Applying Global Trends into the Asian Context

Carmella Lieske

As educators in the 21st century, we live in exciting times. The interdependence of people and countries has, perhaps, never been more obvious than during the economic struggles of the past few years. With estimates of well over one billion non-native speakers of English, it is not surprising that English is often referred to as the lingua franca for international communication. However, until recently, there has been a lack of coordinated research into English as an International Language (EIL) in Asia. Furthermore, the studies have tended to provide theory and statistics (e.g., how many Indians claim they can read English) without including (1) statistically-based analyses of how Asian students’ attitudes reflect (or don’t reflect) the globalization of English and (2) the pedagogical implications of these beliefs.

Do students think English is a means of international communication, or do they still assert that it is primarily a tool for communicating with “native speakers”? Have they heard of the term, English as an International Language? What languages do they perceive as most useful for international and Asian communication? How do they assess the communicative ability of Asian speakers of English (e.g., ability to fill awkward breaks, correct use of politeness)? Do they believe there are varieties of English such as Asian English and East Asian English, and it they do, how highly do they value them? 

 Drawing on data from research in Japan (N=1,141), Korea (N=456), and Thailand (N=216 students), I will discuss students’ responses to questions such as these. The session will explore these students’ beliefs, including those that might contribute to cross-cultural pragmatic failure, with an emphasis on how we can address these views in our second language classrooms, and, hopefully, increase students’ awareness, develop their competencies, and enhance their communicative ability.