ELF 5 Part 3 – Learners, Materials, Idiomaticity & Pronunciation

Claudia Borghetti spoke on ‘Language versus Intercultural Learning through ELF Interactions: Higher Education Students’ Perspectives’.

Emphasising that NS might not know how language works, let alone how to explain the rules to others, Claudia states that if one feels less judged by their use of English, it would affect their confidence and ability to use English positively. She then goes on to outline the use of Byron’s criteria of measuring intercultural competence in terms of attitude, knowledge, skills and awareness, showing that a successful intercultural speaker is one that is able to negotiate meaning, take an external perspective of oneself and adapt.

 

Reiko Takahashi was up next with her presentation ‘English as a Lingua Franca in a Japanese context: An analysis of ELF-Oriented Features in Teaching Materials and the Attitudes of Japanese Teachers and Learners of English to ELF-Oriented Materials’.

 

Using the following criteria, Takahashi measures how ELF-Oriented the materials used in Secondary and High School English education in Japan:

  1. Number of characters featured that are from outer circle and non-Japanese expanding circle countries;
  2. Number of words uttered by these characters;
  3. Use of either outer or expanding circle country other than Japan as location for dialogues;
  4. Type of communication existing between NNSs with no NSs.

 

It was found that some of the materials in Japanese coursebook indeed featured outer circle English usage, illustrating with an example that showed the use of Singlish, with a focus on how Singlish is more simplified than English, e.g. ‘Cheaper, can or not?’

 

Although NNS characters are found in Japanese coursebooks, no NNS varieties were found in the audio materials.
In a survey, most students wanted to have more of a variety of nationalities in their coursebooks (e.g. 1 NNS, 1NS and 1 Japanese in conversation).

 

However, Japanese teachers expressed fears about including ‘non-standard’ varieties as it might be dangerous, or not needed by high school students.

 

Purposes of using ELF-oriented materials or introducing ELF features should thus be clearly communicated, and students should know that they are not to be imitated but are there for the purpose of awareness raising and exposure.

 

Takahashi’s conclusion seemed to favour the use of NS-normative standards in the language used in coursebooks, while featuring a variety of characters from different countries.

 

After a break, Valeria Franceschi gave a talk on ‘Culturally-loaded language and ELF: Idiomaticity in Cross-cultural student interaction in university settings’.

 

In examining a sample of 130 tokens, of which 103 types of idiomatic language had been identified (phrasal verbs and routine formulae were excluded from her definition of ‘idioms’), she demonstrated the following by categorizing idioms into social functions, communicative strategies and managing content (not ELF-related):

  • Frequent use of pragmatic markers noticed (kind of, like, something, something like that), and often used as a distancing device;
  • Idiom use was related to re-phrasing in communicative strategies: Repetition and rephrasing was used to increase explicitness;
  • Idioms were used to reinforce concepts, for topic introduction (cataphora), for gettings attention, and for buying the speaker time to think;
  • Idioms were used to mitigate criticism and potential face threats, and controversial topics;
  • Idioms used to build solidarity and social cohesion, often through use of humour;
  • These findings coincide with the VOICE corpus findings that pragmatic markers tend to cluster around the use of idioms.

Franceschi also found that speakers often signaled comprehension by backchannelling, and backchannel items were frequent in the data;

In the Q&A to Franceschi’s session, Mauranen  commented that if we relax our criteria as to what we consider idioms, we would see creative language use everywhere.  Marie-Luise Pitzl then questions how we draw the line between what is idiomatic and what isn’t and suggests that this line on its own could be seen as NS-normative.

 

Valeria Franceschi on Idiomaticity

The day ended for me with Milan Stanojevic’s research findings in her talk ‘Profiles of Successful and Less Successful Learners of English Pronunciation in Croatian Primary Schools’.

 

She found that…

Best pronouncers (using the Lingua France Core as a basis for measurement) were:

  • Not always the most highly motivated;
  • Knows what L1 Englishes there are;
  • Are aware of Global English;
  • Have extensive exposure to external sources such as uses of Web 2.0 tools e.g. Facebook, where they can interact and produce English.

 

Meanwhile, the less successful pronouncers were:

  • Not particularly motivated;
  • Completely unaware of inner circle Englishes (They think that English = England and that’s it);
  • Unaware of Global English;
  • Have only passive exposure to English, e.g. through songs and film.

 

Milan Stanojevic on Pronunciation

Suggesting future research possibilities that look into the question of whether a successful learner = a successful speaker, Stanojevic then goes on to ponder a question from the audience as to whether students from her monolingual Croatian class would use different pronunciation features when talking to other people who do not have the same L1, leaving the audience to think about the accommodation skills of our students when put in an intercultural scenario.

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A full day of useful research findings and lots to think about…

But meanwhile, I must go worry about the findings of my own research that I will be presenting tomorrow morning…

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No one has cracked a joke or shared a personal anecdote in the presentations I have seen today…this is a far cry from the TEFL talks that I am used to…

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Do I tweak my presentation so that I do it straight-laced?

Or should I stay as the mad hyperactive Chia that the TEFL world is more used to seeing?

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Funny how I am often told that I am too academic in the TEFL world, and now I feel like I am not academic enough…

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Neither here nor there…

A familiar feelings of diaspora sets in…

Or is it just nerves?

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Author: chiasuanchong

I am a freelance communications trainer and a teacher trainer based in York, UK. With 13 years of experience training students from all over the world to communicate better in English (and in particular, Business English), I am also a professional blogger, materials writer and intercultural trainer.

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