Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Accent Priority in a Thai University Context: A Common Sense Revisited

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Accent Priority in a Thai University Context: A Common Sense Revisited

Article excerpt

Abstract

In Thailand, there has been much debate regarding what accents should be prioritized and adopted as models for learning and use in the context of English language education. However, it is not a debate in which the voices of English learners have sufficiently been heard. Several world Englishes scholars have maintained that being a denationalized language, English should be viewed through the lens of linguistic hybridization. In this paper, we investigated Thai university English learners' preferences for varieties of English and their attitudes towards the importance of understanding varieties of English in order to generate a better understanding as to what extent native and non-native varieties gain acceptance as English models. We also explored whether learners' attitudes were consistent with the ideology of English as an international language which sees English in its pluralistic sense. The findings of this study suggest that even though the majority of learners preferred native-speaker accents as models for learning and use, they consiered non-native Englishes worth understanding and learning. The findings challenge the old paradigm of English language teaching that is based on the concept of linguistic Americanization or Britishization, prioritizing the native-speaker school of thought. In closing, we proposed some pedagogical suggestions that, we believe, are consistent with how English functions in the world as an international lingua franca.

Keywords: English as an international language, English as a lingua franca, world Englishes, English accent, native vs non-native speaker

1. Introduction and Contextualization

What varieties of English accent do Thai English learners in general identify as their preferred models for learning and use? Do other forms of English, e.g., Indian English, Singaporean English or Chinese English, have a place in language classroom? These questions are considered commonsensical because everyone seems to be in agreement that Thai people are gravitated to native-speaker (inner-circle) models especially the Anglo-American variety (Gibb, 1999; Jenkins, 2005) when it comes to the learning and teaching of English. Thailand, according to Kachru (1992), is classified in the expanding circle where English has no role in almost every sphere of life. Hence, it follows logically that we are a norm-dependent country in which language learners and all parties involved in English language teaching (ELT) have to follow the models originated by native-speaking (norm providers) in the West.

When we talk about what can be comprehended and interpreted by using common sense, it is often refered to as something that needs no clarification or further investigation because it is considered common and normal. As defined in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, common sense is "a prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." For example, we have never wanted to find out whether Thais prefer eating rice or bread as a daily meal, playing football or ice hockey as a favorite sport and watching Japanese or American manga as a favorite animated cartoon. Without reliance on abstruse knowledge or empirical study or research, people in common can apparently tell that Thais prefer rice to bread, football to ice hockey and Japanese to American manga. When it comes to language learning, the situation is no difference from the aforementioned cases: We seemingly do not have an attempt to discover what models of English accent Thai learners prefer to learn and use. This is because it is a common sense that Thai English learners surpassingly nominate native-speaker or inner-circle models for learning and use. The common sense also tells us that native-speaker models are 'good', 'correct', 'standard', 'beautiful', 'natural' and 'authentic', while non-native models are the reverse (Jindapitak & Teo, 2012). This social-driven linguistic judgment, that lies under the ideological assumption that the English language solely belongs to native speakers of inner-circle countries (Widdowson, 1994), is believed help stabilize the spread and the authority of native-speaker varieties and advance native speakers professionally (Canagarajah, 1999a, 1999b; Modiano, 2001). …

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