Yamanaka, L.-A. (1996). Obituary. In L.-A. Yamanaka, Wild meat and the bully burgers
   (pp. 154–163). New York: Harcourt....
I was in sympathy with the participants because their experiences echo
my own, having been a learner and teacher of Englis...
my own learning experience, the attempt to approximate my own
accent to a particular NES group did not always coincide wit...
Additionally, I wondered to what extent all the participants, includ-
ing the researcher, agree with the concept of NS. I ...
she “would teach it, but only because she regarded native-like pro-
nunciation as beyond her students’ abilities” (p. 540)...
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Comments On Jennifer Jenkinss Implementing An International Approach To English Pronunciation Pp

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Comments On Jennifer Jenkinss Implementing An International Approach To English Pronunciation Pp

  1. 1. Yamanaka, L.-A. (1996). Obituary. In L.-A. Yamanaka, Wild meat and the bully burgers (pp. 154–163). New York: Harcourt. Zamel, V. (1997). Toward a model of transculturation. TESOL Quarterly, 31, 341–352. Zitkala-Ša. (1900, February). The school days of an Indian girl. Atlantic Monthly, 185–194. Comments on Jennifer Jenkins’s “Implementing an International Approach to English Pronunciation: The Role of Teacher Attitudes and Identity” A Reader Responds MITSUO KUBOTA Kansai Gaidai University Hirakata, Japan ■ In order to explore the feasibility of an English as a lingua franca (ELF) approach, Jenkins (2005) examined the role of nonnative- English-speaking (NNES1) teachers’ attitudes and identity toward English accents by interviewing eight NNES teachers from the expand- ing circle. The study, based on the actual voices of the participants, illustrated the NNES teachers’ adherence to acquiring so called native- English-speaker (NES) accents because of their attitudes toward NES accents—considering them to be appropriate targets. The study also showed that the participants’ struggles led them to realize that their accents are part of themselves and therefore should not be devalued. 1 Jenkins uses the terms NS (native speaker) and NNS (nonnative speaker) without refer- encing a language. The use of these terms is problematic because this unmarked usage requires marked versions when discussing other languages, thereby making English the norm to which other languages are compared. 604 TESOL QUARTERLY
  2. 2. I was in sympathy with the participants because their experiences echo my own, having been a learner and teacher of English in both the expanding and inner circles. However, I found Jenkins’ underlying assumptions problematic because they fail to consider the sociopoliti- cal/historical context, in a way parallel to an ideology of Othering (Kumaravadivelu, 2003; Palfreyman, 2005; Pennycook, 1998, 2001) which marginalizes and stereotypes NNESs as one group in contrast to Self. In this brief article, I isolate Jenkins’s problematic assumptions toward identity, attitude, and teaching ELF shaped by Othering ideology hoping that it will provide insights for future research on pronuncia- tion in relation to identity. Nevertheless, I recognize that my interpre- tations are also driven by my assumptions; thus, they are subject to challenge as well. ASSUMPTION 1: OTHER WANTS TO ACQUIRE NES ACCENTS BECAUSE THEY WANT TO IDENTIFY WITH SELF I found problematic Jenkins’s assumption regarding identity, which directly equates a desire to sound like an NES with a desire to identify with NESs. Jenkins, quoting Norton (2000), highlights the learners’ understanding of their future possibilities as an important aspect of identity in language learning. In addition, the list of questions in the interview prompts (p. 543) focuses on NNES teachers’ perceptions and attitudes toward teaching pronunciation and their own and NESs’ accents, with one question asking about bad experiences regarding their accents2 that Jenkins used to reason about the participants’ atti- tudes. This procedure suggests that Jenkins assumes the learners’ desire to identify with an NES group is influenced by past experiences and awareness of future possibilities, which results in their attempting to approximate their accent to one of the NESs. I, as an NNES teacher, would like to point out that the desire to acquire NES accent among learners in the expanding circle as well as sojourners in the inner cir- cle oftentimes is devoid of a desire to identify with NESs. Based on my experience, many NNES teachers studying in the inner circle are privileged members at home, and oftentimes intend to go back to their homeland after their study. They do not necessarily wish to par- ticipate as a member in the inner circle community. Looking back on 2 Jenkins only asked NNES teachers about bad experiences caused by their accent, instead of posing the question more neutrally. THE FORUM 605
  3. 3. my own learning experience, the attempt to approximate my own accent to a particular NES group did not always coincide with an attempt to become a member of the group. The participants in Jenkins’s study also perceived their hypothetical ability to produce native-like accents as “a good command of the language,” “to sound as much as the model,” and “linguistic ability to pick up accents and reproduce them” (p. 538); it is important that none of these com- ments suggest that they perceived NES accents as markers for identify with a NES group. Given that the participants’ current or future pro- fession is English teaching, it is natural that they wish to acquire an NES accent to model as a target. The participants’ voices as well as my own learning experience led me to infer that NNES teachers feel they need to acquire an NES accent to be identified as a good learner and a capable teacher of English, which is not equivalent to identifica- tion with NESs. ASSUMPTION 2: OTHER SHARES THE SAME CONCEPT TOWARD DESIRABLE ACCENTS AND NES ACCENTS AS SELF It appears that the collected data are interpreted solely based on Jenkins’s etic point of view, as if she and the participants share an identical view or concept toward NES and favorable accents. It is evident that Jenkins interpreted her data assuming that NNES teachers would find their accents favorable if they think it is close to NES accents. This assumption led Jenkins to conclude that the four participants who liked their accent despite their inability to sound like an NES were contradictory, whereas she concluded that the other four participants who did not like their accent because they did not think it sounded like an NES accent were consistent. I found this assumption simplistic, and it echoes what I see as a common, fallacious NES belief—that NNESs are trying to emulate them, when in fact they may be trying to emulate successful NNES teachers’ and learners’ accents and pronunciation.3 I believe that the ideal and favorable accents for experienced learners, such as Jenkins’s participants, are constructed through complex negotiations while these learners are exposed to both NESs and NNESs. 3 Some might argue that these NNES accents are to some degree influenced by those of NESs, but they still are negotiated products between an idealized target and their identities. 606 TESOL QUARTERLY
  4. 4. Additionally, I wondered to what extent all the participants, includ- ing the researcher, agree with the concept of NS. I suspect a discrep- ancy regarding the concept may have led to Jenkins’s interpretation of the participants’ attitudes as being contradictory. It has been pointed out that defining NS is a very complex matter (e.g., Davies, 1991; Kachru & Nelson, 1996; Paikeday, 1985; Phillipson, 1992; Rampton, 1990), yet it appears that the term NS was used uncritically without questioning the possibility of discrepant interpretations among the participants. Jenkins summarized NNES teachers’ perceptions for NES accents as “‘good,’ ‘perfect,’ ‘correct,’ ‘proficient,’ ‘competent,’ ‘flu- ent,’ ‘real,’ and ‘original English’” (p. 541). These comments suggest that the participants hold diverse notions about NES accents, ranging from a hypothesized ideal speaker to an image more closely tied to an actual speaker. I believe that the participants’ attitudes toward NES accents varied depending on the type of NES they were thinking about. Thus, the interpretation of the data requires clarification of the NS concept. ASSUMPTION 3: SELF CAN PROVIDE OTHER WITH A PREFABRICATED ELF IDENTITY It appears the underlying assumption that led Jenkins to conduct the study is that NNESs could take on a prefabricated ELF identity “as members of an international English-speaking community” (p. 535) if their attitudes and identities are well understood. As many studies have demonstrated, language learners develop their identity with consider- able negotiations while being exposed to various speakers (e.g., Kramsch, 1991; McKay & Wong, 1996; Norton, 1997; Ochs, 1993; Peirce, 1995). In other words, Englishes that NNESs use are the prod- ucts of constant reshaping while testing intelligibility and negotiating their identities rather than something provided by NESs. I believe Jenkins’s introduction of ELF was motivated by a desire to empower NNESs; nevertheless, I could not stop myself from seeing her attempt to design a pedagogical intervention by providing learners with a “learnable” or “teachable” target as keeping them in a powerless posi- tion, which resonates with the colonial practice pointed out by Kumaravadivelu (2003)—trying to provide the colonized with English that is just good enough for the colonizers without changing the status quo of English. As Jenkins is also aware, one of the factors that makes many NNES teachers reluctant to take on the ELF identity is that ELF is seen as a compromised target. For example, one participant commented that THE FORUM 607
  5. 5. she “would teach it, but only because she regarded native-like pro- nunciation as beyond her students’ abilities” (p. 540). It may be pos- sible for learners to compromise if language is used solely for exchanging messages. However, language is also a means to express identity, and it is extremely difficult for learners to compromise their identity. The largest drawback of ELF as a means of expressing one’s identity is that the proposed ELF is a theorized pronunciation model that lacks NSs. There is no NS of ELF available as a model for learning. I believe that Jenkins herself recognizes that learning pronunciation is closely tied to learners’ identity, leading her to conduct the current study. However, I would ask how can learners identify with a model that does not have identifiable users? How many NESs are willing to identify with ELF identity as members of an international English-speaking com- munity? And is ELF for NESs as well, or only for NNESs to facilitate their participation in global communication? Jenkins states that “it seems likely that ELF pronunciation will only be taken up if teachers themselves ultimately see an ELF identity as providing their students with accents which will enhance rather than damage their future social and economic prospects internationally” (p. 542). It may be possible that the implementation of the ELF approach would gradually produce ELF users, and those users’ productions would someday be perceived as a socially and economically powerful model in the international community. However, if this is the goal, TESOL professionals need to critically examine the underlying motivation for making ELF a desira- ble model for NNESs. THE AUTHOR Mitsuo Kubota is an associate professor in the Foreign Language Department at Kansai Gaidai University, Hirakata, Japan, where he teaches sociolinguistics and gen- eral English courses. He is currently conducting research in an English classroom in a Japanese university context focusing on students’ construction, negotiation, and presentation of foreign language identities. REFERENCES Davies, A. (1991). The native speaker in applied linguistics. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press. Jenkins, J. (2005). Implementing an international approach to English pro- nunciation: The role of teacher attitudes and identity. TESOL Quarterly, 39, 535–543. Kachru, B. B., & Nelson, C. L. (1996). World Englishes. In S. L. McKay & N. H. Hornberger (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and language teaching (pp. 71–102). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. 608 TESOL QUARTERLY

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