“I Don’t Even Know Which Variety of English I Am Learning”: Understanding Chinese Tertiary Students’ Perceptions of and Attitudes Toward English as a Lingua Franca

Andy Jiahao Liu, University of Macau

9:20 am – 9:50 am (Room 235)



Against the backdrop of globalization, English today has served as a lingua franca in a variety of contexts for a broad spectrum of purposes (e.g., intercultural communication). Generally speaking, English as a Lingua Franca (hereinafter ELF) is defined as the use of English for communication among speakers who share different first languages (Jenkins, 2012; Jenkins et al., 2011; Kirkpatrick, 2009; Seidlhofer, 2011). The last decade has witnessed a burgeoning number of studies that explore the ELF situation in various regions, perceptions of ELF elicited from different stakeholders, different linguistic components, and the intersection between ELF and other specialized areas (e.g., language testing: Chan, 2021). Only a few attempts have been made, however, to explore perceptions of and attitudes toward ELF in China, a country with the largest number of English language learners in the world (Wen, 2012), from the standpoint of different stakeholders.

In response to the knowledge gap aforementioned, the present study explores how Chinese tertiary students perceive and understand the ELF phenomenon and how their perceptions of and attitudes toward ELF influence their learning and use of English. Data are qualitatively collected, via semi-structured interviews, from four tertiary students who have learned English over 12 years on average and majored in English during their undergraduate and postgraduate periods. Findings indicate that a) students have difficulties in articulating the accurate variety of English they are learning, b) students prioritizes communication as the primary purpose of using English, and c) participants involved still prefer to approach native language conventions and norms, use standard English most often, and learn from native speakers, though they are not pursuing native-speakerism and open to different varieties of English. By way of conclusion, pedagogical implications and recommendations for future studies are discussed.