Attitudes of German high school students toward different varieties of English

Philipp Meer, Johanna Hartmann & Dominik Rumlich
13.09.2018, Poster-Session

The importance of a World Englishes (WE)-informed approach in English Language Teaching (ELT) has been emphasized by several scholars (Görlach 2002:164-166; Bieswanger 2008; Davydova et al. 2013; Sung 2015; Matsuda & Matsuda 2018). For Germany, studies in the educational domain have shown that World Englishes are nonetheless still underrepresented in ELT (Bieswanger 2008, 2012; Grau 2009; Kautzsch 2014). Generally, only a limited amount of research exists on the status of WE in ELT in Germany; especially school students’ attitudes toward WE are currently underresearched, despite the necessity to consider learners’ perspectives to apply WE-informed pedagogical innovations successfully (Sung 2015).

This paper investigates the overt and covert attitudes of 160 German advanced high school students toward different varieties of English by means of a mix of attitude elicitation methods that includes open direct questions, a folklinguistic approach, label ratings, and a verbal guise experiment with a nationality identification task. In the two latter components, informants were asked to rate labels and speakers of British, American, German, Indian, and African (Kenyan) English.

First, multivariate analyses revealed that informants are most familiar with British and American English and considerably less so with other varieties. Second, British, and to a slightly smaller degree, American English are clearly perceived as the two standard reference norms, both overtly and covertly. However, third, the analyses also revealed more fine-grained attitudinal dispositions: both overtly and covertly, the included ESL (English as a Second Language) varieties were viewed negatively for competence, professionality, and intelligibility while German English received more neutral ratings in this regard. In contrast, a reverse pattern was observed in the perception of arrogance. For social attractiveness overall, all varieties were rather undifferentiated and viewed positively, only German English was rated negatively.


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