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Introduction

How do people react to the predominance of a certain language? MacArthur (2003) hits the nail on the head: Pragmatism tends to win the day. We can have varying attitudes to these languages, everything from hate to love, but our real reasons for using or not using a language are pragmatic. The main question is, he (ibid.) says: Will knowing and using this language make my life easier and/or richer? (in any sense of the word rich). Moreover, he claims that cultural interest and linguistic curiosity are just minority pursuits. If we think of English in the world now, we can see that, for quite a few people, it has made their lives better. Of course, any common vehicular language would have had the same effect.

Learning English is understood as a prerequisite of professional success also in Finland. But which English do we mean here? Before, it was natural to think that the model to be learned was British or American English. English today has become a no-mans reserve. The irresistible spread of English as a medium of universal transaction is unprecedented and part of the globalization process. It has been widely acknowledged that L2 English speakers (speakers whose mother tongue is not English) are in the majority (e.g., Jenkins 2002, Seidlhofer 2004). In fact it has been claimed that at least 80 per cent of all communication in English happens between non-native English speakers. This, however, is just an estimate (see Pienemann 1984) without any exact figures. Nevertheless, it is widely acknowledged that non-native speakers of English outnumber native speakers. A transformationalist perspective, which sees the current phase as a period of significant social, political and cultural transformations, is regarded as most relevant to describe the present discussion about ELF and global English in general (Dewey 2007).

Corbin (2007) points out that English also dominates academic research. It is dependent upon having a language of common understanding. In 1997, the Science Citation Index reported that 95 percent of its articles were written in English, even though only half of them came from authors in English-speaking countries. Kirkpatrick (2006) gives an example of the rapid change: In 1950 all contributions to Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie, were in German, while in 1984 a surprising 95 per cent were written in English. Knowing that writing in a foreign language is not nearly the same as writing in ones mother tongue, this can be problematic. An NNS of English face a challenge that an NS do not.

In todays world, when we say English, we do not any more mean only one English, but different variations of it. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2008) once said: "English does not make us all the same nor should it, for we honour who we distinctively are. But it makes it possible for us to speak to each other and understand each other. And so it is a powerful force, not just for economics, business, and trade, but for mutual respect and progress". This forms the setting for my study.

This is a qualitative sociolinguistic study and the data consists of four individual semi-structured interviews with respondents employees of a globally functioning Finnish corporation (henceforth referred to as CompanyA). Qualitative approach and the small sample of participants enable me to concentrate on personal feelings and experiences. This is a language attitude study. Language attitudes are the feelings people have about their own language or the languages of others (Crystal 1992). I seek answers to how the users really perceive their own English and the ELF world they work in. Most importantly, I think a lot of L2 learning takes place outside the classroom, in work contexts, and thus working life perspective is needed.

 


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  1. Alkali metals. INTRODUCTION
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Unit 2-18. A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF ESP | Attitudes to NS/NNS English in general

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