World Englishes in the pedagogical domain: Investigating the perspectives of teachers of English

Year: 2019

Author: Hamid, M., Obaidul, Hoang, Ngoc, Nguyen, Trang

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this presentation, we would like to consider the pedagogical ramifications of the changing sociolinguistic reality of English in a globalised world. This we will do from the perspectives of teachers of English.

The new varieties of Englishes (e.g. Indian and Malaysian English) and their growing recognition have given legitimacy to the new paradigm of “World Englishes” (WE). WE argues for the plurality of English, and introduces a more democratic approach to linguistic creativity and ownership of the global language. These arguments have clear pedagogical (which English to teach and how) and socio-cultural (e.g. identity associated with English) ramifications. Pedagogically, the “paradigm shift” calls for a change in our understanding and practice of what we call “errors”. The legitimacy of new norms provided by WE implies that some errors need to be treated as features of new varieties rather than as language use marked by linguistic deficiency as in the traditional second language acquisition view. But where can we draw the line between errors and varietal features? How achievable is this pedagogical imperative?

In this presentation, we will share some data from a group of 60 international TESOL practitioners who were enrolled in a postgraduate TESOL class in an Australian university. These student-teachers were challenged to draw the line between errors and features of new varieties in a classroom activity that required them to evaluate examples of new varieties of English. The activity took the form of a mini-survey which they completed first individually and then in a group on the same day, and then individually again after a week. The findings will allow us to see how the participants viewed the relationship between errors and varietal features, and how their individual views compared with group views. We may also be able to comment on the likelihood of any change in individual views after the group experience and the explicit teaching of WE in the class.

Overall, the insights generated by the activity may be seen as an opportunity to problematise the pedagogical/empirical viability of the theoretical demand of drawing the line between errors and varietal features as envisaged by the new paradigm of World Englishes.