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ELLLO Teacher Podcast

Listen to the creator of elllo, Todd Beuckens, discuss things happening in education and hear interviews with movers and shakers in the field.

Episode #4 - World English with Dr. Chris Haswell

Dr. Chris Haswell talks about the development of World English and his academic website Lost in Citations.


Hello, and welcome to ELLLO Teacher, a podcast featuring teachers, educators, and content creators from around the world. I'm your host, Todd Beuckens. And the creator of the English Listening Lesson Library Online. The aim of this podcast is to showcase trends in the teaching profession, show tips and tricks to enhance learning in pedagogy, and basically just make teaching a lot more fun. So with no further ado, let's get started. Thanks for listening. And I hope you enjoy the show.

Todd: Hello. I am here with Dr. Chris Haswell. And today we are going to talk about World English or is it World Englishes Chris, which one is it actually?

Dr. Haswell: Well, both. I mean, I think the field is considered to be World English, but World Englishes describes different varieties of the use of English around the world. So I think both are correct.

Todd: Okay, great. Thanks. And so we have a common interest in this, you from the academic side and me from the production side. So can you talk a little bit about your background in this topic?

Dr. Haswell: Well, it was my PhD subject and it was something that I looked at from the Asian perspective, but during my research and subsequent works, it's something that I've become to understand much more about. World Englishes basically is a field where you want to look at how English is used in various contexts, specifically away from what we would consider to be native speaker context, to the point where native speaker has become a term that we don't use anymore. Like a first-language user of English would be someone who used the language from birth. But then if someone uses it as an official or co-official language or a second language or a foreign language, then that would be someone who is a World English user. This field has developed into Global Englishes, English as an international language, even English as a lingua franca. So the field has developed even during my time of researching it.

Todd: Oh, that's fascinating. So what is the angle that people are looking at it in terms of research? I mean, ELLO obviously has hundreds of different types of English from around the world, but we just did it for interest level. I didn't really have any overarching goal or anything like that. It seems pretty simple, if people travel, they're going to hear people with different languages. Also, the more diversity you have, the more interesting stories you're going to have. That was it really, that was all my motivation. Is there anything else that's kind of going on in World English that's a little bit different than that?

Dr. Haswell: Well, I'll refer back to a conversation that I had with Dr. Jennifer Jenkins, who's the emeritus professor from the University of Southampton who talked about the attitude of people who've been using English from birth, so the first language users of English, and they often don't think about how English is used outside of their own context. And she described them as being almost aggressively monolingual. And so a World Englishes perspective is understanding that we all share the same language, or we all have the ability to use a similar language or a similar variety of the language in order to communicate, but that people who exist outside of your context might use it in a way that you don't expect.

So I think having a World Englishes perspective on the use of English around the world is a way to believe that you're going to be able to communicate, you're going to have a shared ability to communicate through language, but it's not always going to be presented to you how you expect. So you have to respect that the other person is using it as a second, third, fourth language. And so long as you have a goal to achieve, then there's a need to allow for differences in performance than you might expect.

Todd: Yeah, that's an interesting concept and it's a much needed one that we need to address. I actually have a new term now that I've come up with, so we have a native speaker and then you call it World English, I call it International English, but basically, we're talking about the same thing. And my new term now is Museum English. And that is English that is usually perceived to be real English, but it's fake. And that's the English that you see in textbooks. Or you'll see like listenings or in recordings and nobody talks that way. And I get in kind of heated talks with other professionals, like at conferences and stuff because they really get upset when I challenge them on this. Because I'll say, "Look, what you're doing is you're teaching something that's synthetic." And another word for synthetic is fake. And so why would you teach anything that's fake because nobody talks like some of the stuff that's in textbooks.

And everybody who's ever studied any foreign language has had this happen to them. They start to learn the language and then they use a phrase and then the person from that language will go, "Yeah, but nobody says it like that." Type of thing. So my whole point is that actually world English is more authentic than the museum English because that's at least authentic, they do say it that way. You know what I mean? Whereas, the stuff that we teach in textbooks sometimes, it's kind of ridiculous. And I know that's going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, but I kind of feel pretty passionate about it actually.

Dr. Haswell: I don't know if it's going to rub people the wrong way when you understand the direction that we're coming at it from, which is we want to make sure that our students, the students in our classroom and just to make clear on the concept that we're talking about, I teach in Japan and you've taught in other countries as well. We want to make sure that our students leave the classroom confident enough that when they want to use the language that we're teaching them and they're in a context where they need to use it. And we've talked about situations where, they're trying to buy a train ticket, where they're trying to buy dinner, that they don't feel that they have to achieve an unattainable standard in order to achieve a goal. So I think that that is the mindset that we should be putting forward to our students.

And in academia, in a place where I'm supposed to be publishing my work and achieving a certain standard, I find it all the time where I have to set my goal of my writing to a standard that is necessary in the place where I'm publishing. I don't always publish in UK European or North American journals, I publish in the middle east, in Asia as well. So there are certain things that I'm expected to achieve in order to make sure that I can get my word out. And so I think that when we are in the classroom and we're trying to get students' confidence up, I think we have to say the standard is, can you be understood and do not let anyone tell you that what you are producing is not English.

Todd: Yeah, that's very well said. I mean, at the end of the day, right? The objective is information transfer and people often they lose that. It's not, again, trying to ... I'm going to use the phrase museum English. It's not to present these perfect examples of how language is used or language usage, I guess I should say, but it's just, did you get the point, right? Did you get there? And that's so true. So speaking on this, you are of academia, you are an academic, even though we both teach at university, you are much higher up the poll than I am. You are a doctor. And so you also have this website called Lost in Citations and you interview people from around the world, academics, and they talk about their papers. And you've had a lot of people on there that talk about world English experts in the field. So could you recommend a few names, maybe some academes that people should go and listen to and see what they're saying?

Dr. Haswell: Well, I have tried through Lost in Citations, this is a project that I've done with Jonathan Shachter. And we said from the beginning that we would not only focus on our own research interests, that we would try to reach out to people who were the best in their field or interesting voices in their field. So, there are many different voices on there, but I would say from the very beginning, Dr. Aya Matsuda, Dr. Jennifer Jenkins, Dr. [Nobuyuki Heino 00:09:51]-

Todd: Okay, I'm sorry. Can you just kind of slow down a bit, like say the name and like what they talk about and then-

Dr. Haswell: So Aya Matsuda is a professor from Arizona State University, who in all honesty was the person who got me interested in world Englishes in the first place, her paper back in 2002 on world Englishes in relation to ... well, I'll just bring up this idea of political correctness. So she ended her paper with the idea that world English is not about political correctness, it's about respecting the individual. It's not about just trying to be seen as a good person, it's about actually respecting people. And I read that in 2004, and I talked about it with her in 2020. And she revisited that point in her interview and said, yeah that was the point of view at the time, like 20 years ago, the idea of world Englishes was that, oh, you're just being a nice person. Or you're just helping people out who don't really know how to speak English well. And she felt that was wrong at the time. And she's spent the last two decades addressing that.

Dr. Haswell: But it was a point that really stuck with me. And so getting to speak to her was quite a high point in my academic career. After that, I spoke to Dr. Jennifer Jenkins from the University of Southampton. And she is someone who essentially created the field of English as a lingua franca and investigated it through to the point where, when she was confronted with the idea that this would be a new variant of English, she said, no, this is an attitude, you respect the user and not what they're using. So she was someone who was very helpful.

Dr. Haswell: Dr. Nobuyuki Hino from Japan, who is someone who has gone through the process of trying to create what might be a Japanese variant of English that might not be academically acceptable, but is accessible to users. And he's spent most of his is academic career doing so. I would say that James D'Angelo from Chukyo University is someone who I have been critical of in the past, in my works, but having shared my work with him, he accepted an interview with me for the website and has then gone on to contact other academics and publicize the work that I'm doing. And so I would say that those people are, although from time to time, we might disagree with the conclusions of our work, we all respect the effort that we're putting in. And the goal that we have is always for the students and always for trying to make people feel more confident that even though they're using English as a second or foreign or second or third language, that they should feel confident in using it.

Todd: Yeah, that's great that all these professionals that are kind of pushing it forward... I think we're at the point now where it's just common sense. We've reached the stage where when you really look at it, it's absolutely ridiculous to try to have one type of native speaker standard so to speak, of English. The main thing is just because if English is going to be the international language, then it needs to be international. And if it's not, then you're looking at imperialism basically.

Dr. Haswell: Well, on the basic point, Todd, where are you from?

Todd: I am from-

Dr. Haswell: Do your listeners know where you're from?

Todd: They might not actually, I'm from California, Northern California, San Francisco.

Dr. Haswell: Well, I'm from a place in England called Yorkshire. And if you heard anyone from my home village, because I literally grew up in a village. And anyone who comes from your neighborhood, if we set up a Zoom conversation between someone from your neighborhood and my neighborhood, and we asked them to discuss a certain point, I guarantee they would have problems communicating. And these are people who have grown up using English, this linguistic resource from day one, but the words they use, the grammar they use, the pronunciation, even just the pacing of their words would be so different that they would have problems getting through a conversation without saying, Hmm? What? What are you saying? Go back. Tell me that again. And that's what language is.

Dr. Haswell: And so this is how I've always tried to construct my language classes in the idea that negotiation and trying to understand the goal from the other person's point of view is very, very important. And it should be central to how we teach the language. Not like as if you are attempting to achieve a native speaking goal, but that you are able to attain a language resource that you can use when it is most necessary for you.

Todd: Well, very well said. Yeah. I couldn't agree more. And actually a couple points on what you said. One, I moved fresh from California to England, the first foreign country that I've lived in. And I could not understand people when I first moved there. London wasn't-

Dr. Haswell: I do apologize.

Todd: Yeah, London wasn't so bad. But then when I moved to a very small village in Cambridge, Cambridge of all places, it was difficult, I struggled at first. And another one is that where I'm from in Northern California, everybody has a tendency to do this ... they have a grammatical mistake and everyone says it and it's localized. People will say, I've never went there or I've never drank that. Well, that's incorrect English, it should be gone or drunk, but it's not perfect and that's how it was localized. So even the quote, unquote native speakers twist the grammar around. And actually in England, when I was there, there was lots of stuff with like aint and inversing verbs and tag questions and stuff like that. It seems it was odd.

Dr. Haswell: Well I think things like aint and in it and-

Todd: In it, yeah.

Dr. Haswell: Din it and ---- it.

Todd: Yeah.

Dr. Haswell: I'll share with your listeners, if you ever go to Rotherham, which is my hometown, they have a very particular verbal tick, which is to repeat the pronoun at the end of the sentence. So it's something like, oh, you, you're crazy you.

Todd: Oh, like the emphatic pronoun?

Dr. Haswell: Right. So, oh, you don't know anything, do you, you?

Todd: Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Haswell: And for cultures or for languages that have a verb ending, to twist it like that is incredibly difficult. So my wife who's Japanese, I mean, she has spent a significant amount of time in my hometown and I've had to tell my sister to stop doing this because you ... just end the sentence, don't tag it,

Todd: Right, yeah.

Dr. Haswell: It's not that my wife doesn't understand you. It's like, you are making it worse.

Todd: Right. Exactly. And actually, on that note, Japan is a wonderful place where they have their own English creations, which are just excellent. Japan is wonderful at making complex ideas because in the Japanese language they use more nouns to identify some type of concept more so than in English actually. And so they've used that same kind of philosophy with English. For example, they'll have words like classroom collapse or parasite child, and the word is so succinct at describing the situation. Better so than the terms we come up with in English. And even for like pop culture, they'll take a ... I love the word red chili. So my students would come in my class and then I'd say, "oh, what are you listening to?" They go, "oh, red chili, red chili. I love red chili."

Todd: I'm like, what the heck is red chili? And then it was like, it's Red Hot Chili Peppers. And the way that they would say red chili, I would think that's actually a cooler name. And it's actually cooler how they say it in Japanese than the actual English name.

Dr. Haswell: It's the conceptualization in Kanji of how you would do it. So the Red Hot Chili Peppers are going to ... what's the most important part of it, it's the color and the item. So you compound that in your own mind as a Kanji pictogram. So the Red Hot Chili Peppers are going to be red chili and it's how you get these three syllable constructions like, well, not to be too basic on this, but like remote control becomes rimocon. So you get this deconstruction to actually everything that's important. So it's remote, it's mobile and it's controlling. You don't need remote control, you need rimocon.

Todd: Yeah. Yeah. It's brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Well, anyway, Chris, I will put the links to your wonderful website and we will talk about that in another episode, coming up on the ELLLO Teacher Podcast. Again, Chris is the host of the Lost in Citation podcast and he has lots of wonderful podcasts that discuss a variety of topics related to academia and many, many, many related to world English. So thanks for coming on the show today, Chris and I look forward to talking to you soon.

Dr. Haswell: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Todd.

Todd: Hey everyone. Thanks for listening. If you would like to see the transcripts of this episode and links to the content discussed, please go to elllo.org/teacher where you can find more episodes of ELLLO teacher as well as lots of free downloadable materials for ESL professionals. Plus we have free tutorials on how to create digital content and teach online. Thanks for listening. And please stay tuned for more episodes of ELLLO Teacher.

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About the Teacher

Todd Beuckens is an ESL teacher with over 25 years of classroom experience. He has an M.A. in Learning, Design and Technology from San Diego State University. He is currently based in Japan and is the creator of the following sites.

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