sotonDH Small Grants: English accents and identity – Post 1

sotonDH Small Grants: English accents and identity – Post 1 by Fan Fang

English is used worldwide as an international language for speakers of different languages and cultural backgrounds. My PhD project looks at the attitudes of Chinese university teachers’ and students’ towards their own and other English accents in the framework of English as a lingua franca (ELF), and explores how their attitudes towards different accents might affect their identity. The research also further investigates the English pronunciation to which they would like to aspire to in the future. During my research, participants will, hopefully, learn more about the spread of the English language with various accents, what motivates them to learn English and how learning English shapes their identity. As Chinese speakers of English are the largest group of English speakers in the world, I believe that if they can be persuaded to reflect on this and on the implications of it for their language use against the backdrop of globalisation, this is likely to feed into changes in English language policy for English learners and users. Basically, I hope that the study will help the academic community in general to further investigate language-planning policies that may affect language pedagogy.

During my research, I plan to ask both teachers and students to fill in a questionnaire – to first understand their attitudes towards various accents as a starting point – before I conduct a series of face-to-face interviews and focus groups. I will first ask students and teachers to complete the questionnaire. Some respondents will then be selected for interviews and focus groups designed to elicit further comments and to share ideas. All the interviews and focus groups will be audio-recorded. Some student respondents will also be asked to write several journal entries concerning the class they attend, and to talk about any aspects related to accents and pronunciation they have learnt from the classes. I will also conduct class observations and these will also be audio-recorded.

I am collecting the data from the university where I worked before back in China, while the process of my data collection will take around three months. As a university located in southeast China, it has English teachers from different countries with various cultural backgrounds. Therefore, it is a good venue that I conduct my research from, as both teachers and students have been exposed to different kinds of English. It will be especially interesting to work with both teachers and students, during the interviews and focus groups, to generate different points of view. During my class observation, I will also have a chance to talk with both students and teachers, to take some pictures of the classroom setting, and to record the class lectures. With various methods of data collection, I will, hopefully, end up with different types of data for my further analysis.