Sunday, November 29, 2009

NES/NNES Shibboleths?

I'm almost positive
* use of articles
* use of prepositions

* -s for third person verbs
* -ed for past tense verbs
* þ and θ pronunciation

Friday, November 27, 2009

What is an English dept for in a non-English speaking country?

Does the focus on humanities/cultural studies impede the improvement of ELT by conflating Western civilization, literature, etc. with actual everyday usage of language? Maybe that's not even an issue.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TEML isn't

Pennycook and Coutan-Marin (2005), in an article of the same name, refer to the evangelical Christian practice of English teaching as "Teaching English as a Missionary Language." This is an inconsistent use of the TE(x)L acronym. In common usage, (x) is an adjective modifying language (think of EAL, ESL, EFL -- additional, second, and foreign, respectively) and referring to the learners' relationship to the language. TEML suggests that English is being taught for the purpose of later being used, by the learners, as a language for missionary work, which, while such a thing is possible, is not at all what Pennycook and Coutan-Marin are talking about.

I'm just saying.

PS - this article, or at least the version of it I can see online, contains a completely fake quote from George Bush about non-Christians "burning in hell." Did the authors bother to consider that if the piece they quoted was listed under "humor" on an atheist website, it might just be, you know, a joke?

Bibliographies I Would Like to Assemble Someday

-- Comprehensive Bibliography of articles on China English (as a variety of English -- not just English in China) -- published in both English and Chinese. (I was on my way to doing this and then I lost a bunch of data -- still hope to do it within the next 12 month)

-- Critical approaches to critical pedagogy -- both research-based and conceptual papers critiquing traditional concepts of critical pedagogy. (Cuz maybe it's been reified enough for us to start talking about it as "traditional") Important to have sources that are explicitly in favor of CP and those skeptical of it, not only one side.

-- Variety of perspectives on religion and TESOL. Separate sections: Christianity and TESOL (specifically interested in a variety of perspectives on how Christianity and ELT are integrated, mainstreaming/making explicit Christian perspectives, goals, purposes of ELT, etc.) Islam and TESOL, other relgions and TESOL (what's out there?).

-- World Englishes / EFL in pop music. (English as a Language of Popular Music??? ELPM?)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chinglish vs China English, again (and again)

This distinction between Chinglish and China English is going to be more important than I thought.

I think that in popular discourse, all of the following are "Chinglish" :

- funny or ungrammatical English signs/menus/other printed stuff in China that is the result of bad computer translations

- funny or ungrammatical English signs/menus/other printed stuff in China that is the result of human error

- Unusual but grammatical signs/menus/other printed stuff in China

- Any"ungrammatical" thing a Chinese person says or writes in English

- Any vaguely "non-standard" but grammatical thing a Chinese person says or writes in English

In other words, this just-now-made-up hypothesis is that if it looks/sounds weird to a native speaker and it is physically located in China or came from China, it is Chinglish.

I'm not sure I really think that, but I'm not going to go on a sanctimonious mission to change everybody's mind. I'm just going to keep slowly changing the Wikipedia page on Chinglish until it reflects a broader scope of issues related to English and China.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Evidence that you speak "real" English -

-- if you (an NNS) can disagree with somebody else about what is proper usage and be confident that you are not wrong.

In reality, the Chinese editors with profound understandings of local context orientated the textbook writing for Chinese students’ benefits and ensured the localized textbook to achieve the local education objectives. There was evidence that the Chinese editors did not believe that “nativeness” means expertise (Rampton, 1990), as they took advantages of their knowledge of Chinese cultures to deal with the China-related content and also made good use of their English knowledge to deal with language accuracy and appropriateness without feeling disadvantaged as non-native speakers.


Round 2...Fight!

Phillipson's back with Lx Imp Cont'd. Suggested subtitle: How English Poisons Everything

Turning my SSLW Presentation into a paper

Supervisor says "explain how you have developed the questionnaire items, which should be connected to your lit review" which means that I have to now do what we talked about in class yesterday (a strategy a lot of writers, L1 and L2 use): go back to the literature and pretend I got my ideas from experts instead of just making them up off the top of my head. Luckily, you can always find a way to connect your ideas to others' if you have some rhetorical deftness.

I really think I've gotten this far in my academic career simply by knowing how to craft good sentences, not by having good ideas. But maybe those are more related than I give myself credit for.

Anyway, here comes Mohan and Lo 1985: "We suggest that if there are differences in the ability of Chinese and Western students to organize essays in English, the source of these differences does not lie in a preference for “indirectness” in the language and culture of Chinese. Rather, it lies in the emphasis of the English language instruction programs to which students are exposed."

That's what I'm sayin', bro.

Also potentially useful:
International students in English-speaking universities: Adjustment factors (Maureen Snow Andrade)

and more, I'm sure...加油

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CP pro and con

...just off the top of my head...


recognize inequality and try to make it better
recognize "real life" outside the classroom
treat students like human beings
encourage students to question (unjust) behaviors and practices in society
emphasize agency in learning, transforming, and using knowledge


assumes a certain political views untenable to most people
hegemony of hegemony (sort of), pessimism
students tend not to want teachers to talk about political issues
theory is distant from practice to a high degree

PS: According to Google no one has ever typed the phrase"I don't believe in hegemony" on the internet. Until now. I'm not saying I know enough about it, but it does seem to be at the heart of CP, and that heart could be the part I find unsatisfying. This book by a Canadian philosopher posits "affinity" as a construct for social change instead. Not totally sure what it is but I think I kind of get it.


It seems to me that "teaching English as an international language" in the sense of teaching someone to use/master "English as an international language" is impossible. Canagarajah's idea of Lingua Franca English (is it even teachable?) makes more sense, because there are bazillions of possible contexts in which people use English internationally, and they call for very different things.

"Teachers have to develop in students a readiness to engage with a repertoire of codes in transnational contact situations"

"we now have to train students to shuttle between communities by negotiating the relevant codes"

"we have to focus more on communicative strategies rather than focusing only on mastering the grammar rules of a single variety"

"the relativity of norms"

this is hard!

EIL ≠ local variety


No one variety of English = English as an international language

There is no international variety, there is only how people use language to communicate


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tentative list of China English researchers

List of people currently or recently (within the last 10 years) doing research (presenting/publishing) on China English, with links when applicable. Can't list everyone here, but trying to list those who have published in major int'l journals, major Chinese journals, or who have written prolifically in other places (and/or done MAs or PhDs on the subject)...


( x = contacted for leads on AILA idea, o = not planning to contact for that)
Jiang Yajun (Donghua University - in Shanghai) where is this? X
Fan Fang (Shantou University) X
Xiaoye You (Penn State) X
Xu Zhichang (HKIED) O
David C.S. Li (HKIED) X
He Deyuan (CUHK - I think) X
Xiangping Du (University of Hertfordshire? not totally sure)
Mingjun Lu (University of Toronto? Not sure where she is now. Not focussed on ELT, more interested in philosophy) O
Hu Xiaoqiong (Three Gorges University)
Jin Huikang (only publishes in Chinese - he's at a university in Guangzhou, I forget which)
Olliver Lutz Radtke (Heidlberg - author of photobook "Chinglish") X

EFL/EIL/ELF/LFE/WEs & Pedagogy

Am interested in what people who look at globalization and/of English have to say about pedagogical implications -- looking for the best article from each of the following:


intro to "Reclaiming the Local in Language Policy and Practice" seems good but may not be focused enough on pedagogy. "The Place of WES in Composition" is good by focused on writing.

'Research perspectives on teaching English as a lingua franca'. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 24, Cambridge University Press 2004, 209-39.

Current Perspectives on Teaching World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca
J Jenkins - Tesol Quarterly, 2006 -


Not necessarily interested in the allegedly "conservative" dudes: Crystal, Quirk, Trudgill (supposidely Gorlach also belongs there)...but that could be useful to.

Wondering about the "angry dudes" also - Phillipson & Pennycook.

David C.S. Li's article Teaching and Researching China English is good but I also want to get more general articles before I jump into the China English stuff -- I actually know of only about two articles that really directly address teaching.

Maybe will update this once I've got some good ideas for articles.


my man Holliday comes thru in a big way! His 2005 book the struggle to teach English as an international language. Not sure if there's a condensed argument someplace, an article or intro I can yoink.

English as an international language: perspectives and pedagogical issues

By Farzad Sharifian

Just realize I am writing this blog wiki-style and all my public idea snippets are thought up in twitter-speak. WRITING TECH RESTRUCTURES CONSCIOUSNESS YO!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wordle Cloud for 8 articles on plagiarism

Does this cloud itself constitute plagiarism?

Sentence involving the biggest words:

Plagiarism: students writing English language
Wordle: Plagiarism

Monday, November 09, 2009

SSLW 2009 = a success

Schmoozin-a-plenty and some exciting news about the location of IAWE 2010. Let's just say that when Larry Smith told me the next conference would be "a little closer" to where I live, that was an understatement.

The 16th Conference of the International Association for World Englishes, Inc. (IAWE) will be held in Vancouver, Canada from 25 to 27 July, 2010. Members of the association are invited to propose papers for presentation or participate by attending the conference. Please visit the website for latest updates:

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Seeking Same

Confused PhD student seeks viable post-critical theory and/or pedagogy for socially engaged language-teaching practice. Must incorporate valuable insights from critical theory with very little of the jargon or cynicism. Must not see interrogation of dominant discourses as the end of academic inquiry. Must lack even the appearance of being motivated by radical political beliefs. Must not assume that the definitions of words like "equity" and "freedom" and "liberation" and "democracy" and "possibility" are fixed and mean the same thing to everyone. Must clearly articulate the meaning and desirability of "transformation."

Must be rooted in one or more of the following: hope, love, desire, ethics, joy, curiosity, the Emic, the Local, the Personal, the Ineffable.

Must believe another world is possible but not for a minute presume to describe it to me until I have described it for myself.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Some data on my SSLW project (Part II)

Finally making good progress on my SSLW project. (presenting this Thursday!)

It's turning out pretty cool & interesting. Just trying to fine-tune some stuff and try to explain how the findings/implications should be described. So much of academic writing is creatively leaving things out -- I'm looking for the balance between describing all the data and actually giving it a shape that's interesting and useful.

Some interesting stuff came up -- and keep in mind I am, for the most part, no longer "leading the witness" the way I did during my MA research when I didn't know any better. Students said stuff about Chinglish and varieties of English totally independent of anything I thought.

Some student quotes:

"I think teacher should know what the students really need. Then help them to write that things and judge. For example, many students want to learn how to write resume. The teacher should give suggestions on how to write and tell the students what the HR suppose in one’s resume. The teacher may get all the resumes, tell the students which students will he/she take if he/she is HR. I think people will be interested in what they need. Many useful English writings are not difficult, but Western people have different way to write it…Teachers should let students know it."

"A teacher regard exams as the final aim of writing would never attract students. So his task is not only teaching how to use words or sentences but also the culture.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Using Theories

Putting together a presentation - suddenly a theory/orientation I didn't really like a whole lot when I first heard about it popped into my head -- "hey, if you use this, it will help prove your point." Theoretical pragmatism: using what works without being religiously devoted to any particular theory.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Critical Pedagogy As Oppression

"I came to realize that my implementation of critical pedagogy without taking into consideration students' goals, needs, and expectations was an imposition of my belief and that it was antithetical to my goal of student empowerment. I recommend that when attempting to implement a pedagogy, teachers should understand the limitations of the pedagogy and adapt to unique implementation challenges each class presents."

Jungmi Kim, "Implementing Critical Pedagogy in an English as a Second Language Writing Classroom"

"WHY DOESN'T THIS FEEL EMPOWERING? Working Through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy" Elisabeth Ellsworth, Harvard Educational Review, Fall 1989 (electronic version not available, but you can read the abstract)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Professor Tony's English Classroom

This site is really interesting. Honestly it looks like there is a ton of stuff here and this could be a really, really interesting site for research on English writing in China. Professor Tony's English Classroom is a site for Chinese students of English writing, and
"its purpose is to provide the best possible help to any and all people here in China that want to improve their English. And the best part of it all is that everything is FREE OF CHARGE!"

Monday, October 05, 2009

TESOL Islamia

I seem to recall this site being down for quite a while, but I stumbled across it again today: TESOL Islamia is a one of few resources that takes the relationship between ESL and religion seriously.

UPDATE: It's down again. Someone needs to get it up and running!

China Holistic English

Up late working on a couple papers due tomorrow -- I see that Niu and Wolff, whose aggressive articles on Chinese EFL teaching (esp. the plight of the native English speaking teacher) have been both enjoyable and upsetting to me over the past few years, are gearing up for a pretty huge push with their whole philosophy over at China Holistic English.

While I'm really happy to see that someone is publishing a desperately needed book -- their forthcoming Teaching EFL in China: What Every Foreign Teacher Should Know Before They Go -- I'm disappointed to see that a) it is not being published by a reputable academic publisher and b) at first glance it does not appear to be substantially revised from the previous articles they have put up on their website.

Niu and Wolff are saying some really important things about a really important sector of global ELT, but their work frequently comes off as recalcitrant and unrealistic. I don't mean to be harsh, but hope their new book(s) will prove to be otherwise.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some data on my SSLW project (Part I)

Looking at the results of my survey "English Writing and Futher Study Abroad."

n = 76 Chinese university students, so this is by no means a huge sample. Also, note that these students are among the "best and brightest" in the entire country -- most of them either scored in the top 100 or so among millions of other students in their province taking the college entrance exam, or performed so well in high school that they were invited to join an honors program at a top university without taking the exam. These are the kinds of students who are almost inevitably going on to grad school.

75% are in their second year of university (although many of those identified this year as their "first" year, because they spent one year at a mainland university before beginning year 1 of a 3-year Bachelors' degree in Hong Kong).

25% currently attend one particular "top 3" university in China, and it is those 19 students I want to focus on in the follow-up interviews. 67% currently attend a university in Hong Kong, and the rest attend other universities in China.

Take a look at this (click for a closer look)

49% are seriously interested in attending grad school in North America, and 42% are "maybe" interested. Only 2 of the 76 students have no interest in studying in North America. (3 are already in grad school there.) Ambitions are high - 91% have some interest.

Surprisingly, 70% of these students had taken an English writing course in college or high school. I suspect this data is skewed by the high number of students in this special mainland-HK program. They are given lots of English instruction in preparation for entering an English-medium university. I don't think I want to emphasize this in my write-up; I will mention who the students are (as above), but this statistic doesn't really seem all that important. (Maybe it is?)

This is interesting, too - click for a closer view.
I asked the students what kind of writing they felt their English classes in the past had prepared them for. As I expected, the highest percentage (58.9%) said standardized English writing tests in China. I was kind of surprised that the next highest number (they could choose more than one) was English for "real-world" uses such as emails and letters -53.4% said that. Writing for foreign standardized tests wasn't too low (42.5%), and the lowest two were writing in English for academic purposes in university in either China or an English-speaking country. Only 34.2% of students felt their English classes had prepared them for the writing they need to do in Chinese universities, and only 32.9% felt prepared for writing in an English-medium university in an English-speaking country.

I'm now reading responses to the question:

In your opinion, is there a difference between the English writing you do (or have done) at your Chinese university and the English writing you would need to do in your future study at a North American University? What, if anything, is the difference?

We'll see what comes up!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A few links

Lots of laughs at The "Blog" of Unnecessary Quotation Marks and Apostrophe Abuse.

Also recently saw this site -- -- actually it's mostly a translation service, but if you poke around you'll see some interesting stuff about issues of English in China.


Planning to submit an abstract to the EMP Pop Conference again this year (theme: music and technology) and feel better about this one than any others I have had rejected -- we'll see.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting Schooled

Lunch with students departing for the UK, June 2009

ME (sympathetically to student who isn't great at English): So, I guess English must be, like, your third language, right? (Since I figure she speaks a local dialect and Mandarin also)

STUDENT (pausing to count on fingers): I can speak....five languages.

ME: (shameful silence)

World Englishes vs Contrastive Rhetoric

Obvs, CR has moved beyond "Chinese people think in a circular way, whereas whiteys think in a logical way" (I mean, they call it intercultural rhetoric now), but the point, or a big point, I think, is this:

Written* "China English," whatever it is, does not exist only because of the Chinese language or even the "Chinese way of thinking" (once a common answer from Kaplan et al, now common answer from Chinese students/teachers/etc) -- it also exists because of language attitudes and ideology, educational policies, educational cultures, expressions of identity, the internet, internationalization of English, increased acceptance of language mixing in China, standardized tests, and idiosyncratic choices made by writers (professional or not). And probably a lot of other things.

(*I want to qualify these because I am not really looking at spoken CE, currently -- it is certainly a reality and in some ways a lot easier to identify in terms of pronunciation, intelligibility, unique phonology, etc)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"English Songs" as a Genre of Chinese Music?

Seriously, how does a list like this get created??? This is a list of "English Songs" by a blogger known as happyguy. What is going on here? How do these songs get so popular in China? Is it only marketing? Why do Chinese people love Richard Clayderman when no one else in the world has ever heard of him? Anyway, I might have an outlet to explore this sometime soon. Until then, puzzle over this list with me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Search Magazine on SIL and Christian Linguistics

Michael Erard explores the (sometimes uneasy) relationship between the academic community and the Summer Institute of Linguistics, a Christian missionary organization which seeks to record the world's lesser-known languages. Read the story at Search magazine (formerly Science and Spirit) here. You might (not) remember my mention of SIL from a couple years ago here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where English Isn't

Has anybody done a study on the countries/regions of the world where English is spoken very little or not at all? It would be really interesting to explore how and why that is.

I'm convinced, by the way, that a good way to find something novel to study is to just take the opposite of stuff that is being talked about a lot, because the flipside of a topic can be illuminating.

For example:

Multilingualism is hot -- study monolingualism.
The global spread of English is hot -- study places that don't have English.
Communicative Language Teaching is hot (in China) -- study people who persistently use the Grammar-Translation method.

And so on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Notes on China English

Just got done with a productive meeting with the student who's been helping me with this "State of China English Research" project. Interesting to note he is a NNS and I am an NS, yet he supports NS-based pedagogy and I support NNS-based pedagogy. Irony!

Nearing the end, or really the beginning, of this project, which will be presented in Ningbo in a couple of days, a few observations:

1. Almost every author writes about the distinction between China English (中国英语) and Chinese English aka Chinglish (中式英语) -- but there is little empirical evidence given toward actually describing/defining these two things. I'm inclined to agree with Hu (2004), who says that China English - Chinglish is a continuum, and one which is not (yet) well-defined. Of course, she doesn't actually give a concrete description based on empirical evidence either.

2. And really, no one has. Nearly every article (with the exception of maybe 5%) contains only anecdotal examples of CE, very often quoted from Ge (1980), the first person to propose the idea. These are terms like "the four modernizations" and "Mr. Science." Most articles say CE has unique vocabulary, syntax, grammar, pronunciation, discource, etc, but almost no one even comes close to defining how it is unique in any of these areas.

3. Overall, the percentage of articles based on empirical research is higher in international journals than in Chinese journals, but not much higher.

4. There is not much overlap between which scholars publish in international journals and which publish in Chinese journals, although with very few exceptions, all researchers are Chinese. The significant exceptions are Hu Xiaoqiong and Jiang Yajun. The most prolific authors on CE in Chinese journals (Jin Huikang, 5 articles, Liu Xiangqing, 3 articles and Qiu Lizhong, 3 articles) do not publish in international journals.

5. Overwhelmingly, articles on CE are not published in "key" or "core" Chinese journals. I haven't done the final tally, but I think there are  at most 5 out of 105 articles.

6. On a related note, I count only 3-5 authors from key universities in China. This means essentially that those who have some degree of power and influence in the field are not, by and large, pursuing this work. This suggests that there is not much interest in promoting China English for pedagogical (or other) purposes at the national level. (This jives with Li (2007), who says that essentially only researchers support a China English - based pedagogy, while most teachers, administrators, testing bodies, government officials, and parents don't).

7. Most authors seem to argue for the benefits CE will bring to two fields: English teaching in China and translation of Chinese to English. I haven't done a count but I think pedagogy is quite a bit higher than translation in terms of numbers. A lot of the articles also seem to have no clear goals or implications apart from arguing that "China English is an objective reality" (a title of one of the articles) and that it is in some vague way a good thing.

Those are the observations for today. Tomorrow is day to write...a whole lot.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Looking ahead

Next week: finish preparing for presentation about the state of China English research
in 2 weeks: design questionnaire for my SSLW presentation (just accepted! 1st week of Nov at Arizona State)
July & August: read some books and write reviews (mentioned earlier); follow-up interviews for SSLW project
September: Start classes! So far signed up for doctoral seminar, theory & research in ESL, theory & research in second language writing, and interviews in education research (may need to drop that one).
Notes to self:
* You still have to file a bunch of paperwork in order to legally live in Canada.
* 2 conferences a year is p l e n t y. Try to rotate between SSLW, AAAL, TESOL, and IAWE. (Although tentatively, I'd like to go to AILIA 2011 if possible.)
* 1 book review a year is probably enough, too.
* It would be nice to not do much next summer. Isn't that the whole point of working in education?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Doing What You Do and Being Who You Are

Is there a need for non-Chinese people to do research on China English?

Most of the academic writing (that gets publshed in respected international journals) about China English is done (quite naturally, I'd say) by people from mainland China. (Though most of them do not live and work here.)

What is personally at stake when somebody does academic research? One might say that Chinese TESOL professionals / scholars/teachers have a vested interest in understanding China English because it is somehow a "part of them" -- it gets at important personal, national, international and professional issues that are important to them.

But, since I'm gearing up to do a PhD that is focused on China English and ESL writing, what is at stake for me when I do research about China English? Many of the same things. I am an American English teacher/researcher/whatever, and I (currently) am a part of this bizarre "foreign expert" system here in China -- my experience, too, is a part of what makes China English. This research also gets at personal, international, and professional issues that are important to me.

I've been thinking lately about the huge importance of monolingualism, specifically English monolingualism, in shaping the way English has been taught around the world for years. If knowledge is personal, like I read in that Michael Polanyi book they made me read at SPU, then I think I have some compelling reasons to look into China English from my (American) ("native-speaker") (monolingual) (etc) perspective. Inasmuch as English is "my" language, any variety of the language is interesting to me. As a monolingual speaker of English who is at least dimly aware of the way the language has changed and is changing globally, I now feel a greater urgency to help people -- not only my students in China, but "my people," "back home" -- understand how the language works, or maybe even how Language works.

When I see the sheer number of Chinese surnames on the articles I'm reading these days, I get a little intimidated*, and worried that maybe I am getting into the wrong gig. But I think I have some reasons to be doing this. I also think that if I am pursuing knowledge for the right reasons (let me know what they are if you know...some that I can come up with are a. it's interesting b. it can potentially help people c. it might make the world a better place) it's maybe not something I really need to worry about too much.

(* I realize this sounds borderline The Boy Who Cried Reverse Racism or some crap like that. I don't mean that I'm somehow afraid that nobody is going to let me Join the Club because I'm not Chinese. I just mean it's something I've noticed and I am a little worried that not speaking fluent Chinese makes me a poser. But ultimately I don't think it does, for a couple of reasons mentioned above.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Andy Kirkpatrick Breaks it Down

From his book World Englishes: Implications for International Communication and English Language Teaching (slightly changed here but mostly his exact words):

a - Variation is natural, normal, and continuous, and ELT professonals must establish a tolerance and understanding of variation
b - Prejudice against varieties is likely to occur
c - the differences between all varities, both native and nativized, are similar and comparable 
d - the specific teaching and learing contexts and specific needs of learners in those contexts should determine the variety to be taught
e - multilingual non-native teachers represent ideal teachers in many ELT contexts.

I strongly agree with (e) and wonder where it leaves me as a monolingual native teacher. As I think about my future career, I hope I'll still be "in the trenches" at least part of the time, actually in a classroom teaching something to students who want to learn English --  but I'm not sure what my role should be. Right now I feel like I can do the most good as a mediator between the Chinese educational context and the North American one, but when I think about the "humanitarian" side of ELT (if there is one - it's hard to say), I sometimes think helping elite students get into elite universities isn't my ultimate goal. I'm attracted to the idea of teacher training for local English teachers in "less-deleloped" areas, but when I think about that the ghost* of Robert Phillipson starts moaning in my ear about imperialism.

(*He is not actually dead)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

How to Improve Your Oral English

Q from Chinese college student:

"How can I improve my oral English?"

Best possible A from monolingual English teacher:

1. Make a list of 5-10 Chinese people you know who you believe speak English well, or at least better than you do.

2. Ask them that question. Because, really. I mean, think about it.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

May 3 Number Rundown

238 is the number we occupy on the waitlist for UBC housing

6 weeks of teaching remaining [Hong Kong Culture / English Writing / Public Speaking / Communication Strategies for students preparing to study abroad]

2  conference proposals pending [1 - Study of what Chinese college students preparing to study in North America want from English writing instrution  2- "Does China English Matter to China?" - A look at what's being published within China on the subject of China English]

1 monster book review to write this summer [Handbook of World Englishes for Linguistlist]

1 other interesting book I hope to read & review this summer [Christian and Critical English Language Educators in Dialogue: Pedagogical and Ethical Dilemmas]

Thursday, April 02, 2009

PhD - the Decision

The Final Scorecard
Purdue - with TAship ($12k stipend for 50% time teaching job)
UBC - with fellowship ($16k CAD stipend for 4 years)
Arizona State Applied Linguistics - with TAship ($12k stipend for 50% time teaching job)

Not Accepted:
University of Washington English
Penn State Applied Linguistics

Withdrew my application from waitlist:
Arizona State Rhetoric and Linguistics


This was by no means an easy decision, but I am delighted to say that Sarah and I will be moving to the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia, where I will be studying and working with a small, dedicated group of people in a field I love.

I am planning to start a new website over the summer which will eliminate the need for various blogs and stuff that I currently have going, so look for that later. In the meantime, let's all do good work in the places God has seen fit to scatter us around this planet.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why Teaching Language is Hard can't just be good at teaching -- you have to know everything, because people use language for everything.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three ZJU Professors Fired for Academic Dishonesty

The story in the Christian Science Monitor:

At Eddie Cheng's blog which follows plagiarism and academic integrity in China:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

10% attendance

New record: 2 of my 18 IELTS students showed up today. Actually, it was a lot more fun than it usually is.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No One's Watching

Professional development should begin with YOU, I suppose, but it is a little difficult when nobody is watching what you do. I have been working in China for 17 months now, and no administrator or supervisor of mine has ever been in the classroom while I was teaching. I'm not saying it would necessarily be different elsewhere, but I feel like maybe it would.

New semester starts on Monday! Plans for 09/10 are still up in the air. Many possibilities, but nothing concrete yet.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Idea for Annotated Bibliography on Chinese English Research Published in China

Note: Obviously, I can't do this alone and I need help from people who read Chinese.

1. Identify which journals in China are likely to have "good" research on English / Applied Linguistics.

2. Search databases for articles on Chinese English / Chinglish / China English.

3. Read abstracts. (thankfully in English.)

4. Read articles. (this is the step I can't do)

5. Write summaries of articles.

6. Cast a wider net to all 45 bazillion academic journals in China.

7. Repeat steps 2-6, but during step 3, attempt to weed out articles which are obviously just summaries or plagiarized or otherwise worthless.

8. Publish.

I don't know how feasible this is, but I think it's at least worth pursuing steps 1-3 even if nothing else comes of it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

IAWE Day 3 (Dec 5 2008)

My summaries of Day 1 and Day 2 of IAWE at these links.

First, I forgot to mention the last thing I saw on Day 2: "Maintaining an apprecation of accents" by Fergus O'Dwyer and Leon Bell, who are Irish and Australian, respectively, and who teach in Japan. Both teachers found that their students rarely had exposure to anything outside Standard American English, which they both do not speak. (I admit, I pride myself on being more able to understand accents than most, and I had a hard time understanding O'Dwyer.) They created several resources: first, an example of Japanese accents from various regions of Japan (in order to raise awareness among Ss about accents in general), and then some kind of activities/games involving listening to various English speakers (with different accents). These were fun activities -- we tried them out during the session -- and they introduced my to a method which I think were called "alphabet trees" (is that right?), a kind of quiz multiple choice quiz where you take different paths depending on your answer and end up at a certain letter.

Onward to Day 3, then:

The first keynote session was Dr. KK Luke (University of Hong Kong), who spoke on "Stress and intonation in Hong Kong English." Much of this was over my head, but the basic premise:
Luke presented a brief sociolinguistic background of Hong Kong broken into three historical periods: colonial (1842-1980), transition (1980-1997), and post-colonial (1997-now). [It's been said, by the way, that Hong Kong has no pre-colonial history, which is fascinating and weird. I just ordered A Concise History of Hong Kong from HKUP, so I hope to learn something about this.] For most of this history, HK was a place of diglossia -- different languages, Cantonese and English, used in different domains. Recently, though, the city has gone through a "sociolinguistic reconfiguration" as the government promotes its "tri-lingual/biliterate" plan. The languages and their changes:

Cantonese: Diversified and expanded from a "low" language (for home/informal talk) to a dominant one, and now sometimes used in government.
English: De-colonized and internationalized, going from a "high" language to a working one (commerce, education, etc.), and now sometimes used in the home.
Mandarain: Moved from irrelevant to symbollicaly and commercially important, often used in business.

Dr. Luke gave the example of Mong Kok shopkeepers (in a heavily touristy zone) using Mandarin as the default language to talk to customers, because they are likely to be mainland tourists.

Then the discussion shifted to his work on Hong Kong English (HKE) intonation. He showed this YouTube video, which is more funny than educational, of a guy doing exaggerated HKE.

Essentially, Luke's hypothesis was that HKE speakers speak English based on Cantonese intonation patterns -- "perceptually prominent" syllables would be assigned a high tone, any syllable before it a low tone, and any one after it a low falling tone. This makes HKE not stress-based, as, say, American English, but tone-based. Emphasis is conferred by tones rather than stress, I believe. The hypothesis turned out to be correct - Luke could actually predict exactly how a HKE speaker would say a sentence, tone-wise.

Next up: Shih-yu Chang (PhD student at Purdue) with her presentation, "A sociolinguistic profile of English in Taiwan, 2000-2008." I'm always interested in seeing English in a Chinese context outside of the Mainland, since that's what I'm surrounded with, so this was great. She started with a brief history of who had ruled Taiwan -- European colonization, the Chinese Qing government, Japan, and so on. In my notes it says "Japan --> into English" but I don't know what I meant by that.

Her analysis of English in Taiwan reminded me a lot of the way English works in China - educational reforms have placed heavy emphasis on learning, English is seen as important politically and economically in order to build international relations (though she called English a "quasi-official language" of the gov't, I don't think I'd go that far for China), and the use of English in media (which I don't see a ton of here, but there is certainly more than in the past, which I think is similar). Learning English is "a part of public Taiwan culture."

English tends to be used in work (medical, tourism, IT, foreign-owned business), by students (61% are in 'cram schools' where they "improve" their English, and some universities require TOEFL or a particular GEPT score), and as a symbol commercially and culturally.

Chang said codemixing was (implicitly) encouraged, which I think it is not in China, but I probably don't know enough Chinese to back that up. As far as linguistic creativity goes, though, people tend to ignore or discount it, as there is (as here) much more attention paid to deviation from standard English as "error" rather than innovation. Some great stuff comes from young people texting and blogging, including 3Q (三Q = san Q = thank you), and a new favorite:


which is kowtowing in gratitude. Think of the O as the head, r as the arms and torso, and z as the waist and legs. 

Conclusion: English is on the rise in Taiwan, and the younger generation is "immersied in a richer language environment." It would be fascinating to compare any aspect of English use in Taiwan with Mainland China -- attitudes, usage, place in education, teaching methods, etc. (Note to self, file this away for later?)

Next I caught a couple of things I wasn't planning on - Johnathan Websters' "No alien mythologies in World Englishes," which was an examination of Edwin Thumboo's poetry. Thumboo is a basically a Singaporean James Earl Jones, voice-wise, and he is also an OG WE scholar. He was on hand to read his poems, which was great, but I didn't get into the literary anyalsis because I had to go to another presntation.

I also saw a bit of Rajeshwari Pandharipande's "Secular as sacred: English in the Hindu Diaspora in the United States."  I had a little trouble understanding the context as I missed most of it, but what I did see was interesting. Some notes -- religious language is similar across national languages, so even when people don't share the same language, the shared religious context allows greater understanding. "Hallelujah" in Hindu worship was seen as potentially problematic, I think, as it is understood as a trigger for Christian discourse, like "om" would be one for Hindu discourse. (Interestingly I think plenty of Christians wouldn't feel the same way about "om," but the idea makes sense.)

I don't have notes on one of my favorite talks, which was Ni Ni's (Australian National University) presentation on English in Chinese pop music. I'll dig them out when I can.

I went to Lisa Lim's (University of Amsterdam) presentation on Singapore English -- "Singapore Dreaming, Singapore English, and Singapore's languages: How linguistics can be enriched by popular culture" using the film Singapore Dreaming, which maybe I shouldn't have because I have already seen the film several times, but to hear it exegeted in a scholarly way was worthwhile. I liked her idea of "Mandarin + Hokkien + English" as its own code. The focus was the "multilingual ecology" of Singapore, appropriate because the theme of the conference was actually "World Englishes and World's Languages: Convergence, Enrichment, or Death?" Lim's was one of the few papers on Singapore (that I saw) which focussed explicitly on this interaction.

I took insane notes at the final symposium, which was basically the sort of senior scholars in the field being given a few minutes to hold forth on whatever they thought was important. I'll write that up in my next post, and also, I hope, add something about the English & Chinese pop music thing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

IAWE Day 2 (Dec 4 2008)

My wrapup of Day 1 of IAWE here.

I admit i had a little trouble paying attention during Berus Van Rooy's (Northwest University, South Africa) talk, partly because it was the first session of the day, and partly because it was more on the theoretical linguistics tip, which I find intimidating and confusing, since I am totally a pretend linguist. The speech was on "Societal and linguistic perspectives on variability" and to be honest Van Rooy was quite funny and made the whole thing much more palatable than it could have been. My notes cover four or five pages and are confusing to read now. His introduction explains: Language must be understood as a real (not idealized) phenomenon; variability is part of the vitatlity of language; linguistic and social forces operate in language which both creates and constrains variability; and differences between language varieties can be accounted for systematically. I don't think I have any hope of understanding that last point, but the rest made sense to me.

Elsewhere, some one-liners from the speech:
- "Language is a specis, uterrances are DNA." Change can be inherent - an organism always grows/changes - or it can be acheived by replication - parents create w new organism that is a little different. (cf. language varietes.)
- "Beef me up, Skattie!" A South African English advert combining wordplay on Star Trek with an Afrikaans word meaning "darling."
- "The feature pool must be filled." Think of language as a pool, which is filled by all the people who use it. We take out the features we need/want to use, but we're also always putting new ones in. I think. Maybe this is meant to be on the level of a language variety rather than of individuals adding features. I like it, though. Outer Circle English is staring to develop a larger feature pool than English used to have.
- "I need to want to be a part of the linguistic community in where I live - otherwise my speech won't change." To that I can only say, “哦,知道了。"
- "If you want to, it is possible not to understand someone." Yes! I am trying so hard to point out to everyone, "native" and "non-native" English speakers alike, that it is so frequently THIS, and not the "bad English" of L2 speakers, that is the problem.

The next panel was a personal favorite subject of mine: world Englishes and popular culture. I only spent a few private moments kicking myself for not getting my act together in time to submit a proposal, which would have been perfect for this panel, and settled in to enjoy it. The first bit came from Phil Benson (HKIE), and it was on Asian female singers's music videos and YouTube comments about them. Really interesting stuff -- I'd never heard of the singers, like Utada Hikaru, Tata Young, and Koda Kumi  (I had heard of Jolin Tsai, who is from Taiwan), but their music, and their fans' reactions, were interesting, and revealing about the use of English and other markers of (perceived) "western" identity. There was one Hikaru lyric which was so awesome I almost fell out of my chair: "You're easy breezy / and I'm Japanesey." This also provoked the funniest YouTube comment ("Oh HELL no....Asian card revoked"), but I thought it was a fantastically blunt couplet with all kinds of inercultural/interracial romance commentary crammed into it. Themes which commenters brought up in general, according to Benson:

- Should Asian female singers sing in English?
- Are Asian singers who sing in English really Asian? (Interestingly, two of the singers are actually Asian Americans who moved to Japan and Thailand, respectively, and became huge stars.)
- Should Asian women be so "comfortable with their sexuality?" (aka sexy/promiscuous?)
- Is English linked to ethnicity?

I asked a quetsion about Asian male singers and English, but I don't remember being satisfied by the answer. Benson said there wasn't much and I believe him, but I'd like to do a little more research on my own. It did help me build this hunch I've been building that English is viewed as feminine in some contexts in Asia. Still only a hunch, but could be an interesting topic in the future.

Next was Alice Chik (HKIE), who is basically doing for HK indie bands exactly what I had hoped to do for mainland bands -- write about how and why they use English. Her presenation was "English as an 'alternative' language in Hong Kong pop music." She and Benson run a fantastic HK Pop study/project/website. Jealous a little? For some reason I didn't take notes, probably because I was paying such rapt attention. Their website contains almost everything she talked about. Some stuff I remember was - English as a way to connect with an international audience, English as a way to sort of get outside oneself and thereby express oneself more fully, English as creative (weird new meanings with "broken English"). I loved this, a lot.

Joseph Park (National University of Singapore) did a presentation about reactions to a particular commercial for Neutrogena skin care products. At first, I was like, "does this really have anything to do with world Englishes?" because the commericial has about two English words in it. It turns out that these words caused a ton of debate and obnoxious comments online -- 67% of online comments on a Korean video site re this commercial and the actress in it centered on her English pronunciation of the words "cleanser" and "Neutrogena." Final conclusion: English is inseparatble from the cultural significance of a cultural product (ie an advert starring a famous actress). A mashup of English, modernity, celebrity, and fan-gossip.

Roger M. Thompson (U of Florida), who talked about English in a Filipino sitcom, would have had a fanastic presentation if it were not for the absolutely atrocious A/V problems, which I suspect were only partly due to the equipment. It seemed the actual video file(s) he had were messed up. I found it almost impossible to make head or tail of the sitcom clips he showed, which took most of the time. I learned a lot about the linguistic history of the Philippines -- isn't it funny that the country was ruled by Spain and Japan yet English is now  much more widely used language than either Spanish or Japanese? The sitcoms seemed funny, and Thompson's conclusion  - "A good Filipino resists English assaults" was interesting. Also, he didn't mention sexuality despite the fact that the English assualts come from an aggressively gay general trying to get the main character to join the army and his, um, "other" cause.

Let's take a breath after all that pop culture. By the way, most of the particpants were contributors to a book that should be out soon, edited by Andrew Moody, who chaired the panel. Pardon me while I email him about it. Done.

Andy Kirkpatrick (HKIE - is this place awesome or what?) gave a riveting presentation on English in Southeast Asia, focuing on the ASEAN countries, who among them are home to over one thousand languages. Their motto, "the spirit of unity in diversity," is not necssarily linked to their use of English as a working language, but both those facts seem to be endemic of what Kirkpatrick called "unity at the expense of diversity." He compared ASEAN, which has no official language, to the EU, which has 23 official and working languages. Europe, he said, "need citizen who can all communicate in some of the many languages spoken within its borders." ASEAN doesn't feel the same way. (If transnational associations of countries can be said to have feelings. Which they probably can't.) So few languages outside English, Chinese, and Japansese are taught in ASEAN countries.

Why English? Why not Malay, which is spoken in 6 of the 10 ASEAN countries? The Vietnamese even proposed adopting French in the 90s. Proposals for both languages were unceremoniously tabled. Well, the same reason English is everywhere now and won't be leaving soon - history, and money, and convenience, but mostly money. Kirkpatrick talked about the more humanistic approach to FLL that once ruled in education - "learn to understand others, it will be good for you," to today's approach: $$$. (Or to quote Li Yang, "Make. More. Money.") Many other good tidbits from this talk, including a lot of history I didn't have time to write down. 

{Interestingly, by an informal scan of the presentations, I'd say SE Asia is by far the most popular place in the world to be doing WEs research now. I met one guy, an American who teaches in Sweden, who studies English in Europe. I asked him why it wasn't be done there and he said the European attitude toward English is so wholeheartedly geared toward RP/British English that almost no one considers anything else. Sad if true, but also, I think worth exploring? I'm always interested in the unintersting, which somehow crosses over back into interesting by virtue of being ignored.}

Next: Claudia Kunschak of the ELC at Shantou University (currently my dream job), who did a survey on lanaguage awareness and attitudes toward Asian varieties of English with a colleague, Fan Fang, who was not in attendance. A few useful bits from the survey, which involved listening to speakers of different English varieties: China and US English speakers were most easily recogznied by participants. The Chinese voice was the most accepted/well-evaluated. (Not the American one! Surprised me.) Students claimed overwhelmingly to prefer "native" teachers who speak "standard" English. Some conclusions included the importance of intelligibility and the necessity of addressing students' preferences.

I was one of few people attending Emily Hunter's  presentation, "Lao Pop Identities and English mixing", which I found really interesting. Hunter is a geographer, not an English specialist, but I thought she did a good job of emphasizing the use of English in Lao pop songs. One thing I really liked was that although the Lao gov't has tended to be conservative and resist western influences in a lot of ways, Lao pop music has become a way of expressing Lao identity (this occasionally includes English mixing) and is therefore encouraged, even to the point that the gov't gives grants to rock bands and stuff. That's pretty cool. Also cool is a band called the "Laos Original Gangstas" which I think proves that "gangsta" doesn't have to mean gangster because they are definitely not.

Finally (whew!), I wish I'd gotten to see more of Suzanne Noor Nasir's (SEAMO RELC)I presentation because I think it was about a really important subject, and it had the best title ever, and I met her later and she was really nice. The title is "Even though I'm very appreciated with the teacher it's better to have native speak for the next time" - sweet! Unfortunately, I am lack of (as my students would say) notes from this talk, I don't have much to talk about here. I can't find an email address for her either. Searching...