Asian language learners not going native

I will only use 'anda' in Indonesian when absolutely required. I will continue to resist language changes wrought by bad translators who treat advertising copy as real English and bureaucratic lexicographers who have not read no farther in their own literary tradition than the novels of Eny Arrow. I recognise class, ethnic, regional, religious and political contention over proper usage and consider them in my own speech and writing. I can only guess why Tim represents this phenomenon to be one characteristic of 'Western learners of Asian languages" only, and not a universal of second language acquisition by all learners of all languages.
R Tumenggung 4 years 11 months ago
Further comment, actually a question for Dr Hassall: What exactly do you mean by these terms "Asian" and "Western"? The first may have some meaning, but "Western" seems to be a word totally devoid of meaning. I've spent 40 years researching this one and my conclusion is that every sentence which carries the words "West", "Western" or "Westerner" is a sentence which appears to mean something, but actually means nothing. "Westerners have trouble with the four tones of Chinese"; "Westerners have trouble kneeling on Japanese floors"; "Westerners are bemused by the Javanese mixture of religious traditions". Where is there consistency in these uses of "W" words? Five years ago I heard Julia Gillard at a banquet, telling us about her deep respect for the traditional owners of the Melbourne region. But two minutes later she described Australia as a Western country. What hypocrisy! I ask people "Where is this West?"; they tell me "It's not a place, it's an idea." So what's the idea? A writing system invented in Egypt? A religion from Palestine? A scientific tradition born in Baghdad? A Renaissance triggered by an influx of Moslem refugees into Europe? If you can make sense of the "W" word, you'll make history, Dr Hassall! In the meantime I shall continue to believe that it's just a way of distinguishing between "us" and "them".
Robert Crouch 4 years 11 months ago
I am a PhD. I am a native speaking Khmer or Cambodian. I was an ANU staff and student of Asian Studies. Would you like to contact me for any idea or project? I am free to be contacted on either 6299 4238 or 0402216564 (at any time.
Piphal Engly 4 years 11 months ago
If we learn an Asian language at the ANU, we learn enough about the culture not to do this. If an Asian language is taught well, the appropriate ways to express the speech acts of the target language are also addressed. This also involves non-verbal communication as well.
David Beattie 4 years 11 months ago
I recognise my own unwillingness to totally blend in to another culture. I'm currently living in Yogya and I've noticed myself feeling a certain pride in my cultural differences. I think that in a way I'm doing this to reassure my sense of self amongst a completely new culture. Also, admitting to my different background is an easy way to excuse any faux pas that I make!
Fay Edwards 4 years 10 months ago
I believe this to be true depending on the person. If you really want to dive into the culture or want to blur your cultural identity further then you will try harder to sound like a native. I found in Japan as another poster has mentioned, especially if I was speaking Japanese to a speaker who knew English, I would not pronounce the English loan words as a Japanese native speaker would, but opt to not use epenthesis as I could already pronounce the word without it. There is also the concept that relates to the critical time window in regards to sound production. Although this concept is debatable, some second language speakers just can't sound like a native speaker, and so learn to accept that.
Elspeth 4 years 10 months ago
Fascinating research project Tim. Intersections between language and self-identity are so strong - but may be pretty hard to untangle. Personally I was very proud way back when when I was told I had a Bandung accent, no doubt because of my Sundanese lecturer at ANU!
Pam Allen 4 years 10 months ago
I am a Caucasian from the West who has mastered Chinese after 30 in mainland China, HK and Taiwan. On the phone, I am taken for a native Chinese. I have found that most mainland Chinese expect foreigners to speak their language somewhat incorrectly -- which doesn't bother them at all -- and some even feel somewhat uncomfortable when confronted with a foreigner who speaks the language very fluently, but insists on using it to say things in a way that are "inconsistent" with expectations. Foreigners can deeply offend native speakers by casually using swear words, for instance; and I have had several Chinese women (good friends, or even a lover) refuse to teach me vocabulary relating to sex. In both instances, this is because white people from the West are expected to refrain from acquiring or using such "vulgar" language, even though most of the Chinese population uses them daily. I cannot speak for the experiences of foreigners learning other Asian languages, but for those studying Chinese, it is a fact that native speakers see themselves as culturally -- and racially -- distinct, and despite what they may say about welcoming you to their country, they do expect you to accept that you are not part of the "club" and never will be. You are an eternal guest in the eyes of the majority, and your use of language must reflect your (elevated and special, but also restricted) status as a visitor. We are of course free to violate this unstated pact, but when one does, things can get awkward . . .
Bruce 4 years 9 months ago
Bruce's comments "I am a Caucasian from the West" raise many questions. Each country has its own culture. According to the SBS Culture Guide to Japan, Japanese people will never let you forget that you are not Japanese. As a young person in Japan I found that everyone treated me as if I were Japanese, constantly telling me that I did not seem like a foreigner at all. I studied the SBS Guide's publication details a little more closely and found that it was a British book republished in Australian with virtually no changes. Voila! You only have to compare travel books written by British people with those written by Australians to see a very different mentality, and a greater willingness by Australians to look at a country through the eyes of its local population.
Robert Crouch 4 years 7 months ago
I'm in the same situation. I'm white British, studying in Guizhou, Southwest China, where most local people speak a variation of the Guizhou dialect when talking amongst themselves, or "Guipu", or Guizhou Mandarin, when speaking to outsiders. Sometimes I attempt to speak in Guizhou dialect, when talking with local people, but, as most of my friends are students from different parts of China, the lingua franca is always Mandarin and I find I don't get regular enough exposure to Guizhou learn dialect. Because of this, although I always feel like an "outsider" when communicating with locals, I feel in a similar situation to other non-Guizhou dialect speakers when communicating with other Chinese friends. As the majority of Chinese people here speak Mandarin as a second language, with a diglossia situation going on, in keeping a few of my own linguistic habits, I feel I'm very much doing what everyone else does. But I suspect if I was in Beijing, where the vast majority of Chinese are speaking their native language, I would probably learn more native sounding Beijing Dialect/ Mandarin. However, many westerners, consider our own idiosyncratic linguistic habits to be valued as part of our personality and, just as we often find the unconvential linguistic habits of a L2 English speaker to be endearing, I expect many Chinese see me in the same way. However, if we know that something might cause offence, we obviously won't say it; but in China its much easier to cause offence with action (or inaction) than words. That said, I probably say thanks and sorry too much, and often use tone in a very English way to express emotion, more so when I speak with close friends. I suspect this is a common trend: when buying things, speaking with old guys in the street etc., we adopt a role, so we're more willing to speak like a native. But when speaking to close friends, I speak in 'my way', as my friends would think I didn't sound like myself if I attempted to speak more like a native speaker.
Jack Y 4 years 7 months ago


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