A case study of attitude change

During the case study, attention was paid not only to what the interactants drew on to make, maintain or reject an argument, but also to how the interactants engaged in the discussion. By examining the resources that Jiajia and her peers drew on in their interaction, I found three main factors facilitating LA development, that is, exposure to linguistic extracts, intercultural experience and ELF-related knowledge input. Through the analysis of the roles played by Jiajia, the moderator and Jiajia's peers in FG social interaction, I found that self-exploration, moderator influence and peer influence all had impacts on Jiajia's LA development.

In terms of timespan, Jiajia's FG engagement exhibited gradual accumulation in LA. At the beginning of the FG, Jiajia revealed a lack of LA, holding a firm belief that Chinese speakers should pursue conformity to native English. As group interaction proceeded, she started to realise Chinese speakers' need for cultural identity in English. Then she became more tolerant towards nonconformity to native English, acquiring a new understanding of intelligibility in English. Later, she challenged NES-NNES power relations. Afterwards, the FG witnessed her questioning the relevance of NESs for NNES-NNES communication. Despite these changes, Jiajia continued to view the ideal model of English in classrooms as native English, revealing that there was still an obstacle to a complete change in attitude. This section presents snapshots of these critical moments, using a single extract as an example of each.

A lack of LA

The beginning of the FG highlighted native English monolingualism, which was reflected in Jiajia's claim that Chinese university students should make efforts to assimilate to the monolingual native English code (see extract 1).

Extract 1

  • (1) Jiajia: [ ...] we should try our best to approximate [the English used in] native English speaking countries [...] when you communicate with your interlocutors, you can't force them to fit in our Chinese way of thinking. In order to be quicker, to take shorter time before you get things done, before you reach agreements on contracts, or before you complete whatever project, you DEFINITELY need to FIT IN.
  • (2) Dan: So a common standard is necessary for communication.
  • (3) Jiajia: Only if we follow ONE standard can we possibly communicate

more easily.

A lack of LA was visible here. Firstly, NESs were considered as Chinese speakers' major intercultural interlocutors. This assumption aligns with the traditional view of EFL in Chinese speakers' use of English and overlooks the emerging role of ELF in NNES-NNES communications, which is becoming increasingly prominent against the backdrop of English globalisation. Secondly, approximation to native English was taken as necessary for intelligibility. This demonstrated a belief in English as fixed systems, which can be prescribed to NNESs according to NESs' use of English in NES contexts where the systems are originally generated, and a denial of language users' need to adapt forms according to contexts and interlocutors. Thirdly, she emphasised uniformity with native English and put the 'communicative burden' (Lippi-Green 1994: 187) on NNESs entirely and solely, by highlighting NNESs' responsibility to 'fit in' with their NES counterparts' way of using English and excluding NESs from a commitment to adapt to the communicative contexts (turn 1). This one-way communicative commitment reinforced an unequal NES-NNES power relation. In short, the FG started with Jiajia having little knowledge of the changing role of English and the nature of how English works in real life contexts as well as an inability to critically analyse the existing NES-NNES power relation.

 
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