Interview with Yusop Boonsuk

Co-author of "Voices of learners in Thai ELT classrooms: a wake up call towards teaching English as a lingua franca" and "Who ‘owns English’ in our changing world? Exploring the perception of Thai university students in Thailand"

AUTHOR : Interview by Jane Ra
BOOK DETAILS : Ambele, E. & Boonsuk, Y. (2020). Voices of learners in Thai ELT classrooms: a wake up call towards teaching English as a lingua franca. Asian Englishes. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13488678.2020.1759248, Boonsuk, Y. & Ambele, E. (2019). Who ‘owns English’ in our changing world? Exploring the perception of Thai university students in Thailand. Asian Englishes. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13488678.2019.1669302
Journal Asian Englishes


1) What is the importance of Global Englishes (GE) for English language teaching (ELT)?

Global Englishes (GE) is a phenomenon that challenges many ELT educational stakeholders who usually favor native-English conventions and raises a significant language learning question whether native English standards are still the way to go when English has gone global with pluricentricity, i.e., multiple standards. Furthermore, the current dominance of GE in practices has diminished the significance and popularity of traditional EFL paradigms as real communication more likely takes place among English users who are non-native in a non-inner-circle or intercultural setting. As English has become fluidly utilized with constant evolutionary dynamics, Global Englishes language teaching (GELT) can offer more practical ELT outcomes as GELT pedagogies seek to prepare learners to flexibly accommodate intercultural encounters of English which could take place in any of the three circles including inner, outer, and expanding. Hence, GELT is a significant paradigm shift when compared with conventional EFL-oriented ELT, which seeks to promote native-like competencies. As GELT introduces new perspectives of English as a global language, it questions the legitimacy of the existing monocentric norms of English, relieves language learners from the strict attachment to native regulations, offers more feasible and adaptive ways to learn English, encourages them to adopt different communicative strategies to ensure effective cross-cultural communication, and reinvents approaches to English acquisition.

 

2) What does your research say about GE and future ELT practices?

GE is a paradigm that reflects the evolved existence of English. Emerging English utilization, transformed linguistic landscapes, and global ownership have pressured ELT communities and educational stakeholders around to world to reconsider whether current ELT implementations address English diversity and varieties. Based on the findings of my study, there are many knowledge gaps waiting to be filled, and these are essential in bridging the theories of Global Englishes with instructional practices. Hence, the inclusion of instructional stakeholders as the main participants are necessary when it comes to enhancing the awareness of GE and the transformation of English linguistic landscapes from monocentricity to pluricentricity in teaching.

 

3) What kind of research has been covered in your publication?

When English has become Global Englishes with global ownership, ELT communities in many edges of the world have also been challenged. Since users of different varieties employ English differently and communication frequently takes place in English as a lingua franca (ELF) contexts (i.e., where most people are from multiple cultural roots), the question is that is it still necessary to teach or learn English based on native-speaker norms or EFL-oriented pedagogies? To answer this question, my recent publications sought to unveil learning attitudes towards English ownership and ELT in ELF contexts. Data were collected from students in many southern universities in Thailand. They also discuss the current situations of ELT in Thailand, the relationship between nativeness and teaching effectiveness, native-oriented ELT paradigms, ELF-oriented pedagogical designs, and theories beyond native-oriented ELT paradigms.

The findings appear to be quite interesting. In brief, the participants perceived that, since English has become so diverse today, the language should not exclusively belong to any nation or cultural group. Instead, it should belong to any English users. Simply put, anyone who uses English in everyday life should have the right to claim ownership. The findings also revealed that the participants perceived that there is no relationship between native backgrounds and teaching effectiveness. Furthermore, the current ELT’s objectives and curriculums should be redesigned by prioritizing the necessary preparation that equips language learners with capabilities to handle multicultural communication that involve interlocutors of diverse lingua-cultural backgrounds. Moreover, ELT should no longer force them to achieve native-like competence. In other words, new English learning targets should not revolve around the old monocentric English with excessive Inner-Circle cultural content. Instead, they should incorporate more local or learner-familiar content to raise their awareness of English diversity and existing English varieties. For more information about the publications, please visit

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13488678.2020.1759248; and

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13488678.2019.1669302

 

4) Why did you focus on Global Englishes in Asia?

First, I reside in Thailand, a country in Asia with a large number of population and lingua-cultural diversity. Second, most Asians, including Thais, employ English as lingua franca to communicate with interlocutors who speak different mother tongues and come from different cultural origins, and most of the occasions, conversations occur between non-native English speakers (NNES). Since English is not always meant to be used between NNES and native English speakers (NES) in Asia, Global Englishes in Asian contexts has become a fascinating topic to explore.

 

5) What kind of research project are you currently working on?

I am now working on five projects including a book, two book chapters, and three research projects.

Let’s begin with the book I am currently working on, the book that I write discusses the current development and changes in English roles in teaching and Thailand. It is written to present the current English language ideologies and ELT in Thailand and the ELT strategies that would harmonize the implementation of GE paradigms amid English diversity.

Regarding the book chapters, in addition, the first book chapter presents/discusses classroom activities from my direct experiences. These activities are designed to improve the awareness of English diversity as English has turned GE. This proposal has been submitted to Routledge for publication consideration. The second book chapter was submitted to Cambridge Scholars Publishing. It has been approved for publication and is pending to be published soon. This chapter explores English proficiency tests and international standardized tests such as IELT and TOEFL and discusses the extent to which the tests, test designers, and test criteria reflect the awareness of English diversity as these tests are administered to measure proficiency levels of global English users.

Moving on to the research project, lastly, my first research project is a study to increase the awareness of students across all regions of Thailand towards Global Englishes. Instructional activities that the lecturers implement to enhance students’ knowledge of GE are examined. Furthermore, the study also investigates the readiness of Thailand for Global Englishes Language Teaching (GELT).

The second research project explores GELT in conjunction with the preparation for global citizenship. The study aims to measure how effective GELT is in transforming learners into global citizens. This is especially crucial in contexts where English has become a pluricentric language, and learners are required to additionally develop intercultural communication skills to be a successful communicator as English speakers might be from diverse languages and cultures as well as use English differently.

The third one studies the attitudes of international students from Asian countries that come to Thai universities to pursue their education. Generally, the study is designed to discover their opinions towards their English accents, the English accents spoken by Thai people, the ones spoken by other international students, and the native ones. As today is the era of Global Englishes and English speakers employ English with many accents, I would like to explore how these international students perceive these differences.

 

6) What sort of research topics should be dealt with in future GE projects?

Since GELT is relatively new, especially in the Thai contexts, there is not yet solid implementational guidelines to bring theories into teaching practices. Furthermore, poor understanding of Global-Englishes frameworks is another factor that obstructs GELT implementations in Thailand. Another crucial factor that hinders GELT is the fact that many Thais still favor native speakerism and linguistic imperialism. Hence, against these challenges, I believe that studies on GE should expand on the diversity of participants. The extension could include learners, teachers, policymakers, curriculum designers, and administrators. It is imperative that these educational stakeholders recognize the currently inevitable changes of English and design or use teaching materials, pedagogies, activities, and assessments that are more GE-friendly (pluricentricity) and less native-based (monocentricity).

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