However much the lecturers believe the program and curricula have successfully provided an internationalised education that graduates students well prepared for living in today’s globalised world, the extent to which this confidence is warranted lies in the outcomes for the students. Thus, this section presents analyses of the learning experiences of four former EIL students – Cheolsoo (South Korea), Tomoko (Japan), Phil (Australia), and Ogilvy (Australia; all names are pseudonyms) – who volunteered to be interviewed for the author’s doctoral project. It specifically addresses the students’ attitudes/views towards English language variation prior to studying in the program and their experiences of how they were prompted to critically (re)examine those attitudes/views. At the time of the interviews, Cheolsoo and Ogilvy had completed two freshmen level EIL subjects whereas Tomoko and Phil had completed a major in EIL.
Difference = deficiency
As expected, all participants entered the program with minimal understanding and awareness of English language variation; and therefore with a belief in the supremacy of speakers of English from ICCs, and a deficit view of speakers of Englishes from OCCs and ECCs. Thus all participants seemed to be aware of ‘differences’ (being and sounding different), but these differences were regarded as deficiencies that needed to be remedied.
Both Cheolsoo and Tomoko enrolled in the program with a similar intention, which was consistent with the aim of the program, i.e. to “learn how to use English internationally”. However, when prompted to further explain what they meant by this intention they both seemed to reveal a self-deprecating and deficit view of their English. Cheolsoo and Tomoko reported that they expected the program to ‘remedy’ their use of English and their Korean/Japanese accent and to “help” them speak like Australians or other English speakers from ICCs so that they would not feel “behind”. In other words, learning how to use English ‘internationally’ seemed to be viewed as learning how to speak like an Australian or American.
expect to learn how to talk like Australians or maybe Americans and improve my English because I have a Korean accent (Cheolsoo)
Since I came to Australia, I always felt that I am a bit lower grade, my self-esteem was damaged because I was told that I couldn’t speak English like the local people and I had some ‘accent’. If I can’t speak English like Australians, I’d be behind them. So, I expect that the program correct our English and help us improve it (Tomoko)
As they shared their reason for wanting to sound like Australians or Americans they further showed their belief in the supremacy of those speakers and the exclusive effectiveness of their forms of English for international communication:
When you speak English like Americans, it sounds better and can help you talk with anyone in the world, but not with other Asian or Korean accent (Cheolsoo)
When I came to Australia, I see a lot of multicultural people and I feel I had a label, white people, American, British are superior, are the only English speakers in the world and a good communicator in English, and then maybe Asians (laughter) and the rest of them are you know....(laughter). If people have their accent or if they are not really fluent in speaking native-English or in communication, I would just like ok ok please don't speak (Tomoko)
Ogilvy initially entered a program with an intention to learn about how to “communicate across cultures”, which was consistent with the program’s aim. Analysis of further conversations seemed to reveal the deficit and native-speakerist perspective underlying his intention. Speakers of English from OCCs and ECCs were viewed as ‘learners’ and their distinctive use of English was perceived as “difficulties, foibles, and speed-bumps”.
seeing how international people study English and be able to maybe understand sort of foibles, the speed-bumps, the way they study the language, the difficulties they have in approaching English (Ogilvy)
When asked to further explain what he meant by ‘international people’ , ‘difficulties’ , and ‘foibles’ , he referred to his classmates who were “Singaporeans and Malaysians who have much weaker grasp of English than [himself], were not familiar with Australian English, use phraseology incorrectly or expression incorrectly, and speak with staccato tone”. Therefore, learning how to communicate across cultures seemed to be viewed as learning to understand and perhaps sympathise with the “difficulties”, “foibles”, and “speed-bumps” that speakers of English from OCCs and ECCs faced.
Phil, on the other hand, had a completely different intention from the other participants. His impression of his first EIL lesson revealed an even stronger deficit and native-speakerist view of speakers of English from OCCs and ECCs than the other participants:
the room is full of fobs and these guys can’t even speak English…And when my other Australian friends found out, they’re like, ‘English as an International Language? Phil, what the hell are you doing in the unit which is for the fobs?’…A lot of my friends think that it is actually a joke. And I’m like, ‘yeah, I’m kicking arse’. So, in the class, since I am very confident in my English ability, I took over the classroom and discussions (Phil)
When he was asked to further explain what he meant by ‘can’t even speak English’, he referred to his experiences of interacting with speakers in his classrooms and at his workplace:
I remember when I spoke to these fobs during classrooms discussions and they have weird accent, you can’t understand them, and then give up. So, all Asians who walk into my bottle shop don’t speak English…I used to see that…Chinese walk into the shop, I was like ‘oh my god, he only speaks Chinese, I can’t be bothered with him, I completely leave him alone (Phil)
In response these ‘differences’ , all four participants believed that speakers of English from OCCs and ECCs needed to be ‘assimilated’ and taught to speak ‘Standard Native English’ in order for effective international communication to happen:
these people need to learn Global Standard English because it is incorrect and inaccurate form of English. Definitely not understandable to native-speakers. I'm sure using formal speech or called Global Standard English would be the way to combat this (Ogilvy)
that whole assimilation into the society, that whole do the way Romans do thing, that fobs who don’t speak English and speak English with weird accent need to lose your accent, become part of us and speak Standard native English (Phil)
Native English needs to be taught cos they are standard. If you want to communicate in English better with anyone and people from everywhere, I think it is more effective. So, learning how to speak like Americans is kinda like the good way (Cheolsoo)
I mean, I don’t care if you sound differently, if you speak like non-native English, you have to be corrected and changed into speaking native Australian English so that you can communicate better with other people right? (Tomoko).
The instructional effects: “Definitely learnt a useful lesson already”
Reflecting on their experiences of studying in the program and interacting with the lecturers and other students in the class, all participants asserted that the EIL curricula had somewhat prompted them to develop knowledge, attitudes, and skills they needed for using English to communicate across cultures. The differences in the way English is used as a result of its global spread was one major element of the curricula which all of the participants believed had “broadened our horizons of the language” (Ogilvy). Knowledge of world Englishes was regarded as important and relevant to (for some) their daily life and (for others) their future.
Different varieties of English is very impressive to me. I was also so impressed to see Korean English. I was like Wow! I have never thought about English in that way… Now I want to recommend people to go to different countries like Korea and listen to the way people speak English to broaden their perspectives of English spoken in the world…It is important to learn about the diversity of English especially in today’s globalisation…It’s so true that I have lecturers who do not necessarily speak Australian English, but they are from China, India, Sri Lanka, and Italy who speak their variety of English (Cheolsoo)
I used to think that American, British or the Inner Circle people, are the only English speakers in the world. But that Kachru’s circles and the readings about Englishes changed my view a lot you know to actually learn the fact that there are also many Englishes spoken in Outer and Expanding Circle countries and they are more than Inner Circle people. I was very surprised and that I can also relate it to my own life interacting with customers where I work from different countries who don’t speak Australian English (Tomoko)
The spread of English like for instance with the three circles you showed us today, I think that added up to about 3 and a half billion being exposed to English in one form or another, that's more than half the population of the world. I just found that really really interesting this idea that English could be that prevalent, and the different dialects, massive form of dialects. Definitely it would be useful for me to work in the department of foreign affairs and trade in the future because I will be interacting with people who speak English (Ogilvy)
As we further explore through the course, I learn about different varieties of English, lots and lots Englishes, that’s very interesting because now I can look at my own life and I can see that I’ve encountered different varieties of English in everyday life and what it means to me is that whole thing of how to interact using English and it’s probably not even just ‘English’, but Englishes (Phil)
However, what needs to be highlighted is that the way the lecturers raised their awareness of world Englishes was believed by these students to have largely prompted them to critically re-examine their previous attitudes and to develop ones that would be important for communication in today’s globalised world.
The recurring emphasis on reflections on/observations of their (or other speakers of English) experiences using English were reported by Cheolsoo and Tomoko to have encouraged them to re-examine their initial views of their own use of English. Not only had both Cheolsoo and Tomoko become aware of the influence of their own cultures and multilingual repertoires on their use of English, but they had become more confident in explaining and justifying why they used English the way they did.
Before I learnt EIL, I was not one of the pros for the EIL concept the first time, I thought my English is not something that reflects my worldview…but the more I study, the more I realise that, growing up in Korea and Australia, I have confronted a lot of cultural issues and that would be reflected in my English…So, for example in greetings stuff, I would actually prefer to use ‘Have you had a dinner?’ rather than ‘How are you going?’ That's important because in Korea we have been through Korean war and Korean ancestors were poor and they rarely had nice meal, so Koreans usually do greetings [in this way]. So, it's about caring about someone, one already had dinner or what they did…You know, different from Australians’ use of ‘How are you going?’ or ‘G’day mate’ , which I don’t feel the ‘connection’ (Cheolsoo)
Actually knowing about this helped me feel a lot better and helped me accept myself better. I have learnt to appreciate the language like the accent I have and the culture I bring in with myself. I had to come to understand why I speak the way I do. Because I have multilingual background with myself, when I speak English I will have a lot of my cultural expressions brought in to English conversation. For example, even though I sometimes use ambiguous expressions in putting forward my arguments in writing essay, it doesn't mean I don't think critically. (Tomoko)
This practice of “sharing and talking about [students’] own experiences of using language” was reported to have also allowed participants to learn to understand and appreciate differences (Ogilvy), to gain knowledge about people from other cultures (Tomoko & Phil), to learn to become open-minded and understanding (Tomoko & Phil), and to critically revisit one’s initial deficit views of others (Phil):
With the reflective observations, now I have come to understand about the different varieties of English and that these varieties don’t pop up for no reasons, and there are significant cultural factors that influence the language, it’s an organic process! Even if I, a native-speaker of Australian English, don’t understand other varieties of English like Singaporean English, it doesn’t mean that they are “incorrect” (Ogilvy)
We have a lot of group activities we can share our opinion with other people, that was really helpful, if I didn't have that, I wouldn't know that there are other arguments, there are other people thinking the other way. I realise that many people in our class are from very very different cultural and language background and their experiences are really different from what I had or what you might have thought or so that sharing experiences open up our views and change my views about these people, about their Englishes as well. I could now accept other races, other accents, and became more patient, I could listen to people, I tried to understand because even the expressions is different, they still have some meanings from their own cultural backgrounds or they mean something (Tomoko)
you guys [lecturers] do that a lot which allows me to hear good ideas from my classmates, as in like the way they feel. A lot of what I find in EIL class is the students want to talk and they did open up their hearts. When I’m in the class, I hear all these great ideas and they’re revealing themselves…When the ‘back row’ people talked, they brought up issues that I have never thought about it that way, like there was one case where they’re talking about Hong Kong and how teaching is evolving in Hong Kong and they talked about the English teaching industry, how it’s growing, and how people work in it…and I found out that one of the girls taught English to other Hong Kong students and helped her students go through learning process. So, she was great. And instead of like me thinking about them like they’re a bunch of fobs, I started to think that holy crap…these people have education. This person is probably way smarter than me and I start to think that I am no longer on top of the world, I’m probably below everybody else. (Phil)
In addition to his understanding and appreciation of differences, Ogilvy added that he had also become aware of the fact that even though he was a so-called native speaker of Australian English, that did not necessarily mean that his use of English was universally comprehensible and interpretable. Something as simple as “G’day or how you’re going, the weather is bloody awful outside”, he argued, would not translate across to “anyone from any country regardless of their proficiency in English if that person has not studied [his] dialect of English and is not familiar with such a culturally-loaded expression”.
Moreover, Phil further claimed that not only had these stories, experiences, and thoughts shared by his classmates from other countries had driven him to “question [his] mentality of putting people into certain ‘frameworks’, but also to become more open and willing to learn further because “there’s a lot of information out there in the world which you’ll lose out if you stay close-minded”.
I still have a lot to learn, I am still a learner, and English keeps changing and expanding and there are still so many people I have not met, so I cannot say that my English is complete…if there is ever such thing as complete! So, I’m still learning and will keep learning (Phil)
Similarly, with his awareness of world Englishes, Ogilvy reported that he had been prompted to view how being a so-called ‘native-speaker’ of English does not mean that “[he] speaks correct and intelligible English, knows everything about English, and can converse with anyone in English”. Rather, one still has to learn, especially in today’s globalisation era, which, he anticipated, will influence the development of his idiolect:
As there are so many different varieties of English out there especially as Globalisation continues, I’ll be forced to be a learner just because we are all exposed to so many different varieties of English, my vocab will continually be expanding as I’m exposed to Indonesian English or Singaporean English or Indian English. I will keep learning as I go and will keep enriching my idiolect (Ogilvy)
In addition to the sharing of experiences and observations of linguistic and cultural differences, the interviews also revealed the effects of discussing issues about the politicisation of difference and the way these were brought to the students’ attention on their attitudes towards differences. In teaching those topics, one activity that the participants believed had a long-lasting impact on them was the classroom activity called “linguistic-identity-switching activity” in which they were required to speak in only one particular unfamiliar variety of English selected by the lecturer and were penalised for any slight deviation. It was claimed that this activity and subsequent discussions of their struggle to participate in it prompted the participants to feel the importance of maintaining and taking pride in one’s linguistic uniqueness (Tomoko & Cheolsoo); to view the importance of developing effective intercultural communicative strategies (Cheolsoo) and learning from each other (Phil) as opposed to who should be emulated; and to become aware of the imperialistic nature and undesirable consequences of enforcing a particular group’s standard language upon all (Ogilvy):
This activity had made me realised that people should not be afraid of using their own characteristics from their culture or their variety in their communication and really being ‘original’. Being very original…not hiding your own identity and your own cultural essence into your language, and not afraid to put that into your English and your communication (Tomoko)
some Americans or Australians would want us to be like Australians or to become Australian or American speakers of English, but after those lectures and that activity in particular and of course knowing different accent and different varieties…I’m so impressed…If we speak like Australians, it’s like being colonised by Australian culture and English rather than keeping our identity cos we have other cultural and racial and other backgrounds. I have started to think that the most important thing is how you can express their thoughts and try to understand others’ thoughts in today’s international communicative settings (Cheolsoo's emphasis).
I have become less enthusiastic about that idea now. It’s virtually impossible to expect people to speak in one accent, Creating a global region-free accent and a global Standard English is very unfair and very unduly difficult task to put upon them. Every country has their own important cultural traits and unique linguistic elements that they bring into their version of English. So, it’s difficult to distil those things. One of the ways to express your culture is via language. And thinking about the offences that teaching only variety of Standard English cause in eradicating those cultures…like how you did to us in that activity [laughter]…that activity and the discussion made me think seriously about those issues. Like the indigenous Aborigines, I now really understand how they feel about the teaching and learning of Standard Australian English… I'm sure if you told the dreamtime story in Standard Australian English, it wouldn't sound anywhere nearest good as it's told in like the actual tongue or their version of Standard English it's designed to be told in, I think this goes for everybody, really! (Ogilvy)
I think after these activities, I realise that how communication is really important, it's not who should speaking which standard, I find that it is a key thing especially in breaking down barriers keep accommodating, to have that open…to open yourself up so that you can learn from them, see them as individual, not forcing people to speak like Americans or Canadians. I know I used to give up when people have weird accent, and believe they should change, but, now I think I should start to get acclimatised to different…diversity of English and it’s more like normally I used to listen to the sound, but I’m now listening to what they want to tell me, so, communication (Phil).
All in all, it can be seen that the curricula seem to have effectively prompted students to develop knowledge, mindsets, and skills for communicating effectively in English in today’s multicultural social and professional environments.
EIL program is very useful because it’s more than just teaching us language awareness, and being open, and also teaching us to change our perceptions, not just about English and yourself, but also perceptions on life, and the way you will work and how you will handle work, university work and working outside (Phil)
Although the teaching outcomes have mostly been positive, it does necessarily mean that the participants have completely been ‘EIL-converted’ or that people do not encounter any challenges in adopting these new views. However, what the data shows is that through learning about EIL, the participants seem to have, in Ogilvy’s words, “definitely learnt a useful lesson already”.