Native vs non-native teachers: Accents and culture

Simon Desmarais – Blog post 1

Over the course of my life, I have devoted a lot of time to learn languages. I come from a small town in Québec, so my first language is French, but since about 2009 I have been living my life mainly in English (as a result of frequent traveling and studying at McGill). I have also spent some time learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Even though by linguistic definition I am a L2 speaker of English, I am now at a point where I consider myself even more than near-native: I have a slight accent, but I possess the same language intuition as native speakers.

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Reflecting on my Language Biography

Maxime Lavallée

Hello! Having grown up in several countries and spoken different varieties of the same languages in different places, I decided to begin with a brief timeline for some context.

  • Born in Quebec to French-Speaking parents.
    • Native speaker of French.
  • Moved from Quebec to California at the age of nine.
    • Became a minority language speaker of French.
      • No prior knowledge of English before moving to California.
    • Went to primary school in English.
    • Continued on to high school in English.
      • Became indistinguishable from native speakers of English.
      • Adopted Californian vernacular and accent.
    • Moved to Australia at the age of sixteen.
      • Had to adapt to Australian English.
        • New vocabulary, sentence structure, cultural norms, spelling, and more.
          • Over time, adopted Australian vernacular and accent.
    •  Moved back to Quebec at the age of twenty-one.
      • Had to acclimate myself to Montreal English.
        • New vocabulary and cultural norms very different from Australia.
      • Found a job and made some serious improvements to my stagnating French.
      • Began to learn Spanish.
      • Adopted Montreal English vernacular and accent

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Is your mother tongue going to be extinct?

Hsinhua Wu

I speak Mandarin, Taiwanese and English.

Mandarin is the official language and generally spoken in Taiwan. Taiwanese is one of Chinese dialects. I speak it at home. It is my first language, but after going to school, it became my “second language”, second best language due to lack of practice. In some occasions, I try to “read” Japanese to my grandparents. Japanese is their second language. They always laugh when they hear my poor pronunciation. Taiwan was under Japanese rule for 50 years between 1895 and 1945. It is not uncommon to meet elders in Taiwan speaking Japanese. Besides English, Japanese language is popular because of the complicated relationship between Taiwan and Japan and its pop culture. However Korean’s popularity is starting to equal to Japanese. 120 Korean dramas in total have been televised in Taiwan in half year of 2011 (Hyun-kyung,2011). Young Taiwanese people tend to have a better command of English, Japanese, Korean than of Taiwanese. Taiwanese faces threat of extinction in Taiwan.

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A reflection of my learning experiences in my teaching approaches

Miss Education

As a teacher, I only wish that I can teach my second language students everything there is to know about English in the little time I have with them throughout the year. But, as Mougeon et al. (2010) research findings state, there is only so much that can be learned about a language (or a vernacular) in a controlled setting like a classroom, and that notions about a language are also taught in other settings such as public environments (the shopping mall, the park, etc.) (Van Herk, G., p. 183).

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Coco’s language biography

Cocoa Puffs

I was born in Beijing, China. My mother tongue is Mandarin. My parents speak Mandarin to me, and I speak Mandarin to my parents and my Chinese friends. I do not speak any dialect. However, since my great grandmother and my grandmother were originally from Hunan, a province in the southern part of China, they spoke one of the numerous dialects in Hunan. As I spent every holiday with my great grandmother and my grandmother when I was a little kid, I could understand the dialect in Hunan. Interestingly, my grandfather was not from Hunan. He came from Shandong, the northern part of China. When he spoke to my grandmother, he would use Mandarin, the language that I understood well. Unfortunately, I failed to speak any dialect. Nevertheless, when I met people from Hunan or Shandong provinces, I would proudly connect myself with them, and I was keen to learn more about the dialects because the dialects represent my heritage.

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You are what you speak

Emmanouela Tisizi

Not a day goes by without somehow reflecting on my past choices, many of which have undoubtedly been the wrong ones. When it comes, however, to the study choices I have made, I feel privileged. My academic journey began at the University of Athens, where I embarked on my BA in Greek Philology. Soon enough two master’s degrees in Modern Languages (Oxford University) and Education Language (University of Edinburgh) followed, after realizing that delving into languages fascinated me.

Greek is my first language, so obviously it is the one I use the most while I am at home. Since I was born and raised in Greece’s capital, Athens, I was taught the dominant Greek dialect, the one most Greeks use. Or, at least that’s what I thought until I started observing people and the various ways in which they made use of their language, when the context of each conversation changed.

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Matthew’s language biography!

Matthew

Hello everybody! In class, we were asked to think about our own language biographies and discuss them. This is also a great way of getting the ball rolling for the blog posts. It looks like I’m one of the first students to post anything, so here goes nothing.

Where to start? I’m originally from the north of England, but I’ve been in Montréal since 2008. My first language is English. It’s the language I grew up speaking and it’s the language I still speak for the majority at home. Since being in Montréal, I’ve come to realize the difference in how I use English between my home country and my adopted country. Actually, I tend to think I have two main English identities.

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