Tuesday, September 25, 2007

English Foreign Teaching and Learning

How old are you? How much do you make a month? Are you married? What's your weight? Ask these to a westerner and you're likely to lose a potential friendship but pose the same questions to Asians and very likely, you'll receive a good natured response without any fear of the question being misconstrued. That is one key difference one encounters in multicultural linguistics. Today, we'll raise this issue in the light of EFL teaching and learning in an Asian context.

Traditionally, students from Asia would go to English speaking countries to pursue tertiary education. But 9/11 , the Asian economic crisis and globalization seems to have reversed the trend -or almost. These days, educational hubs in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and India attract their own people as well as foreigners with degrees from Western universities through twinning programs at half the cost. Not only do these institutions offer western courses, they also have their own courses which are just as competitive and taught by well qualified lecturers.

The presence of foreign students is a totally new form of dynamics for both teachers and students in the host country. Apart from knowledge content, how will the EFL teacher convey his lesson effectively? How will the learner respond to the teaching? As we know, language is more than just knowledge of grammatical rules and how to say this and that. A lot of culture goes into the nuances of a language as we saw in the taboo questions above. Does an EFL teacher in Malaysia teach western culture or Malaysian culture in the classroom context? How does one compromise with the way certain things are expressed? Malaysians like to say "let's tackle it this way." Some of my western friends say that's not the way they would express how to deal with a problem. Then of course, there is the issue of the different Englishes- Malaysian English, Singlish, Qinglish and what have you. You here an Asian speaking with an Australian accent and you know he's had his education from Down Under. What happens when you hear a non Malaysian speaking English with the 'lah,' at the end of each sentence. What would your reaction be? Malaysians know when to speak proper English to a westerner and to revert to our own lingo among ourselves. Would our foreign students know how to do the same? Any comments?