Subproject 3 Languages of Teaching
Languages of Teaching
English in the Multilingual University
Reference dimension sustainability: education/teaching
Prof. Dr. Peter Siemund and Jessica Terese Mueller
- Which role does English as a lingua franca play at Universität Hamburg?
- How do multilingual skills influence communication in English as a lingua franca?
English as a lingua franca provides an important linguistic tool enabling speakers of different languages to communicate with one another directly. This variety of English distinguishes itself from officially recognized English-language dialects in that English as a lingua franca is capable of adapting to the dynamics of the situation and the requirements of the speakers in order to function as a common language. English’s adaptability is attributable to the linguistic skills of multilingual speakers of English; when using English they potentially transfer words or phrases from other languages to the lingua franca. The transfer of words, phrases, etc. that do not exist in standard English has traditionally counted as an impediment. However, incorrect transferences can, in some cases, promote communication between multilingual speakers where transferences are understood in the various languages spoken by each of the speakers.
Hamburg has always been a multicultural, multilingual, and multinational city, and this is reflected at Universität Hamburg where many bilingual, multilingual, domestic, and international students and teachers make use of English as a lingua franca to both learn and impart knowledge. For this reason Universität Hamburg is an ideal place to collect data on the use of English and other languages in order to clarify how English as a lingua franca is deployed in teaching and which influences stemming from other languages are discernible.
This project investigates the role of English as a lingua franca in teaching at Universität Hamburg and how multilingual skills influence English usage. English as a lingua franca is usually learned as a third or fourth language. Despite this, many studies to date have limited themselves to comparative investigation of the use of English as a lingua franca and the respective official national language in academic contexts in order to furnish evidence of English as a lingua franca as either a threat or an enriching factor. In order to take into account the everyday multilingualism of students and teachers, this study pursues the question of which multilingual resources are available among students and teachers at Universität Hamburg and how these resources are deployed in English-language communication. During the first phase of the project, roughly 500 students and teachers at Universität Hamburg will be asked to participate in an online questionnaire in order to assess the multilingual resources of these groups. In addition to the online questionnaire, researchers will conduct around 50 semi-structured interviews with around fifty subjects.
We hypothesize that multilingual speakers of English as a lingua franca have at their disposal a highly differentiated repertoire of grammatical structures and pragmalinguistic knowledge as well as a heightened consciousness of language. Using the findings we hope to make in this study, we anticipate that it will be possible to use English more effectively when taking into account the entire linguistic repertoire of both students and teachers.
Poster (PDF) "Languages of Instruction"