaged in what Bromley calls 'migrant writing'

- an emerging third space :). Included in his study are the following works:

Jasmine, Borderlands, The Joy Luck Club, The Wedding Banquet, Dreaming in Cuban,

East is East  and others. If you have read Chinua Achebe, you will have

experienced this kind of border breaking writing, which takes ownership of

English and hybrids it with strong cultural and linguistic influences for which

no apologies are made (the attitude is "if you want to understand my text, you

must first learn about my culture"). In literature, the expectation is that the

reader make the effort to research and understand the text, in the same way, it

is time that the speakers of OVE (Kandiah's Old Varieties of English) learn to research and understand the New

Varieties of English that are being used by the majority of English speakers today.




Aiden asked: Suresh mentioned NNES writers/novelists who won Pullitzer's prize-

yes, we should be proud specially if the person who received the

award belongs to the same ethnic background that we have. This is not

only limited to literature but we can see other NNES who excel in

other fields as well. Unfortunately, the same accolades were hard to

come by in TESOL- until prominent NNES teachers/researchers showed

them that NNESTs can be as good- or even better than other NS

teachers. This IS (Interest Section) gave us a voice. You see us

standing proud, and as Enric says, as soon as we found our strengths

and skills to survive and exist in the NS environment, no one can

ever put us down. However, I think that in EFL settings, placing

other Englishes and using them in academic writing, is a huge feat to

undertake. There is this fear of being maligned and to be judged as

someone with 'poor' English standards is painful to bear. The issue

of 'errors' in World Englishes is debatable. Linguists argue that

they are not 'errors' but an acceptable linguistic feature of that

variety- but how do we know that they will be treated as such?

Chances are- if spoken or written by NNES, NS will treat them as

errors. Suresh said that it is impossible to study all the varieties-

having said that though, we can assume that not all NS linguists may

be aware of these linguistic differences, and thus presume that these

differences are in fact errors.

I hear you when you said in your article that the paper 'only aims to

make some space for pedagogical rethinking and textual

experimentation on the place of WE in composition. As for practice, I

am hereby humbly announcing that I¡¦ll be joining my esteemed

students in the classroom for learning how to accommodate local

Englishes in academic writing.'

I also would like to know 'how' and what can we do to make that

happen without ever going through personal conflicts with our own

language and identity.



Suresh responded to Aiden: NS will think of WE uses as errors, but if we write creatively and

critically, we can convey the idea to our readers that we are using

WE varieties intentionally, for a rhetorical purpose. In other words,

we can convey through our authoritative writing and awareness of

academic conventions that we are not incompetent writers. So, when NS

see items that are questionable, they have to resort to discovering

the meaning in context, rather than assume it is an error. My

analysis of Black scholar Geneva Smitherman's essay (in the CCC

article) brings out that precise point.


Doron added: Three additions to the list of books in "dialect": Amos Tutola's wonderful

"The Palm-Wine Drinkard" [sic], James Kelman's stories in Glaswegian english

in "Not Not While the Giro" and Russell Hoban's post-apocalyptic "Riddley







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