Researching English as an
Indigenised Variety in China
Dr Huizhong Shen
Faculty of Education & Social Work
The University of Sydney
The 5th International Conference on ELT in China
and the 1st Congress of Chinese Applied Linguistics
Beijing – May 16-21, 2007
Presentation Overview
Research stances
New research paradigms
Some empirical evidence
Need for further research
Introduction: stats & models
250 million
10 million for entrance examinations
5 million annual university intake
Contrasting models
British Hills (study abroad)
Wall Street English
New Oriental English
British Hills
British Hills
Wall Street Institute
New Oriental College
Introduction: issues
English or Englishes?
Which English?
Whose English?
Chinese English/China English?
A self-inflicted view
A conceptual/methodological trap
Research stances
A self-inflicted inferiority complex
A submissive language L/R model
Pursuit of a NE variety as benchmark
A detrimental focus on ‘Learner English’
Chinese English high jacked
Problemtizing Chinese English research
Examples of atypical
“Chinese English”
“Chinese speakers pronounce ‘very well’ as ‘vely wen’ and
Peter Mundy as ‘Pe-tang Mun-ty’.” (Temple, 1919, in Bolton 2002)
“Good good study, day day up.”
“People mountain people sea.” (Wei & Fei, 2003)
“Mary yesterday bought a dictionary.”
“For me to get up before 6 o’clock in the morning
is impossible.”
“It is a hard job but someone must do it.” (Jia, 1990)
New research paradigms
Beyond pidgin English or Chinglish
Moving away from learner English
Focus on user English in research
Free from the inferiority complex shackle
Follow the code-referenced principle
An old attitude
"Not the full translation, just the
gist of what they're saying."
Punch, 17 March 1982
A thousand languages, all of them English
Photo Illustration: by Andy Joyner
Photo: Andrew Joyner
UK’s standard English debate: 1
• The Newbolt Report (1925):
The teaching of English should centre on
the teaching of English literature.
• The Bullock Report (1975):
The teaching of English should focus on the
development of speech.
UK’s standard English debate:2
• The Newbolt Report (1925):
Non-standard English are the “evil habits
of the home and street”.
• The Bullock Report (1975):
“We believe that a child’s accent should be
accepted, and that to attempt to suppress it is
irrational and neither humane or necessary…”
Hasan & Lushington (1968) argue:
“…one of the main aims of teaching English is, surely, to
enable the pupil to use, both in spoken and written form,
the language of the speech community of his day…the
models which are presented to him should be those in
which the language used is that of contemporary speakers
and writers.
Within this the model ought to take into account the
varieties of language. For reasons determined externally we
may choose to teach the standard English to the exclusion
of others, but this does not imply that other varieties are in
some way internally inferior or wrong.”
Some empirical evidence (1):
Indigenized Chinese English
“I am not deep and not well-read. If one is too
well-read, then one does not know right is right
and wrong is wrong… For in a very real sense,
these spirits have been with me, in the only
form of spiritual communion that I recognized
as real-when two men separated by the ages
think the same thoughts and sense the same
feelings and each perfectly understands the
other.” (Lin, 1935)
Some empirical evidence (2):
Indigenized Chinese English
“Culture traffics in ideas. It has no national
boundaries, it enriches itself just as much by
what it gives as what it takes…Culture has
always maintained an Open Door Policy. There
is only one condition for entry – the humility to
learn.” (Sun, 1935 in Bolton, 2002)
Some empirical evidence (3):
Indigenized Chinese English
“The East has come to learn more and more
from the West and adore it; the West has come
to understand and appreciate the East to a
degree never before known…To be born yellow
and to be educated white is a privilege…And
what a treasure it is to be able to feel like a
Chinese and to think like a Westerner! And
what an ideal, to be as tender-hearted as a
woman, and at the same time as tough-minded
as a man!”
(Wu, 1937 in Bolton, 2002)
Some empirical evidence (4):
Indigenized Chinese English
“I started to write the poem in English first,
but shifted halfway to Chinese and
finished...But the two languages must have
tangled deeper in my mind…Only when I really
worked on the poem in English did I discover
the unconscious echoes to Li Po’ lines ‘Sailing
through wails of monkeys from both banks, a
light boat has passed thousands of mountains’
in my first line….” (Leung, 2000)
Some empirical evidence (4):
Indigenized Chinese English
“Feel the fear and do it anyway! Storms make trees
take deeper roots! Make money internationally!”
(Li Yang, in Bolton, 2002)
“The front gatekeeper, a gray-haired, red
armbanded woman surnamed Zhu, yawned and
nodded to Chen on that April morning as he
tossed a green plastic token into the token box.”
(From A Loyal Character Dancer by Qiu Xiaolong)
Need for further research
• There is compelling evidence suggesting that
Chinese English as an indigenized variety is in
the making,
• but a systematic approach is needed for
collecting, codifying and theorizing empirical data,
• There is a need to have three bases:
(1) the empirical base,
(2) the pedagogical base, and
(3) the theoretical base.
• Chinese English researchers should be free
from the demoralizing self-inflicted view
• Chinese English research should be informed
by current developments in WE/EIL/ELF
• User English should be the focus of research
• Chinese English research should move beyond
the linguistic dimension to focus on bilingual
interaction/creativity at the perceptual level
Thank you

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