Jennifer Jenkins’s – The role of Teacher Attitudes and Identity

As stated in Jennifer Jenkins’s article entitled “Implementing an International Approach to English Pronunciation: The role of Teacher Attitudes and Identity” published in TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 39, No. 3 in September 2005, she carried out a research into the role of nonnative speaker (NNS) teachers’ attitudes and identity toward English accents so as to take a look at the feasibility of an English as a lingua franca (ELF) approach. The only method used in this research is interviewing. All the interviews which followed a pattern of twelve prompt questions were recorded, and discussed under three major themes: Accent Attitudes, Effects of Experiences and Teaching ELF Accents. Jenkins (2005) states that all eight NNES teachers interviewed were ambivalent regarding their attitudes toward their own English accent and their desire for native-like accent. The author goes on to say that every interviewee could recount at least one bad experience in English that had influenced the interviewee’s orientation of English accent. Additionally, she says that most interviewees said they would be happy to teach their students ELF accents whereas three of them showed some contradictions. The author concludes that the feasibility of an ELF needs further research.
Despite the fact that Jenkins presents an important discussion of current trends in the TESOL profession and that this article has a logical organisation, there are a number of small, but important, weaknesses in this article.

Regarding to the method that Jenkins selected to collect data, the in-depth interview was the only one of her choice. I do think that by conducting interviews that lasted nearly an hour each she could gather lively and useful information of the interviewee’s experiences as well as their knowledge of ELF. I also agree with her when she explained that nearly 60 minutes was “the exact length being dictated by the participant’s desire to speak” (Jenkins, 2005, p. 535). However, I find some limitations in her method of collecting data. Firstly, only eight NNS teachers were involved in the study, which is not persuasive in terms of quantitative. Secondly, the NNS teachers she interviewed were all females. It must have been more objective to involve both males and females in the research. Additionally, the subjects of her study comprised teachers from only Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Poland and Spain whereas the feasibility of ELF is a worldwide issue. The findings may have been different if more teachers from more different countries had been interviewed.

From the evidence and discussion in Accent Attitudes in Findings section, Jenkins concludes that the attachment to the interviewees’ first language that is considered as an extremely important part of who they are “leads in turn…to an inherent ambivalence and hence to the contradictory statements” (Jenkins, 2005, p.542). I find this conclusion rather implausible because of the way she collected the data. As she stated in Method section, all of the participants in her study had a high level of proficiency in English. Some of them had hardly heard of an ELF approach and some were doing research on it. They might have thought that their answers to the questions would reflect their proficiency. And because they were being recorded during the interviews, I wonder if they answered her questions sincerely. The author should have used questionnaires to collect more reliable and persuasive evidence, which may affect her conclusion on their attitudes toward their own English accent and their desire for NS accent.

As far as Effects of Experiences is concerned, Jenkins (2005) concludes that past experiences is one of the factor that “may affect their attitudes to English at the deeper level” and “may cause them to identify with NSs” (p. 541). In fact, the author failed to see the effects of good experiences when she used question 9 in Interview Prompts (p. 543) asking only about the teachers’ bad experiences to get the evidence.

In conclusion, this article is timely in terms of current trends in TESOL. However, the author was not completely successful in making her point because she did not use various methods of collecting data which resulted in certain inconvincible evidence, discussions and conclusions. By interviewing eight NNS female teachers, she did not have a definite conclusion on “the role of teacher attitudes and identity” in “implementing an international approach to English Pronunciation” which, according to her, needs further research.