Global Englishes and Post-Colonial Context

The issue that Second Language writers and speakers face is two-fold.  They are not only caught between cultures, but also face the immense challenge of becoming coherent in English and simultaneously acquiring the academic language required to succeed in class.      Kumiko from Japan said, “Even when I try to think in English, Japanese words coming in my brain.”   Our students from the Latin American countries also talked about thinking in Spanish and translating.   Said Luis from Chile, “Well, if I have to write fast, I just write it in Spanish.”  Most of our informants are aware of the drawbacks of translating, and said that they had to learn to think in English in order to effectively write in English.

Thinking in, and speaking more than one language has had amusing results as well when the two languages are code switched, and so we have Hindlish (HindiEnglish) and Bonglish (BengaliEnglish) and Indlish (Indian English).  Spanish English gave rise to Spanglish, and Chinese English to Chinglish, Singaporean English to Singlish, Japanese English to Japlish and such various other forms of World Englishes have proclaimed their right as an established dialect of English leading to confusions in the written form.

The students from post colonial countries usually speak, read, and write English from an early age.  They are confident of their English, especially the grammaticality of it.  So when they receive comments such as “disjointed writing” or when their colloquialisms are not understood at all, they feel that their basic language skill is at question, that they somehow did not learn “correct” English.   Therefore, the transition that the students from post-colonial contexts need to adjust to is not just between different versions of the English language, but between the cultures that encompass the language.

Living within two cultures, thinking and writing in more than one language, these are the challenges that our international students face every day, yet these very challenges enrich their experiences in the American academic setting. 


~On the use of English in Nigeria:
The academic world is English.  We speak in English, we write in English, writers all in English.  It is a very well educated country and Nigeria, I guess, is the largest African country; the population and the economy is the largest. We have the highest number of graduates in the country, but the formal system is British system.

~On the value of fluency in English:
Most people who speak Hausa are very educated, but not all of them are good writers even though we are still at an advantage in comparison to other African countries because we are colonized by the British, we had advantage in that way because some countries like Morocco are civilized by the French then they come to American and their French is not helping them; they have to start all over forming a sentence.  However, if we are having a good advantage in the writing part we could go far.

~On wanting to write a book in English to “bring something to her people:”
The problem you know with the colonization that you have this mentality where you accept the new one, appreciate the new one, you don’t give credit to your own.  You read about Virginia Wolf; we don’t want to read about a Nigerian writer; what is special about that, you know? We want to read about somebody else.  So [writing my book in] English would be a good way to attract people to read, to talk about something. Issues.

~On Sri Lanka as a postcolonial context:
There is a high correlation between people who do well and their fluency in English.  Our whole thinking is structured that way and that is why people keeping using English at home between friends, in the offices, in the school, so people do that.  I think this is coming from the class structure because when the British…when we were a colony, all the goodies were given to the people who were close with them and to build that you have to know how to speak in English.  During that time, when we were a colony, people who could speak English and were close with them were the winners in the society.  In 1948, we got our independence, but the system is still structured that way— that the people who could speak English has an advantage and that makes sense because you have companies who are dealing with other international companies would rather have someone who can communicate with others and speak not only in Sinhalese.

~On the influence and hybridization of English in Sri Lanka:
If you really go to see some of the Sri Lankan usage of English, you can see different translations, which is bad English, but people try to just, I guess, substitute words and create sentences using English words, but not in proper order so the grammar is wrong.

~On “Singlish,” the hybrid form of English and Sinhalese:
Well I don’t get to speak in Sinhalese too much right now; my brother lives up in Boston, but unless I call him up, everyone else is back home in Sri Lanka.  Sometimes I worry that I am losing the Sinhalese, the classical use of it.  But day-to-day, I can talk with anyone without a problem, but that real, the pure, the difficult Sinhalese, I think I am losing touch a little bit, but of course I absolutely understand.  It is when I talk myself, the first time I might not be able to remember the exact word, the real word.  Of course I can communicate with a friend or whatnot, or maybe use an English word.  That happens a lot; people speak in what is called Singlish because we always use English words in between; you kind of intersect with English fillers, which is a very bad thing I feel because you are killing both languages.

~On the importance of the Queen’s Tongue and “good usage” of English  in Sri Lanka:
The old English is looked upon as a good pure form of talking and writing and people encourage you to follow that; but, in Sinhalese, that is not what is happening; where people are using a type of [hybrid] lingo, a corrupt version of the actual language.  If you watch the news, for instance, that is totally different from what the person on the street would be speaking.  You know, the person who reads the news reads a very clear kind of Sinhalese, and in school, you are encouraged to try to imitate that and follow that, the good English and good Sinhalese, and not so much the colloquial.  That is the big difference I see, but here I don’t know how it is.  But even in English, I think when we were taught English, we were taught to look at queen’s tongue, and that was what was encouraged on us and you know bad usage was really looked down on, slang and so on.  But I guess still you find the people, when you talk between us, kind of fall down to that level when you talk with friends and stuff like that, but you always try to maintain good usage.

~English knowledge is identified with indication of success [in Sri Lanka] and parents from the very start they try to influence you to start talking. Actually that makes a lot of sense because English speakers, who are good in English, will have better opportunities when it comes to careers and jobs. They always try to encourage you to do that.  In fact, my mom used to give us a hard time if you start speaking in native language and she would tell us to switch to English.  So that is how we grew up.


~I guess the language, the kind of English we speak in Sri Lanka is different from the English we speak over here; it is very different.  I mean we have our own ways of speaking English, which is really funny because certain things, like a typical thing is to  use “no” at the end, that kind of thing, which people have acquired and it is very ingrained in how people speak.  So many other things also, like off the cuff I don’t remember, but there are so many other usages like that: “to whom shall I write this.”  I don’t think that is used here, “to whom.” So we have got our own identify within that. So, now if I speak in Sri Lankan [English] actually it is very different; maybe anyone else around might not understand what we are saying, so it has got it’s own.


~On how culture and the political environment influenced writing in Chinese academies:
It used to be most books, political books; they basically taught us what Marxist is and theories of Marxism and we seldom can contact other theories and other things happened in the world.  But it started to change I guess twenty years ago.  Especially recently it change very quickly and you can know whatever you can know, you want to know.  This change, I should say, is basically because of the political climate, not because of the culture, because I don’t think the Chinese people they don’t want to open their mind to learn other things, but the government start to open its economy and especially they open academia and the professors and researchers they can do whatever they want to do.  Maybe there is some repetition in publication, but you can learn everything.  Now here for instance in Chinese we almost have all these databases like JSTOR. You can read everything. You can know everything.