Language Awareness and ELF Perceptions of Chinese University Students

Ying Wang

Introduction

Language awareness (LA) has long enjoyed a high status in language education (see Carter 2003, Hawkins 1992). In a broad sense, LA encapsulates 'knowledge about language' or justified truth about language (see Carter 2003: 64). With a traditional focus-on-form orientation (see Richards and Rodgers 2001), LA 'could be glossed as a sensitivity to grammatical, lexical, or phonological features, and the effect on meaning brought about by the use of different forms' (Hales 1997: 217). Following this, ways have been explored to help second language (L2) learners to attend to features and rules of the English used by its monolingual native speakers in the undertaking of English language teaching (ELT). For instance, Callies and Keller (2008: 249) note that 'native speakers do not use linguistic structures randomly' and make a case for the role of explicit instruction in helping German learners of English to notice linguistic devices used by native English speakers (NESs) for highlighting information in discourse. While many studies on LA are traditionally confined to grammar (e.g., Andrews 1997: 149; Svalberg 2001; Valeo 2013), recent LA research has expanded beyond linguistic forms to cover areas such as pragmatics, culture and pedagogy (e.g., Cross 2010; Murray 2010; Porto 2010). Despite various research interests, the traditional LA approach is mainly focused on knowledge about the English used by NESs and connected with the conventions generated in the monolingual context of NESs. This appears to be limited through the lens of English as a lingua franca (ELF), a research field emerging in response to the globalisation of English.

Research into English from the perspective of English as a global lingua franca has widened the scope of language awareness research to include the relationship of non-native speakers (NNESs) with English by addressing their identification with their L1 cultural group, their appreciation of other NNES cultures and their collaboration with their intercultural interlocutors on the equal footing. In addition, ELF research offers evidence for the performativity of NNES variation in intercultural settings and challenges the assumption that NNES variation from native English hinders intercultural communication. In a nutshell, new knowledge about English challenges the traditional approach to LA centred on native English awareness and ELF awareness is now a new area that needs to be explored for the purpose of ELT.

Following this, this chapter addresses student awareness of ELF, that is, English in its new form to which the current sociolinguistic reality has given prominence. The chapter explores whether and how ELF awareness can be developed in classrooms, based on a focus group study on Chinese university students in the Chinese context. The study reveals Chinese students' atti- tudinal dynamics and perceptual change. Factors that might cause changes are investigated and contexts in which the observed changes take place are inspected. The findings thus allow possible suggestions to be made as to how teachers can 'do' an ELF-aware classroom in China. The chapter concludes by discussing the relevance of this study for other teaching and learning contexts.

 
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