Friday, January 21, 2011

South American Englishes

Recently I read four articles on South American Englishes and I wanted to share them with you. 

Rajagopalan, K. (2006). South American Englishes. In B. Kachru, Y. Kachru, & C. Nelson (Eds.). Handbook of world Englishes. Oxford. UK: Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Baumgardner, R. J. (2006). The appeal of English in Mexican commerce. World Englishes, 25(2), 251-266.

Abstract:  This paper deals with the profound influence of the English language in business and commerce in Mexico. The use of English and Spanish-English creativity is shown to manifest itself in advertising in both Mexican newspapers and magazines, in shop names as well as in product names. Interviews with two top Mexican businessmen reveal the attitude of the Mexican business community toward the language: English sells. The appeal of English, the paper shows, is due to both its role as an international language as well as its reflection of modernity and technological superiority. The paper also discusses the influence Spanish now has on English in the United States as a result of the recent influx of Spanish speakers. While both major languages will continue to be used in the future and Spanish-English bilingualism will increase, English will maintain its present role as the world's lingua franca.
Velez-Rendon, G. (2003). English in Columbia: A sociolinguistic profile. World Englishes, 22(2), 185-198.

Abstract: This paper intends to make a contribution to the study of the spread of the English language in Colombia. To characterize this social and cultural context, I draw a sociolinguistic profile following the framework provided by Berns (1990, 1992). Although English has no official status in Colombia and its functional range is still restricted, it has expanded at a pace not experienced before. There is a growing consensus that English has a role to play in Colombia's social and economical advancement in the international arena. This is evidenced in the educational policies and programs contributing to securing a prominent position for English in the national curriculum as well as in the unprecedented boom of the English language teaching industry.
The paper begins by providing an overview of Colombia and its linguistic makeup, briefly tracing the presence of the English language from the eighteenth century to date. Then it goes on to characterize the users and uses of English documenting how the interpersonal, instrumental, and creative/innovative functions are manifested in this particular setting. Next, the paper describes the attitudinal range towards the English language, its speakers, and its study as well as the process of borrowing, adaptation, and innovation. It concludes by highlighting the need for additional research to further define this particular socio–cultural milieu of learning and use of English. It is argued that further research has a central role in informing the determination of relevant and appropriate models for language teaching in Colombia.


Nielson, P. M. (2003). English in Argentina: A sociolinguistic profile. World Englishes, 22(2), 199-209.
Abstract: The status of English as a global language has made it not only widely available in Argentina but increasingly necessary to the average Argentinian as well. In the past decade those seeking a job or a promotion or those pursing a graduate university education have become acutely aware that proficiency in English is an essential requirement. As a symbol of prestige and modernity, it has become a ‘means of social ascension’ (Friedrich, 2000: 222). This paper sets out to provide insight into the dimenisons and dynamics of English in Argentina by drawing a sociolinguistic profile of this language in a South American setting. It begins with an overview of the languages and cultures represented in Argentina and the historical presence, contact and availability of English from the eighteenth century on. It describes the users and uses of English in terms of Kachru's (1992) framework, and Argentinian attitudes towards English. The sources of the availability and status of English are traced to the strong cultural legacy of the British which has influenced the teaching of English, its contemporary presence and prestige, and to the shift of economic power to the USA in tandem with developments in communication technologies.


I personally find Kachru’s concentric circles model very stimulating and informative. While reading the assigned articles, I realized that even though the countries covered in these articles and Turkey—my home country which Baumgardner mentions as an expanding circle country—have almost nothing in common historically, geographically, or culturally, I am amazed by the similarities between Turkey and South American countries. I think the similarities between these countries and Turkey in terms of the way English fares, despite the differences I have mentioned earlier, clearly illustrate the power of the concentric circle model. I would like to point out some similarities I see between these expanding circle countries.
One of the main similarities between Turkey and the other expanding circle countries is the importance given to learning English and the priority given to providing good English education to students. Similar to South American countries, in Turkey too having a good command of English is seen as something crucial for succeeding professionally—and for good reason too since it is quite common to see job ads published in English or even if they are in Turkish employers list having a good command of English as one of the requirements expected from applicants—as in Columbia and Mexico. As a result, parents go to great lengths to send their children to schools that provide good education in English.
Unfortunately, there are some negative implications of this high demand for English. The first is a high demand for native speaker English teachers, and I have to add without much consideration for their qualifications. Sometimes this situation creates an unjustified gap between native and non-native speaker English teachers in terms of salaries and other benefits—as seems to be the case in Columbia. The second negative consequence is the widening gap between public and private schools in terms of quality of English education offered. This seems to be the case in Columbia too. In fact, one of the main differences between public and private schools in Turkey is that private school students are offered better education in English, which gives private school graduates an edge in finding better jobs. Parents who cannot afford to send their children to private schools find the solution in either sending their children to privately owned language schools or centers—as Rajagopalan states to be the case for South America in general and Velez-Rendon mentions the same trend for Columbia—or hiring English tutors. There is much to be said about English education in Turkey but I would like to turn to other similarities I observe between South American countries and Turkey.
The second similarity I see is the important role English plays in advertisements. Similar to Mexico and Argentina, it is very common in Turkey to see advertisements in English. As Baumgardner observes many companies think English names and brands are perceived as high quality and fashionable. Not only many foreign or international companies keep their English brands and advertisements but even Turkish companies use English company or brand names. (By the way see this commercial to see code-mixing in action and to have a laugh)


English borrowed words are also quite common. Words that young generations use, such as ‘cool’ or “concept”; daily words like ‘light’ (for cigarettes, food and drinks) ‘bar’ ‘media’ ‘stress’; soccer terms, such as ‘football’, ’goal’, ‘out’ ‘offside’ ‘foul’ as in Argentina; technology related words such as ‘TV’, ‘mouse’, ‘film’ ‘internet’ are quite common and used sometimes with exact English pronunciation and sometimes with a more Turkish pronunciation. Similar to Argentina and Columbia, media and Internet play an important role in the diffusion of English. For example, in Turkey there are many radio and TV channels broadcasting in English sometimes with subtitles similar to other expanding circle countries.
It seems like it is not going to be possible to cover the similarities between South American and Turkish experience with English in one blog entry so I am hoping to capture more of these similarities and maybe write my final paper for world Englishes class on this. One problem is that I cannot find many sources related to Turkey. If I decide to write on this topic I have to go to primary sources. Well, I'll think about this.
The global presence of English is an undeniable reality of our time and Turkey is not alone in feeling a pressing need to react to the demands of our times. It is not surprising that people all around the world face similar challenges and find similar solutions. As Baumgardner points out proximity to English speaking countries—or to other expanding circle countries for that matter—does not seem to be a necessary condition for diffusion of English. I think the concentric circle model is very informative and in many ways quite stimulating in capturing the features expanding circle countries share.
This reminds me, next week Aya Matsuda is going to give a talk as part of ESL Go speaker series here at Purdue. I'm quite excited about it.
ABSTRACT: THE USE OF ENGLISH AS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE (EIL) AND ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR LANGUAGE TEACHING HAVE ATTRACTED MUCH SCHOLARLY ATTENTION IN RECENT YEARS. HOWEVER, MUCH OF THE DISCUSSION HAS FOCUSED ON THE PROBLEMS OF THE TRADITIONAL APPROACHES AND CURRENT PRACTICES RATHER THAN WHAT CHANGES NEED TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN LANGUAGE PROGRAMS AND CLASSROOMS. THIS POSES A GREAT CHALLENGE AND FRUSTRATION FOR TEACHERS AND PROGRAM ADMINISTRATORS: WHILE THEY RECEIVE A STRONG MESSAGE THAT THEIR CURRENT PRACTICE MAY BE INADEQUATE IN PREPARING
LEARNERS FOR USING ENGLISH IN INTERNATIONAL ENCOUNTERS, THEY ARE NOT PRESENTED WITH SUGGESTIONS FOR WHERE TO START IMPLEMENTING CHANGES OR WHAT THOSE CHANGES MAY BE. THE GOAL OF THIS PRESENTATION IS TO BEGIN ADDRESSING THIS GAP BY EXPANDING THE EXISTING CONVERSATION ON EIL TEACHING WITH GREATER EMPHASIS ON PEDAGOGICAL DECISIONS AND
PRACTICES IN THE CLASSROOM. AFTER A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE LIMITATIONS OF TRADITIONAL APPROACHES TO ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING VIS-À-VIS THE GLOBAL USE OF ENGLISH TODAY, THE SPEAKER PRESENTS A GENERAL FRAMEWORK OR “BLUE PRINT” OF WHAT AN EIL PROGRAM OR COURSE MAY ENTAIL. SHE THEN RESPONDS TO SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS AND QUESTIONS ABOUT TEACHING EIL IN ORDER TO CLARIFY THE PRINCIPLES OF TEIL BEHIND THE SUGGESTED FRAMEWORK. 
 

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