English as a global language in the Asia-Pacific region David Nunan The English Centre University of Hong Kong
Overview • Background: The emergence of English as a global language • The Asia-Pacific Study • Results and implications
English in an era of globalization • English as the dominant medium of communication around the world. • The language of business, technology, science, the Internet, popular entertainment and sports. • In academia over 50% of all research is published in English. (In some science fields virtually all studies are published in English.)
The growth of English The flexibility and adaptability of English Example: English is about to acquire its millionth word (Global Language Monitor)
The Database • A descriptive and interpretive account of the place of English within the educational systems of a range of countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. • An ethnographic study of 200 companies in Hong Kong • A survey of 25,000 employees of global corporations
Research questions: general • Has the emergence of English as a global language influenced language planning and policy-making? If so, in what ways has this influence manifested itself? • What are the principles underpinning the English language curriculum and how are they manifested in practice? • What is the impact of English as a global language on educational practices and medium of instruction? • What are the costs and benefits, in terms of time, money and effort, of teaching English as a foreign language? • Has the introduction of English had an impact, or is it likely to have an impact in the future, on first language / indigenous language development?
Research questions: specific • At what age and grade level is English introduced as a compulsory subject? • How many hours per week and weeks per year is English taught for each grade level? • What plans, if any are there to lower the age at which English is introduced as a compulsory subject? • To what extent is English used as a medium of instruction for other subjects?
The data • Documentary analysis • Questionnaire • Interviews
Results • Rapid growth in the demand for English in the workplace Example: Over an 18 month period the number of respondents who said English was critical for their jobs rose from 50% to 80%. Only 9% said that their English was sufficient to do their job.
Results Explosion in general demand for English. Example: In China, estimated 600, 000 new enrolments in private conversation schools every four to six months.
Results • A downward shift in the age at which English is introduced as a compulsory subject. In all countries surveyed, English has become compulsory at the elementary level.
Results • Inequitable access to quality English education Example: In Korea, up to 30% of household income is spent on private tutoring
Results • The professionalization / deprofessionalization paradox Example: Lack of training and low levels of proficiency on the part of English teachers Decline in the percentage of qualified. English teachers in public schools in places such as Hong Kong.
Results • The ‘commodification’ of English Example: The ‘English on demand’ voucher system in Japan
Results • A move towards content area instruction in secondary and tertiary education Example: In some Chinese universities, up to 30% of content instruction is supposed to be delivered in English
Results • The hidden cost of poor English Example: In some multinational firms, senior managers spend up to 15 hours a week redrafting junior colleagues’ written English.
Results • Persistence of ‘traditional’ modes of instruction Example: In all countries investigated, there was a major mismatch between official policy and classroom practice.
Looking ahead A ‘bipolar’ distribution of language learners/users. Persistence of the younger = better myth L1 maintenance
A final word from learners "For me, learning English is like a bath - you have to soak in it a long time.“ "When I was a kid, I didn't know it was England's language. I thought the world only had two languages - English and Chinese.“ "In secondary school, we had many exams, and I became afraid of English. It was like floods and beasts."
A final word from learners "In Year 7, I got an Australian teacher, and my English became bad. She couldn't speak properly." "We got no reason to speak English. It is ridiculous. Nobody speaks English in Hong Kong.” "In Hong Kong, just lift your head and you can learn English."
A final word from learners "My favorite teacher taught us to speak. He didn't emphasize grammar. The other teachers thought he was lazy, but I thought it was a really good way to learn English." "I went to English camp in China. We were supposed to speak English all the time. I got caught speaking Chinese and had to work like a slave to clean the toilets. This really improved my English."
Where to find out more Nunan, D. 2002. The role of language and culture within the accountancy workplace In C. Barron, N. Bruce and D. Nunan (Eds.) Knowledge and Discourse: Towards and Ecology of Language. London: Longman/Pearson. Nunan, D. 2003. The impact of English as a global language on educational policies and practices in the Asia-Pacific region. TESOL Quarterly, 37, 4, 2003, 589 – 613. Nunan, D. 2005. The Evolution of Technology and Value of Online English Language Learning. While paper. San Francisco: GlobalEnglish.