Nglish as a lingua franca, lecturers self-perceptions

Here is a draft of the paper, which is incomplete and not focused. I am also happy to send this as an attachment.


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Due to internationalization in higher education, English has become the dominant language for programs in academia in general (Graddol 1997, 2006). Within Europe, English-medium teaching in general has increased and especially at the postgraduate level. The scale to which English has spread to degree programs in non-native speaking (NNS) countries is unprecedented (Mauranen 2007). In Finland, the new Aalto University (established 1.1.10) is offering all mastersa? programs in English. Therefore, research on internationalization in countries where English is used as a lingua franca (ELF) in higher education should include a focus on the impact of English. This paper is an example of this, focusing on the intial findings of an investigation into teachersa? perceptions of teaching in English at a Finnish university. It investigates ELF university lecturersa? selfperceptions of their language use and ability to communicate in English in the classroom. The purpose is diagnostic with a view to the professional competence of ELF university lecturers who communicate their expertise to a multicultural audience. The main research question is: What are the lecturersa? perceptions of their own language use and ability to communicate in English during lecture situations, and do the underlying language ideologies influence their positive or negative self-perceptions? This paper introduces some of the issues through the presentation of three ELF university lecturers at Aalto University, who are participating in a pilot mentoring program on teaching through English to a multicultural environment. Obviously, ELF university lecturers in Finland are not the only ones who face the challenge of teaching through English in multicultural environments. Therefore, this paper is relevant to ELF university lecturers in other countries as well.

CHAPTER 1 (The setting: ELF in higher education)

In higher education in Europe and elsewhere, internationalization puts pressure on programs to offer instruction in English. Internationalization as a process has resulted in English becoming the most widely used lingua franca globally. This shift to English has also lead to a trend where a good proportion of the worldas technical and scientific knowledge is available in English (only). In higher education, the pressure to teach in English stems from the desire to participate in exchange programs and other types of transnational cooperation, involving students and faculty. In this respect universities in Europe and other countries where English is a foreign language have a commonality: Even though lecturers and students have more opportunity to participate in exchange programs than previously as part of their educational program, the majority of university lecturers and students have no special relationship with the English language as they have not lived extensively in an English-speaking country.

For this reason, the proficiency levels may vary greatly among both students and faculty, who use English as a tool for communication (i.e. between two or more speakers who have different native languages). ELF lecturers and students work through English in instructional situations. They are a?usersa? of English, not a?leanersa? of English. In other words, they use English as a tool to get their work done. In this type of learning context, the focus is on the a?contenta?, not the a?forma?.

This is the current background against which those in higher education in Europe and many other outer circle countries (add footnote) are trying to offer high-quality education and we need means by which to assess it. In Finland, the new Aalto University (established 1.1.2010) offers all mastersa? programs in English. Thus, the job requirements of the teaching faculty at the masteras level entails being able to provide high-quality education whereby the language of instruction is English. Because quality assessment and quality control are reguarded as important at Aalto University, a pilot mentoring program was established as a means to provide support to faculty who have volunteered to teach in English a multicultural context. The mentoring program includes assessing the English language skills of those participating in it. Those who pass the assessment will be given a certificate for teaching in English that will be tied to the tenure track system.

As one of the mentors in this program, I began to realize that the perceptions that lecturers have of their own language use and their ability to communicate in English may play a fundamental role in a lectureras performance. A question closely related to this view concerns the perceptions that ELF lecturers have of themselves: How do they perceive their own use of English? A closely related question is what language ideologies underlie their perceptions. A third question relates to ELF studentsa? perceptions of the lectureras language use.

CHAPTER 2 (Approach: The role of language ideologies)

To deal with these questions, my starting point is to discuss the notion of language ideology. Where English is concerned, the term is well-known in discussions on a?standard Englisha?, which are based on prescriptivism that entail judgments about a?correcta? and a?incorrecta? use of language, and which are imposed by authority. According to Milroy and Milroy, such rules are just as arbitrary as dinner table rules (1999: 1). Nevertheless, standard language ideology fosters prescription in language.

In addition to standard English and prescriptivism, languages have been shaped by social and historical circumstances. For example, the dominant position of the English language today is seen by some as the result of British colonial power and the economic rise of The United States (Crystal 2004:59; Graddol 1997:9). This view underscores the influence of the past on how people may view language today. The importance of this historical dimension also surfaces in this definition of standard language ideology by L. Milroy

a particular set of beliefs about language . . ., [which] are typically held
by populations of economically developed nations where processes of standardization have operated over a considerable time to produce an abstract set of normsa lexical, grammatical and . . . phonologicala popularly described as constituting a standard language.

Milroy points out that ideologies are a?historically deep-rooted and thoroughly naturalizeda hence their resistance to analysis or argumenta (2004:167). These historical processes have lead to a standard language ideology that is enforced through codified handbooks on language, dictionaries, and other similar references, as well as through public channels such as the education system. Such codified language and its underlying ideologies are intended for native speakers of the language and anyone wishing to obtain a native-speaker status. Thus, they are inappropriate for ELF speakers whose goal is to use English as a tool to get work done. Such users of English are not a?learnersa? of English.

To what extent language as code constrains our thinking is more complicated than the historical influence. Fairclough (2001) emphasizes a?common-sensea assumptions where authority and hierarchy are treated as natural perceptions of a situation. He discusses the role of language ideology in social relations of power, and points out that a?the exercise of power, in modern society, is increasingly achieved through ideology, and more particularly through the ideological workings of languagea? (2001: 2). This implies that language ideologies constrain our thinking. An example could be how the conventions of teaching an English lesson between teachers and st