How do attitudes and ideologies from diverse groups affect my English Learning?

Yuting Zhao

The two articles in this week really strike a chord with me. They remind me of many things about my English learning. In this blog, I would like to talk about how attitudes and ideologies from diverse groups affect my English learning experience.

Attitudes and ideologies from my parents

My mother told me, fifty years ago, in China, as long as people can speak English, it is very good. But since twenty years ago, with the development of Chinese economic reform, not only should people know how to speak English, but also they need to speak Standardized English (Native English). My parents perceived and predicted that speaking native English will be a survival tool for me in the future. Why is English a survival tool? Because they think native English will make me adapt better in a globalized environment so that I can live better. They demonstrated their beliefs by sending me to a bilingual (English-Chinese) school in another city when I was six. I guessed that was probably the toughest time in my whole life but I indeed learned a lot.

 Attitudes and ideologies from my teachers

I think in China, the attitudes and ideologies of teachers are greatly exam-oriented. Whether a teacher is good depends on if his or her students can get higher marks or the highest mark in the exam. They think that teaching exam skills is much more important than teaching English skills. So in reading courses, they teach more about why this answer is correct but not what this article is all about. Students don’t need read the whole article. Instead, reading the first sentence in each paragraph is enough. For me, at that time, I really have no idea whether I was learning a language or I was learning math, because all the time I was taught about the rules and used the rule to solve problems.

However, in this way, my English grammar was improved dramatically. I learned a lot China English. And I found China English is different from Canada English and American English when I came to Canada and America. I realized what localized English means.

Attitudes and ideologies from myself

Personally, I’m not a big fan of English native speakerism. Just according to my experience, in daily conversations when I talked to others, I never feel I was treated unequally or inferior because of Chinese accent. The only thing that will make me upset is that I cannot convey my thought. So when I studied English, I placed more emphasis on content instead of form. I will spend time analysing how Ivanka Trump delivered her speech which could arouse so many people instead of reading the book American Accent Training.

My reflection and question:

“Now I know parents’ perception towards English and why they think in that way but how can I apply these knowledge as a teacher?” This question was always wandering in my mind after I finished this week’s readings. In the course of my seeking the answer, luckily, I found a relevant journal called Current Issues in Language Planning http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rclp20/16/1-2?nav=tocList, in volume no.16 issue no.1-2, all articles are concerned about the role of ideologies and attitudes in language education, especially multilingual education. The most interesting part I learned in this journal is that I could study attitudes and ideology not only from living human beings, such as parents, teachers, students, but also from the mass media, such as newspaper, which is an inanimate object but representing ideas of people. (Inanimate objects can also have attitudes and ideologies!).

Now I rethink the question but to be honest, it’s still hard… I know I’m not a very clever student anyway…but it suddenly occurred to me that students are the persons who connect teachers and parents, so if I know the ideologies of my students’ parents, I could understand more about my students’ knowledge, attitudes, ways of thinking and these understandings will definitely facilitate my teaching practice. It echoes what we discussed in last class, “each student will bring their family into the classroom”. The difference is that in last class, “each student will bring their family into the classroom” is one reason of translanguaging and multilingualism, but in this week, “each student will bring their family into the classroom” is the result of parents’ attitudes and ideologies. These are all my reflections to this question. Am I on the right way? What do you think? How would you take advantage of various attitudes and ideologies to conduct teaching?

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3 thoughts on “How do attitudes and ideologies from diverse groups affect my English Learning?”

  1. Hina

    Hi Yuting!
    Thank you for your thoughts 🙂
    I can understand what you mean by how you perceive English. My parents were the same – they wanted me to learn English so that when I grew up, I could use it as a tool. My teachers in middle/high school encouraged learning English because it was necessary for university entrance exams.

    I guess the students in my class who liked English were those who attributed it to pop culture, or some other personal interest. Many of my classmates didn’t like it though because they only saw it as a means to successfully pass the entrance examinations. As a teacher, I feel that it’s important not only to focus on examinations, but also to connect English to the students’ interests. I think motivation plays a huge role in second language acquisition, and teachers could try to take advantage of the students’ interests instead, so that the students can see that it’s beneficial for them… But you’re definitely right, and I’m sure there is no “right” answer!

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  2. Hi Yuting,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences with language attitudes and ideologies from your parents, teachers, and yourself. Your parents’ response to language ideologies is especially telling of the power of ideologies and how they can influence the choices parents make to try to set their children up for the best possible futures. As we read in the articles, this shows that parents are highly tuned in to the social and economic capital of various languages (dialects, distinct languages, etc.).
    Thank you, also, for the link to the 2016 special issue of the journal. There are some great articles in there!
    And, in response to your final question, I’m not sure it is always just up to the teacher to use attitudes/ ideologies to our advantage, but rather, that we can benefit from being aware of how ideologies inform the choices we make as teachers and how they also might influence how our learners are being positioned (e.g., as non-native speakers) and then, what we can do to address that.
    ~Alison

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  3. Hello Yuting,

    Thanks for your interesting post! I agree that mass media has powerful influence on shaping young kids’ language attitude and ideology. The influencial cartoons, TV plays, Hollywood movies from English-speaking countries become accessible to everyone through internet. The favor of these cultural products can be very useful to arise kids’ interest to learn English, which English teachers can take advantage of it in English classrooms.

    But here, I also have some concerns. The language ideology indexed in mass media would definitely affect kids’ own language attitude. For example, in Dianey cartoon, the decent or main characters always speak standard English, while some stupid characters may speak “poor” English. In this case, it may contains linguistic prejudice and social discriminations to certain speech group in media works. So, when taking advantage of media works, besides English learning, English teachers may also concern about their students’ own language attitude shaping.

    -Kunyao

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