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An investigation of attitudes towards English accents at a Chinese university

An investigation of attitudes towards English accents at a Chinese university
An investigation of attitudes towards English accents at a Chinese university
The English language has spread across the globe to become an international language. With the growing number of speakers of English, it has been claimed that English is no longer the sole property of its native speakers but is a global lingua franca (ELF). Under these circumstances, it is natural that various language ideologies have formed, pervaded with ideological debates. In the last two decades, scholarly research has urged reform and re-evaluation in the field of English language teaching (ELT). However, in practice, most ELT approaches remain stigmatised to the standard or ‘authentic’ native speaker English paradigm. This overlooks the fact that English is more often used by non-native speakers than native speakers. In addition, the functional role of the language is routinely ignored when it comes to the classroom practice of language teaching. As people’s attitudes towards the English language and ELT display substantial intransigence, despite the rapidly-changing linguistic realities, it is necessary to investigate how university teachers and students perceive this international language in relation to language pedagogy. Until now, research based on the ELF paradigm has been relatively rare, particularly in the Chinese context.

This thesis draws upon Chinese university students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards their own and other English accents in the ELF framework. The research adopted a mixed-methods approach in order to obtain the desired level of detail. First, a questionnaire was sent to students to generate quantitative data to help understand students’ attitudes about accents more broadly. With the aim of providing rich data description, interviews and focus groups were also employed, with both student and teacher participants. From the analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data, the findings suggest that both student and teacher participants display complex and uncertain attitudes. In general, students did not feel satisfied with their own English accents and would like to refine them to match native speakers of English more closely, but they did not expect other people to sound native-like; this result may reflect the notion of ‘being strict with oneself while relaxed with others’ that has been identified as prevalent in Chinese culture. Teachers display two primary outlooks: on the one hand, they recognised the global spread of English and noted the importance of their own identities when using the language. On the other hand, a number of them still believed they should improve their English accents because they serve as professional pronunciation role models to students. A key finding of the research is that, despite the rooted native-oriented ideology, both students and teachers expressed the necessity of exposure to different accents. In sum, the research findings demonstrate various and complex accent attitudes in relation to the participants’ identity construction. Based on the implications of the research, the thesis concludes with a proposal for teaching pronunciation based on the ELF framework – Teaching of Pronunciation for Intercultural Communication (ToPIC) – as a pronunciation praxis to respond better to the current linguistic landscape of English. Research limitations and possibilities for further research are discussed at the end of the thesis.
Fang, Fan
75c5d2a0-bba4-4d94-a53d-76d4a2680125
Fang, Fan
75c5d2a0-bba4-4d94-a53d-76d4a2680125
Jenkins, Jennifer
7daf0457-86d0-4c08-af4b-79641d1f7fd0
Baker, William
9f1b758c-e6e0-43ca-b7bf-a0d5e1387d10

Fang, Fan (2015) An investigation of attitudes towards English accents at a Chinese university. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 414pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The English language has spread across the globe to become an international language. With the growing number of speakers of English, it has been claimed that English is no longer the sole property of its native speakers but is a global lingua franca (ELF). Under these circumstances, it is natural that various language ideologies have formed, pervaded with ideological debates. In the last two decades, scholarly research has urged reform and re-evaluation in the field of English language teaching (ELT). However, in practice, most ELT approaches remain stigmatised to the standard or ‘authentic’ native speaker English paradigm. This overlooks the fact that English is more often used by non-native speakers than native speakers. In addition, the functional role of the language is routinely ignored when it comes to the classroom practice of language teaching. As people’s attitudes towards the English language and ELT display substantial intransigence, despite the rapidly-changing linguistic realities, it is necessary to investigate how university teachers and students perceive this international language in relation to language pedagogy. Until now, research based on the ELF paradigm has been relatively rare, particularly in the Chinese context.

This thesis draws upon Chinese university students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards their own and other English accents in the ELF framework. The research adopted a mixed-methods approach in order to obtain the desired level of detail. First, a questionnaire was sent to students to generate quantitative data to help understand students’ attitudes about accents more broadly. With the aim of providing rich data description, interviews and focus groups were also employed, with both student and teacher participants. From the analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data, the findings suggest that both student and teacher participants display complex and uncertain attitudes. In general, students did not feel satisfied with their own English accents and would like to refine them to match native speakers of English more closely, but they did not expect other people to sound native-like; this result may reflect the notion of ‘being strict with oneself while relaxed with others’ that has been identified as prevalent in Chinese culture. Teachers display two primary outlooks: on the one hand, they recognised the global spread of English and noted the importance of their own identities when using the language. On the other hand, a number of them still believed they should improve their English accents because they serve as professional pronunciation role models to students. A key finding of the research is that, despite the rooted native-oriented ideology, both students and teachers expressed the necessity of exposure to different accents. In sum, the research findings demonstrate various and complex accent attitudes in relation to the participants’ identity construction. Based on the implications of the research, the thesis concludes with a proposal for teaching pronunciation based on the ELF framework – Teaching of Pronunciation for Intercultural Communication (ToPIC) – as a pronunciation praxis to respond better to the current linguistic landscape of English. Research limitations and possibilities for further research are discussed at the end of the thesis.

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More information

Published date: April 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton, Modern Languages

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 382585
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/382585
PURE UUID: 5f6d5cf6-057f-4504-81f4-9895d3348233

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Date deposited: 23 Oct 2015 13:15
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 04:29

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Contributors

Author: Fan Fang
Thesis advisor: Jennifer Jenkins
Thesis advisor: William Baker

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