THE LINGUISTIC EXPERIENCES OF BI/MULTI-LINGUAL ACADEMICS AT A UK UNIVERSITY

Zeynep Gülşah Kani

Abstract


With the internationalisation of higher education in the past decade, there have been dramatic changes in the profiles of staff and students in UK universities. These changes have brought about an increasing trend in research on “international” students and teachers who are speakers of English as an additional language (EAL) especially in TESOL. Nevertheless, there are few studies into the experiences of the academic staff as speakers of EAL who are working at a UK university. Therefore, my doctoral research examined the linguistic, professional and intercultural experiences of fifteen bi/multi-lingual academics from different disciplines in the internationalising contexts of higher education in the UK, and in this paper, I present their language-related experiences and challenges; particularly their perceptions of being an EAL speaker in the past and during their current teaching in the UK. The participants were interviewed with a semi-structured format through a phenomenological research journey which I have undergone as a first-person experience philosophically and which also enabled me to explore the participants’ experience per se from their perspectives methodologically. First, their views on English language learning (ELL) experiences, “native” and “non-native-like” use of English and the positioning of their own language use will be explored through their linguistic background. This will help understand how their attitudes and previous language experiences affect their perceptions of being an EAL speaker and interactions with people. Lastly, expressing their views on ELL experiences, I will elucidate the problems which impacted their use of language and ways of communication with other people, and their teaching among a mixed group of students from different sociocultural and linguistic backgrounds like themselves. These people included students, staff and local people, be they ‘English as a first language’ speakers or EAL speakers. Academics’ accounts revealed that their previous experiences of ELL played an important role in the linguistic, socio-cultural, psychological, intellectual and academic aspects of their lives. Their lives were affected by the view of English as a matter of gaining prestige and status. The quality of the English language education in the country of origin was another factor affecting their lives. These factors caused some to feel the fear of not being able to learn English and the attrition of the proficiency in the mother tongue. The academics’ views (except for Paul) showed that “nativeness” is not an important factor which puts them at a disadvantage while communicating; in contrast, being an EAL speaker may be quite an advantage to establish rapport and empathy with the international students they teach. Further language-related issues were associated with familiarity with colloquial language and vocabulary use, expressing emotion, humour and identity in L2, having different cultural expectations about communication and meaning-making/ being (un)able to read between lines. All in all, this paper accounts for the reasons behind the participants’ language performance and provides insights into their experiences and encounters in the early part of their transition to the life and university teaching in the UK.

 

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EAL (English as an additional language); linguistic experiences; bi/multi-lingual or “international” academics; “nativeness”

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References


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