ELF10 report: The 21st century language learner: Attitudes, stereotypes and implications for ELT materials

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This is one of a series of short guest posts written by researchers who presented their work at the 10th annual ELF conference in June 2017.

The following post was contributed by Natasha Tsantila. You can read a short biography of Natasha and her work below.


The 21st century language learner: Attitudes, stereotypes and implications for ELT materials

The global spread and diversified use of English in the contemporary world of international communication can certainly be seen “as a phenomenon of changing and changed times, language processes and language use” (Vettorel, 2015, p.1), where people, in their attempt to communicate effectively, have trespassed the traditionally conceived lingua-national and geographical borders.

These changing tendencies are closely linked with the ELT world and, although well-debated in the past (e.i., Prodromou, 2006; Swan, 2012), call for further and well-informed reconsideration of ESOLers’ hitherto pedagogical practices so that learners’ global and pragmatic needs can be addressed effectively and realistically, focusing, mainly, on what is “relevant for their[learners’] individual requirements” (Widdowson, 2003). Within this scope, relevant ongoing research is being carried out in Greek EFL and EMI contexts (i.e., Georgountzou & Tsantila, 2016; Tsantila et al, 2016).

This ELF10 presentation reported partial findings of two longer studies that have been conducted so far and makes recommendations on the development of meaningful and authentic ELT materials. Both studies used Likert type scale questionnaires and open ended questions. In the first study, EFL users’ preferences towards native and non-native accents and the associations these users make with accent-related stereotypes about speakers’ educational and intellectual background were explored. In the second study, EFL users’ degree of comprehensibility towards NNE varieties as well as their views on the potential inclusion of NNE varieties in class material were investigated.

Findings indicated that the Greek EFL users still associate accent with higher education, knowledge, intelligence, and competence. However, recognizing that unfamiliarity with NNE accents will create problems of comprehensibility and effective interactions, they, thus, report that such a familiarization is crucially important as it will facilitate their comprehension towards unfamiliar accents and ultimately enhance their interactions in the global setting. So, they indicated open-mindedness to their subsequent exposure to NNE accents pinpointing the need for mutual comprehensibility, intercultural awareness, successful employability, etc.

These findings, contrary to: a) our initial hypothesis that the Greek English language students are reluctant to be exposed to NNE accents, b) the negative stereotypical associations they still make about users’ accented speech, c) the existing ELT materials (Vettorel & Lopriore, 2013) and d) teachers’ beliefs and practices in Greece (Sifakis & Fay, 2011; Sifakis & Sougari, 2005, 2011), indicate that Greek EFL learners, and prospective English language users, have started acknowledging the necessity as well as the benefits they will have from their exposure to NNE varieties.

Consequently, it is argued that “pedagogical decisions about language should not follow on automatically from language descriptions” (Jenkins, 2009, p. 202) and ELT practitioners’ planning and practices should be rethought and repositioned (Fay, Lytra, & Ntavaliagkou, 2010) in order to cater for the learners’ “realistic” needs (Seidlhofer, 2003) and, thus, better prepare them for the multicultural challenges of the 21st century. In this respect, we propose that:

  1. English language learners’ awareness of the new Global English (GE) reality be raised through the adaptation and/or design of appropriate classroom activities, some of which were cited in this presentation,
  2. ELF-related criteria be established and subsequently applied in the evaluation and development of new materials and/or activities, such as listening activities, and
  3. pedagogical practices stemming from the ELT and ELF research (i.e., Lopriore & Vettorel, 2015; Kohn, 2016) be followed.

This way learners and prospective users of English may significantly: a) “develop specific comprehension skills, for coping with unfamiliar pronunciation and unclear meanings” (Kohn, 2015), b) eventually build their confidence in interacting effectively in various diversified and multicultural contexts, and finally c) get acquainted with other NNE cultures, ultimately, enhancing their ability to comprehend various diversified and multicultural texts and contexts.

Therefore, all considered, it is important that ESOLers familiarize themselves with the global character of English, develop their own understanding of the ways this new reality can be integrated in classroom context and seriously explore, the “design, implementation and evaluation of instructional activities [and materials] that reflect and localise” (Sifakis and Bayyurt p.7) this reality.

References

Fay, R., Lytra, V & Ntavaliagkou, M. (2010) Multicultural awareness through English: A potential contribution of TESOL in Greek schools. Intercultural Education, 21(6), 581-595.

Georgountzou, A. and Tsantila, A. (2016). kju:kʌmb∂(r)/or /kukumber/? Preferences and attitudes towards standard accents in the Greek ELF context. In Tsantila, N. Mandalios, J., & Ilkos M.(Eds) ELF: Pedagogical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Athens: DEREE-The American College of Greece.

Jenkins, J. (2009). English as a lingua franca: Interpretations and attitudes. World Englishes 28(2), 200-207.

Kohn, K. (2015). A pedagogical space for ELF in the English classroom. In Y. Bayyurt & S. Akcan (Eds.), Current perspectives on pedagogy for English as a Lingua Franca, (51–68). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Kohn, K. (2016). Teaching towards ELF competence in the English classroom. In N. Tsantila, J. Mandalios and M. Ilkos (Eds.), ELF: Pedagogical and interdisciplinary perspectives (pp. 25-32). Athens: Deree – The American College of Greece.

Lopriore, L and Vettorel, P. (2015). Promoting awareness of Englishes and ELF in the English language classroom. In H. Bowles and A. Cogo (Eds), International perspectives on English as a Lingua Franca: Pedagogical insights (pp. 13-34). Basingtoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Prodromou, L. (2006). Defining the ‘successful bilingual speaker’ of English. In R. Rubdy & M. Saraceni (Eds.), English in the World. London: Continuum, 51–70.

Seidlhofer, B. (2003). A concept of international English and related issues: From ‘Real English’ to ‘Realistic English’? In Council of Europe. Language Policy Division. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Sifakis, N.C. and Bayyurt, Y. (2017) ELF-aware teacher education and development. In J. Jenkins, W. Baker and M. Dewey (eds.) The Routledge Handbook on English as a Lingua Franca. London: Routledge.

Sifakis, N. and Fay, R. (2011). Integrating an ELF pedagogy in a changing world: The
case of Greek state schooling. In A. Archibald, A. Cogo & J. Jenkins (Eds.). Latest trends in ELF Research (pp. 285-297). Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=14&sid=ce658791-3456-49a7-a8e8-fd22cfd8b4d4%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4106&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=nlebk&AN=531965

Sifakis, N.and Sougari, A.M. (2011) Between a Rock and a Hard Place: An Investigation of EFL teachers’ beliefs on what Keeps them from integrating Global English in their classrooms. In C. Gagliardi, & A. Maley (Eds.); EIL, ELF, Global English: Teaching and Learning Issues. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, (pp. 301-320).

Sifakis, N. C., & Sougari, A. (2005). Pronunciation Issues and EIL Pedagogy in the Periphery: A Survey of Greek State School Teachers’ Beliefs. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 467- 488.

Swan, M. (2012). ELF and EFL: Are they really different? Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, 1(2), pp. 379-389. Retrieved 13 Jul. 2017, from doi:10.1515/jelf-2012-0025

Tsantila, N, Ganetsou, E, & Ilkos M.(2016) “Student Attitudes towards Accented English: The American College of Greece Context” In L. Lopriore & E. Grazzi (eds) Intercultural Communication: new perspectives from ELF. Rome: Roma TrE-Press, (pp. 321-344).

Vettorel, P. (2015). New frontiers in teaching and learning English Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Vettorel, P. & Lopriore L. (2013). Is there ELF in ELT coursebooks? Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 3 (4). 483-504.

Widdowson, H. (2003). Defining issues in English language teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

About the author: Natasha Tsantila

Natasha Tsantila has been working at Deree- the American College of Greece, since 1989, where she has taught and designed courses in academic writing and Linguistics. She has worked as English language Programme coordinator and teacher trainer in language centers in Greece. Her professional interests include language and identity, teacher education, language and pedagogy, teaching English as an International language. She has presented in international conferences, IAWE, ELF and TESOL and has published on ELF and attitudes as well as on EFL and identity. She has been currently working on her PhD on ELF and ELT materials.

 

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