AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 719

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Session 719: Language as Space: Problematising and Negotiating ‘Power’ in Higher Education and Workplace in Asian Settings

Organizer: Ha L. Phan, Monash University, Australia

Chair: Enric Llurda, Independent Scholar, Spain

Discussant: Rui Yang, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

This symposium discusses how space as power is negotiated, renegotiated and experienced through language in multiple contexts and under varied conditions in Asia. It argues that language is a key element in the educational experience of university students that needs being negotiated by its agents. The contributors to this panel provide different perspectives on how the current trend of internationalisation of universities in Vietnam, Japan and Singapore driven by the global status of English shapes the use of languages and how the use of languages can shape the implementation of internationalisation policies, which has implications for the workplace. Issues covered in this symposium include intercultural issues embedded in and arising from English-medium programmes in Vietnamese universities and Vietnam-based Australian universities offered to students who do not have English as their first language, the tension derived from the co-existence of local languages with English in internationalising and globalising contexts in Singapore, the policy debates when English is chosen as the language of instruction in Japan, and how attractive English-medium programs can be when students decide where to study in Asia. Another issue this panel addresses is ethical questions about English for the workplace as currently conceptualized and practiced. All these issues are explored in varied settings and countries, which enjoy different degrees of involvement with English, as evident in their educational and language policies in relation to the status of English and other foreign and local languages.

Intercultural issues in English- medium programmes: A comparative study of an Australian university and a local university based in Vietnam
Ha L. Phan, Monash University, Australia

While numerous issues involving the internationalisation of education have been documented, interculturality in this area has recently been identified by researchers, policy makers and experts as being overlooked and under-researched. At the same time, more and more education providers in world settings offer their programmes in English to meet global pressures to internationalise themselves, prepare global citizens for the knowledge economy and attract overseas students. Intercultural issues arise in every moment of this process, ranging from administrative to academic matters. However, it is often observed that English-medium programmes often bring with them 'western' values that are in many ways at odd with 'local' values. Adjusting 'local' values to meet 'western' values tends to be seen as solution should any intercultural issues arise. This paper examines intercultural issues in English-medium programmes in two universities located in Vietnam, one is an Australian university and the other one is a local university. Drawing on the data obtained from students studying at these two universities, the paper specifically addresses three research questions, (1) in English-medium programmes, whose norms are to be followed?, (2) what intercultural space is shared and how are they negotiated?, and (3) in what ways does studying in English-medium programmes raise students' awareness of interculturality?.

English and Internationalization of Universities: Japanese case
Akiyoshi Yonezawa, Nagoya University, Japan

This paper examines the policy debates and reality in the process of promotion of university education in English language in a non-English speaking country with relatively large population and strong economy. In Japan as well as Korea, China and others, the heated debates for requesting university programs in English language are ongoing as a key factor for survival in the globalized knowledge economy. Especially among the leaders in academic and industrial world, the language issues are treated as crucial for maintaining and improving the excellence in science and technology. On the other hand, majority of the international students, except for the short term exchange students, prefer to study in the local language. Actually, the programs in English, especially at undergraduate level cater to the home students who wish to study and work in a transnational environment. Combining various data including the original surveys on Japanese universities, the author argues the existence of two separated world in the debates and reality of university education in English: (1) top level science research and education with English as a common language for a limited number of top graduate students, and (2) basic programs for acquiring English-based communication skills for massive home students.

Going to Vietnam to learn English: Internationalisation of Vietnamese universities through the eyes of Chinese international students
Que Van Phan, Independent Scholar, Viet Nam

Although compared with other countries in the region, Vietnam is not seen as enjoying a high level of English proficiency among its people, universities in Vietnam are already in the process of offering English-medium programmes to local students and a small number of international students. While language of instruction has been identified as one of the most important elements in the process to internationalise education, it has not received any attention from research in Vietnam. Much of the field of international education in the country is almost left blank in terms of research. This presentation, as a response to the problem, examines the reasons behind going to Vietnam to learn English of a group of about 40 students from China who are currently studying at a university in the Centre of Vietnam. Drawing on a research project, it particularly addresses what space has been created for these international students from China and how English, Chinese and Vietnamese as the languages in use in the context of their learning are negotiated, accommodated and compromised. Addressing these questions will offer insights into what involves English-medium programmes in a country that is hardly recognised as actively participating in the internationalisation of higher education 'game', and which is still struggling with English in many ways, including the relatively little use of this language in everyday activities.

The ethics of English for the workplace in Singapore
T. Ruanni F. Tupas, National University of Singapore, Singapore

In this paper, I argue that ethical questions about English for the workplace as currently conceptualized and practiced must be asked. There are two main sections in the discussion. The first section discusses the ideological tensions and discursive maneuverings in the setting and discussion of debate agenda for English for the workplace in Singapore. These involve a major professional organization of tertiary English teaching institutions and key stakeholders in workplace English. The debate on the debate questions revolve around these issues: how is English for the workplace implicated in questions about globalization? If there are ethical questions about globalization (even more so now because of the culpability of the corporate world in the global economic recession), should there be ethical questions about English for the workplace as well? Are these questions going ‘too far’ from English language teaching and learning? The second section this time engages these questions from the ‘ground’: concrete curricular changes in a business communication course where questions about language and power in present-day corporate globalization are interspersed with the teaching of ‘skills’ in interpersonal and intercultural communication. This part argues that English for the workplace is intricately linked with the ethics of globalization; and that competing discourses on globalization must animate (re)conceptualizations of workplace English as well. The next step forward is not to ‘go back’ to English language teaching and learning, but to (re)locate it within the polemics of globalization to make such teaching and learning perhaps more meaningful and ethical.