Research Bites: Exploring Englishes with Listening Journals

Article

Galloway, N., & Rose, H. (2014). Using listening journals to raise awareness of Global Englishes in ELT. ELT Journal.

Twitter Summary

Listening journals can be used to raise awareness about ELF #ResearchBites

Acronyms

This article is studded with acronyms to the point where it becomes difficult to read at times. Among the acronyms crammed into 10 pages of content are:

  • GE – Global English
  • WE – World Englishes – the identification of global varieties of English
  • ELF – English as a Lingua Franca – an approach to researching communication between non-native speakers; a possible pedagogical approach to teaching English
  • ELT – English Language teacher
  • NES – Native English Speaker
  • NNES – Non-native English Speaker
  • OC – Outer Circle (referring to the circles of English)
  • IC – Inner Circle
  • EC – Expanding circle

Background

Because English is spoken by more non-native speakers than native speakers, and because  a large majority of the world’s English conversations take place between these native speakers, more and more teachers are researchers are beginning to challenge the native English speaker model of English. This model, the “yardstick” of most tests, textbooks, materials, and teaching, is seen as placing too much focus on a misrepresented model. Instead, more focus should be placed on embracing varieties of English, valuing multilingualism, and focusing on mutual intelligibility rather than perfect native speaker imitation.

The Study and Listening Journals

Students at a Japanese university listened to different sources of various Englishes once a week for a semester, and recorded their reflections about the listening. They found source material from websites, corpora, and invited speakers to the university. The reflections asked them to state why they chose their particular listening, and their general reactions to things like pronunciation, grammar, pragmatics, intelligibility, etc. It was the authors’ hope that student would focus on exploring the diversity of English and examining ELF interactions (how non-native speakers understood each other).

The Results

Students focused solely on the former, exploring different varieties of English. Students reflected on native speaker models (British, Australian, Canadian, Irish, etc.) as positive and had more negative comments about non-native models. Although, through repeated exposure, students began to accept non-native varieties. While failing to get students to analyze ELF interactions, the listening journals did force students to challenge their assumptions about who owns English, and what English really sounds like. According to the authors, “[t]he listening journal helped the students challenge preconceived stereotypes and exposure was proposed to aid future comprehension. The listening journals also highlighted students’ awareness of the use of ELF worldwide…” (p. 393).

Implications

Despite students’ knowledge that English is a global language, good English is still judged as sounding like a native-speaker. While it is unfortunate that, by believing this, students devalue their own Japanese English, it still makes sense. Native speakers, while no longer owning English, still are the main cultural drivers of English, and will therefore be perceived as models for a long time. Since students prefer native models, there is no sense to disbanding their preferences for what teachers and researchers feel is more fair (note: this is my own conclusion, not that of the authors; click here to read more about my opinions regarding ELF).

Still, I think that giving students more exposure to varieties of English is important, and listening journals seem to be a great way to do this. I am a big fan of listening journals for listening practice, and the number one complaint I have had from students is about listening to non-native speakers. I think repeated exposures is key, and it is something I will try to further integrate into my listening journals.

Likewise, I think the authors’ wishes to get students to focus on ELF interactions is commendable and seems to be a worthwhile endeavor to help students learn strategies for communication with English speakers from diverse backgrounds. The article gives a number of resources and references to ELF pedagogy and is therefore a worthwhile read.

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