Thitiporn Koomphati, Yufei Yang, Yu Tao, and Xing Hua
We are four intending English language teachers from Thailand and China. We’ve come from a variety of educational contexts and cultures to study applied linguistics (1) in York. Here we are standing next to a Christmas tree and here are some of the issues that we have been thinking about since we arrived in September.
Thitiporn Koomphati (Thailand):
Applied linguistics is the study and practice of real-world issues (in education, families and society in general) related to language, and it is relevant to practitioners in many fields, not only language teachers like myself. The study of applied linguistics is broadening my world and offering me the tools, not only for teaching English, but also for understanding this complicated world! One of the issues that I’m interested in is how ‘English’ is being, as it always has been, changed by the people around the world who use it. This is a key issue for my future students, for they are likely to see and hear many varieties of English, some familiar and some unfamiliar to them and to me. How can I help them understand and be understood?
Yufei Yang (China):
Thinking about the variety of English around the world makes me feel more confident to use English as a lingua franca (2). I’m hoping that if my future students in China also realize how English is now used by people who have different first languages, for a variety of purposes, they will feel more comfortable communicating in what is also one of ‘their’ languages. I agree with Hall, Smith, and Wicaksono (2011, p.94) that, 'successful communication […] is not so much dependent on similarities or differences in language and cultures, but on the willingness to listen, to empathize and to negotiate'.
Yu Tao (China)
As a trainee teacher of English as an additional language, I mainly thought about how to teach, and ignored how my students learn and what (they should) learn. I’m now more interested in thinking about the students themselves, their communicative needs and wants, why they want to learn English and how they might be using English in the future.
Xing Hua (China)
Studying applied linguistics has given me access to theories of language and language learning, and made me think how I might understand and solve my own future teaching, and my students’ learning, ‘problems’. I like Brumfit’s well-known definition of our discipline as, ‘the theoretical and empirical investigation of real-world problems in which language is a central issue’ (Brumfit 1997b, p.93). There are some answers to my teaching ‘problems’ that other teachers have suggested. But I like the feeling that my training in applied linguistics will give me the tools to think of my own.
We hope you like our Christmas tree. It’s our solution to the problem of how to communicate: that it’s December (and we’ve survived in York since September); the holidays are near; we’ll be celebrating in ways that are both familiar and new; texts and images mean what their users want them to mean; but we don’t have much control over what you will understand!
(from Changing Englishes, an online, interactive course for English language teachers)
(1) Applied linguistics explores the role played by language and languages in perceived problems of communication, social identity, education, health, economics, politics and justice, and aims to develop ways to resolve these problems.
(2) English as a Lingua Franca: English as it is used between people who have different first languages.
Brumfit, C. J. (1997b). How applied linguistics is the same as any other science, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7 (1), pp. 86-94.
Hall, C. J., Smith, P. H., and Wicaksono, R. (2011). Mapping applied linguistics: A guide for students and practitioners. London: Routledge.